“The ultimate human race”
Wow – what a day.
Wow – what an event.
The course is tough. There is no flat. 89km with 1110m of vertical ascent and 1725m of vertical descent. That is punishing on the legs. Upon reaching the half way point I was thinking that the first half was harder than any marathon I've done before, and I was about to do a harder one.
The support was incredible. The most friendly event I've done. The supporters turned out in their thousands and made so much noise. There were very few places were there were no spectators but come the villages it was several deep leaving barely enough room for the runners. Think of a mountain summit Tour stage and you'd not too far from the level of support.
“Comrades” is the most apt name for this race. It is entirely about the comaraderie between runners. Mutual pain, suffering, angst and celebrations is such a great way to break through international and language barriers.
How did I get on? I went through a roller coaster of emotions that almost match the roller course profile of the course. There were times when I was going okay and times when it was hurting. Twice my left leg gave way and I managed to catch my balance before hitting the deck. Times when I had to walk. Times when I thought I wasn't going to finish. Times when I didn't want to finish. Times when I feared I'd fail. I felt I was going okay, but at 22km to go I was losing concentration and could not work things out and come 18km was convinced I was going to fail. At 16km I rallied the strength for some stronger running. My mind then realised the miscalculations of the 22km to go point. At 10km I needed to sit down for a rest and really didn't want to get going again. Fortunately the mind won that battle. At 9km it was clear that I had time to walk the remainder of the course and still finish before the 12 hour cut off and that was all that the legs were willing to do.
My finish time was 11:28 and of 20,500 starters I finished 11,081st. Had I been 11,000th I'd have won a car, not that I'd have been able to get it back to the UK. The atmosphere in the stadium at the finish was unbelievable. With barely 15 minutes to go there was speculation that 8,000 plus runners were going to fail. Then news came in that the sub 12hour pacer was approaching the stadium. The crowd of runners with him, “the bus”, was estimated at 2,000. Seeing that many runners enter the stadium with the final minutes remaining on the clock bought out a tear or two. Tears of joy that these people had achieved their goal and their dream. It brought home what I'd accomplished and what everyone else had accomplished. It also brought to mind how close I came to missing out on that achievement. We then had to witness the cruelest scenes of the running world. There are cut off points at various places along the course. If you make it past the last cut of in time you have to come into the stadium and get to the finish line, but come 12hours the clock is stopped, no more finishers medals are awarded and you're name doesn't appear in the results. Some missed out by just seconds and for ten minutes people were still running into the stadium. Cruel. 14,343 official accredited finishers.
Am I pleased I did this race? You bet. I'll be thinking about the day's events for a long time. It was testing and I now know myself a little better.
Would I do it again? Only by giving it the respect it deserves by training specifically for it and getting in lots of miles on hills. You can not treat this race as a minor diversion whilst you train for other events – it will beat you. Yes I did get to the end, but in the same way that a boxing match can go the full number of rounds where there will be only one winner. In the bout between Comrades and Rob Lines, Comrades is the winner.