A Journey of a Thousand Miles…

…starts with a single step. So goes the celebrated Taoist proverb. This seems peculiarly apt for me at the moment. My total running mileage since I started training for Comrades in earnest on 1st January is actually 1,153 miles – an average of just under 58 miles per week.

There are only a few more miles to run before I stand in the starting pen at Durban in the pre-dawn dark next Sunday morning, nervously waiting to hear the runners sing “Shosholoza”, the Chariots of Fire theme and then the cock crowing that heralds the start of the Comrades marathon.

I feel calm and content knowing that I have trained very diligently and I have been fortunate not to suffer any serious illness or injury.  However, I am certainly not underestimating what lays ahead of me. Next week will be a huge examination of my mettle as an athlete and a person. It is simply not possible for anyone to run 55 miles without enduring a huge amount of discomfort and suffering. I wonder how I will cope.  I can’t wait to find out.

A year ago to the day I ran the Sierra Leone marathon in Makeni. It was an unforgettable day. I was lucky to be the first international finisher, but more importantly I experienced a wonderful culture and I met lots of amazing people.

Some I connected with for only a few seconds – like a village elder saying “Thank you Sir” as I ran past. Some fellow runners have become friends that I hope to remain in contact with for a long time.

If the Comrades experience is half as good, those long slow cold runs home from work in the snow and hail of January will have been well worth it.

I read this week that the organisers have extended the Comrades route by 877 metres this year. There is a practical reason for this – to avoid roadworks in Pinetown.  The distance of Comrades does vary from year to year.  ‘Up’ runs are normally slightly shorter than ‘Down’ runs – usually 87 kms for the up and about 89 kms for the down. However, there have been years when the distance has exceeded 90kms.

This year, we are facing 87.72 kms or just over 54.5 miles. Thankfully, the weather forecast is looking reasonable. I have been obsessively checking the BBC weather forecast for the past two weeks, and was frustrated to see the temperature in Durban remaining firmly in the high 20s. The current forecast for Durban next Sunday is a high of 25 degrees with a chance of showers and the high for Pietermaritzburg is 22 degrees.  I’ll take that – it’s still warm, but I can cope with it.

Tonight I will start packing for my trip – I’m flying out on Wednesday, via Dubai and I arrive in Durban on Thursday teatime.  I have treated myself and commissioned a special vest:

Comrades vest

I’m travelling with my mate Craig – a fellow marine underwriter and one of life’s massive optimists. Because of injury, including Plantar Fasciitis, Craig hasn’t been able to run as much as he wished. He is, however, a fit and determined bugger and he managed to complete the Manchester marathon in 3:35 despite hardly running further than about 7 miles in training. I’m sure he’ll complete Comrades with a huge smile on his face.

On the journey back from South Africa, we are having a two day stopover in Dubai. We have booked into a fancy hotel and it will be great to chill in obscene luxury for a few days.

I’ll also meet up with Chris, a great friend and ex-colleague who now lives and works in Dubai and will get to see Chris’s little boy, Tomas, my Godson, whom I haven’t seen for over three and a half years.  I imagine he’ll be a lot bigger than I remember!

***

As I am tapering, there wasn’t much running this week.  I ran the final race of the John Carr 5K series on Wednesday evening. I was hoping to break my personal best (17:44), but it didn’t feel like a fast night – there was a stiff breeze that would be in our face for the second half of the race.

I did manage a personal best with a time of 17:36, but I felt a little disappointed because I paced it terribly. My first mile was 5:16 – only 10 seconds slower than my mile PB and clearly way too fast.

When you run the first part of a race like that, you have to pay and the rest of the race was a case of trying to delay the slow death. Given better pacing I think I could break 17:30.

Before I sign off, I must thank all teammates who have come out on long runs with me and put up with me droning on about Comrades. Thanks also to everyone who has followed this blog and wished me well. I will of course be reporting back on what happens next Sunday – whatever that may be.

If you are interested, you can track my progress online – I’m number 24598.

CM -1 weeks
Weight 11st 5lb
36 Miles
parkrun – Woodhouse Moor 18:36 (15th)

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