On my social media profiles, I profess to be a “Trainee Feminist”. As the lone male in our household (even our cats are girls) I might joke that this is merely a survival tactic but, having been blessed with two daughters, it is actually a genuine attempt at improving myself and the world into which my daughters grow up.
I recently wrote an article on the oldest road race in Johannesburg, the Jackie Gibson Marathon. The race also has a half marathon named after another South African running legend, Allan Ferguson. I thought I’d done a pretty good job conveying the personality of the marathon – as well as highlighting the impressive achievements of both gentlemen which resulted in them getting honoured with race naming rights (Allan Ferguson actually has two road races named after him – as far as I know the only person in the world to be so honoured).
The two hardest time-based medals to earn at Comrades are the Wally Hayward for men and the silver for women. Just 17 women (0.5% of the ladies’ field) earned the medal this year. Surprisingly, considering South African demographics, this year’s Comrades saw only two black ladies finishing under 7h30 to earn a gold or silver medal – one of these was Enie Manzini.
Who is Enie Manzini?
An inspirational athlete, firefighter, paramedic, single mom and all-round superheroine. She is also a survivor of domestic violence.
Comrades 2018: My Penultimate Run at the Ultimate Human Race
[MARATHON #190 / Comrades #9 / 10 June 2018]
The human brain is a complex network of neural circuits. The two most intense emotions humans can experience are ‘love’ and ‘hate’. Many people think that ‘love’ is the opposite of ‘hate’ but recent neurological studies have shown that the two are so closely related that they even run on the same neural circuits. A better opposite for both ‘love’ and ‘hate’ is apathy. Apathy is not a word one associates with running Comrades – but wild bouts of love and hate are likely to flow through the neurological pathways of one’s brain over the course of a very long day.
The scientific studies did determine one key difference: The cerebral cortex – this is the part of the brain associated with logic, judgement and reasoning – becomes largely deactivated during bouts of love but remains fully functional during hate. I am a rational, lucid and objective human being which explains why I seem to hate Comrades so much more than I love it.
Once you’ve entered Comrades there is no backing out. There is no greater sin in South African road running than having a valid Comrades entry and failing to arrive at the start line unless you’ve got a really, really good excuse.
On the 10th of June 2018 Ann Ashworth fulfilled a lifelong dream and won the Comrades Marathon. Two weeks later she became a champion.
Champions have to make sacrifices. Ann knows all about sacrifices – she made plenty before she got to the start line in Pietermaritzburg. Sadly, her latest sacrifice was an easy one to make – turning down the chance to represent her country at the 2018 100k World Championships in Croatia.
To her club mates she is known as the Iron Lady. An advocate by day, but an ultra-runner by morning and evening, this Iron Lady has legs that are wired for long distance running and a mind that is wired for justice.
Rule #1 of Comrades is “Don’t try anything new on race day.” No one says anything about the week before Comrades but they probably should. I found myself in a dilemma. The ultra-runner’s version of Catch-22: It would be really stupid to do your first adventure race the week before Comrades; but running Comrades is really stupid in the first place.
I was all set for my 9thComrades. I wasn’t planning to conclude my Comrades taper with my first adventure race. I was planning to be a sensible ultra marathon runner. That’s the honest truth! Life was simple until Phuti got involved.
Letter of the Law vs the Spirit of the Law: An Open Letter to the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA)
There were some great performances at Comrades 2018. Bongumusa Mthembu won his third Comrades and became the first South African since Bruce Fordyce (the undisputed the King of Comrades) to claim back to back victories. Likewise, in the women’s race, Ann Ashworth had the race of her life – she started as an outsider but dominated a strong field for a convincing victory.
These were great performances. However, the one that will be remembered is that of a runner who finished way down the field amongst the last of the bronze medallists. This was the year that a one-legged cancer survivor on crutches hopped the longest Comrades in 23 years. The year that a former convict gained redemption. The year that a recovering drug addict who lived under a bridge for several years redefined what is possible. On June 10, Xolani Luvuno astonished and inspired a nation – and the 2018 edition of Comrades will be remembered as Xolani’s year. Continue reading “Heroes Deserve Medals: The Tale of Xolani Luvuno (#15620)”