Comrades Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Run

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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.

In 1971 The Persuaders harmonised that, “It’s a thin line between love and hate”. At Comrades there is 90 kilometres between hate and love.

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Doing Your First Adventure Race The Week Before Comrades? I Blame Phuti

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[Adventure Race #1 / 2 June 2018]

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 9th Comrades. 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.

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Heroes Deserve Medals: The Tale of Xolani Luvuno (#15620)

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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)”

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Marathon Addict? Guilty As Charged! (My 100th Unique Marathon At Bruintjieshoogte)

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[MARATHON #186 / UNIQUE Marathon #100 / 21 April 2018]

Prudent South African runners only plan their running year BC (before Comrades). When you’re running Comrades in June, it is presumptuous to plan anything for the second half of the year. Having ended 2017 with 89 unique marathons, I realised that I could reach my goal of 100 unique marathons in 2018 BC via a combination of three factors: good health, extensive travel and a very understanding wife.

Everything went perfectly to plan: After 13 consecutive marathon running weekends all around the country (with just three repeat races: Om Die Dam, Two Oceans and Jackie Gibson), it was now time to conclude the 100 unique marathons goal. When picking a milestone marathon, many people would pick a large, flashy and prestigious marathon – but there’s a big risk of getting “Phantom Menanced” and the hype not living up to expectations.

Summiting a termite mound in preparation for summiting the Bruinjieshoogte pass.

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Two Oceans (A Love Letter To My Favourite Ultra)

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[MARATHON #183 / 16th Two OCeans / 31 MARCH 2018]

South Africa hosts the two biggest (and greatest) ultra marathons in the world: Two Oceans and Comrades. I’ve been asked many times about the difference between the two. My philosophical view is that if you are a teenager in love, Two Oceans is the sweet, charming, beautiful girl that you should marry. Comrades is the girl that’s way out of your league but is malevolent enough to string you along, thinking you have a chance – only to break your heart (and your body) after crushing your spirit and ripping out your soul.

It’s got to be a special race when you’re this happy at 38km (and still have 18km – and Constantia Nek – to go).

The Romance

Growing up in Cape Town, Two Oceans was my “girl next door” – and it was as a teenager that I fell in love with her. I had just started high school at Rondebosch Boys and they asked for volunteers to hold up kilometre boards over the first 15km and man (or in my case “boy”) the last support table on the route. This seemed like a really good idea since I could support my Dad (The Old Running Mann) and we were told we could drink as much Coca-Cola as we liked on the day. In future years Rustenburg Girls School were invited to partner us at the table (which made the proposition even more attractive!). Continue reading “Two Oceans (A Love Letter To My Favourite Ultra)”

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Om Die Dam: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

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[MARATHON #181 / 10th Om Die Dam / 17 MARCH 2018]

Running Om Die Dam is a bit like having kids:

  • Some people have one kid and decide that’s enough;
  • Quite a few people have one kid, take a few years to recuperate before having another (and maybe squeeze out one more after that) – but then they’re done for good, knowing with certainty that that’s enough;
  • Some people stick to “recreational running”, deciding never to have kids after seeing the haggard and traumatised faces of friends with kids and hearing their tired tales of endurance;
  • But then there are those crazy people who just keep popping out kids year after year. I am one of those crazy people – having just popped out my 10th Om Die Dam.
Proud recipient of permanent #1295 after popping out my 10th Om Die Dam.

Continue reading “Om Die Dam: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”

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