Completing the Comrades Marathon on 31 May 2015 was more than just a running dream come true – it was a testament to myself once again, that with hard work and a steadfast belief in myself and my abilities, I could overcome any challenge.
So how does one go from dealing with an achilles tendon injury throughout 2014 to completing the Comrades Marathon in 2015? This was #myjourney:
Firstly I made the Commitment. And to complete this epic race you have to commit to it with every fibre of your being. Commit to the relentless training programme (1400km of running logged), commit to achieving my goal weight, and since I had an injury I had to commit to the rehab program too. This required patience as I slowly built up the strength and increased my training distances. And on race day – I commit to fetching that medal!
Secondly, completing Comrades became an Obsession. I probably bored all my non-running friends and family as all my conversations revolved around my training and my nutrition. I turned down social invitations that clashed with running and gym times as my training program became my number one priority.
I threw Money at it – and by this I mean that I went to the necessary chiropractors, physiotherapists and biokineticists for help with my injury. I eventually discovered lynotherapy worked best. I also signed up with a personal trainer at the gym for 4 months to work on my all-round body strength.
One of the most important aspects of my journey were my Running Buddies. My advice to anyone wishing to embark on this journey is to find a group of people who have the same goals as you do, whom you enjoy running with and train together. Download a Comrades training program that works for you and is in line with your goals, and work together to achieve it. I didn’t do all my training runs with my group but made sure that I joined them for LSDs and the tough sessions like hill repeats when you need that extra motivation. And on race day those group members will be there to inspire, help and push you through the race.
Throughout the race I had a positive Attitude. At no point on this tough ordeal did I ever think of giving up, that I would not make it; I never questioned why I was there – this mental strength is something I cultivated during my training. As much as I drew strength from group runs, it was also important to me that I do some training runs alone. I needed to find my mantras, become aware of my niggles and deal with them on my own. I also targeted certain races that I wanted to run to push myself and test my race strategies. I ran my 10km, 21km, 42km and 56km PBs in the last few months. This increased my confidence in myself – which I drew upon on Comrades race day when I found myself running the second half of the race on my own, way off my planned pace. The first 40km of the Up Run are a killer and I had to adjust my race plan and recalculate my times – it was probably a good thing that my Garmin died after 60km – gave my mind something to do other than think about my tired body. When my thighs cramped or I felt twitches in my hamstrings, I didn’t panic – I walked, sprayed CrampEaze in my mouth, drank some water and when the moment passed I carried on running. In the last 5km I ignored the feeling of nails being hammered into my thighs and focused on that damn yellow banner at the finish – the same banner I’d pictured at the end of my training runs and other races.
Over the last 12 months I also adjusted my Diet – no, I didn’t jump on the Banting or Paleo bandwagons or whatever other eating plans were fashionable this year. I just ate what made sense to me. I cut out bread, rice and potatoes (except on OMTOM ultra and Comrades when those salty, boiled baby potatoes we got en route were the bomb!) I am a chocaholic so chocolate remained a staple! On races I went the more natural route for energy supplies – choosing bananas, dates and Bliss energy balls over gels. I had no tummy problems on Comrades race day barring a bit of nausea around 80km – so I took an Eno sachet with some coke and felt better immediately!
Words cannot describe the Excitement I felt in the days leading up to the race and on race morning. The energy in Durban is electric. After a week of tapering I couldn’t wait to run and when race morning finally arrived, standing in the H-pen surrounded by friends, singing the national anthem and Shosholoza, feeling the goosebumps when I heard Chariots of Fire… I knew it was going to be an amazing day! And it was! Despite the heat, the never-ending rolling hills and the mental and physical exhaustion of “keep moving” for almost 12 hours – I Enjoyed the race!
Finally, to succeed in Comrades I had to be Selfish. This was my moment, and before race day it meant staying away from loved ones who even had a hint of the sniffles.
COMRADES – I believed that I could – so I did!
By Aneekah Fataar.