From 5km to Comrades – My personal journey

Naazia (foreground, second from left) on the Magic Bus.

Naazia (#36507) on the Magic Bus.

My journey didn’t start at the Comrades start line, or the training sessions leading up to it. It started in October 2014 when a friend convinced me to get off the couch and do something. On a Saturday morning in October I went for my first ParkRun. Not being able to run, I walked the distance of 5km. My motivation was seeing people much older than me, run past me. I came back every Saturday, to challenge myself.

In November 2014 I ran my first fun run at Landmarks… I had to run-walk to finish, but I did 6km and watched my friends with admiration and respect as they completed 21km.

In December 2014, I ran my first 10km at Sundowners. Chuffed with myself, I finally felt like a runner. I had achieved my goal and at the time, this was my Comrades.

I joined Itheko in January 2015 and ran my first 15km at Bay to Bay. Again I had challenged myself to reach yet another goal. This time I actually enjoyed the run as I took in the beautiful views and was able to smile most of the way. There was something about running – it was the time alone with your thoughts, and it was a break from reality and from the daily routine. It wasn’t about proving anything to anyone other than myself.

Peninsula Half Marathon in February 2015… Standing alone at the start line, a ball of nerves, not sure whether I could complete the distance. It seemed impossible but I gave it a go nonetheless. I met up with Shireen Jacobs in Fish Hoek who kept me motivated and stayed by my side until the end as we crossed the finish line together. Over the moon with joy, I couldn’t believe I had achieved this and I immediately updated Facebook to let everyone who knew me know I had just finished my first 21km.

Life Lesson Learnt: The right people will come into your life at the right time.
The more we celebrate life, the more reason we will have to celebrate it.

Two Oceans in April 2015 and I was excited rather than nervous. Yes there was lots of hype around the race, I’d heard about and did a training run at the dreaded Southern Cross Drive, but this time, I was prepared, well at least I knew I could complete the distance.

A few days later, I was booked off with a bad chest infection. For an asthmatic that meant recovery took forever. Immediately after was the month of Ramadan which meant I was off from running for a period of three-and-a-half months. Three months makes a huge difference, I thought, as I did the 10km at Century City in August 2015.

Life Lesson Learnt: Consistency is important!

Being goal orientated, I set the next big goal, something many told me was impossible – my first marathon. So November 2015, a year after my first fun run, I completed my first marathon. I was lucky enough to run with a group of amazing people, the Abrahams duo, Shaakirah Booley and Rugaya Solomons.

Life Lessons Learnt: Impossible is nothing!
If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it!

As time went by, more people joined our little group until the “Magic Bus” was formed. The period from January to May 2016 was both challenging and rewarding. It was a time of dedicated training but a time of building lifelong friendships. These friends became family. As family do, we motivated, encouraged and helped one another to achieve individual goals and celebrated our success.

In that time we completed the Bay to Bay 30km, the Redhill 36km, the Peninsula Marathon, with PBs for many on 10kms and 21km races. This motivated me to substitute with Mymoena Abdul and to do the Two Oceans Ultra.

After completing Two Oceans Ultra, and having some time to think, I realised that if I was training with a group preparing for Comrades, I had put in as much training as they had and achieved all that they have then technically I was as prepared as they were. When substitutions opened for Comrades, I found an entry and substituted with someone from ARD who was unable to run.

As the training continued, the bonds of friendship grew stronger as we all suffered together on early morning runs before work, evening runs after work, lack of sleep and the weekend LSDs. The LSDs although early and long, were enjoyable – we’d laugh, tell stories, share life experiences and best of all it was always followed by a huge breakfast at 38 on Rose, aka Aunty Moena’s haven. It wasn’t just training for a common goal, it was spending time with people you grew to care about. This group of strangers had become one family.

And now…the ultimate human race… 29 May 2016

Naazia and Rugaya (in green) make steady progress through the throngs.

Naazia and Rugaya (in green) make steady progress through the throngs.

After months of training, long talks and planning, we set out to run Comrades. The day was long and things didn’t go as planned. I lost my group on the road. Panic struck as the bus was my game plan! I went on, knowing that the road ahead was challenging, but, we had put in the training and knowing I’d finish this but hopeful that the bus would find us. With my friend Rugaya by my side, we completed the distance, motivating one another, laughing, joking, and complaining.

Life Lessons Learnt: Life will always have challenges but dedication and determination are two very important ingredients for success.

Running has given me many things, but the greatest gift has been people it brought into my life.
Friendships forged through running are as beautiful as they are strong. These are lifelong bonds and are unbreakable.

My comments about Comrades Day is that it’s a humbling experience, you find people along the road, supporting you and encouraging you, wanting you to finish as much as you want it for yourself. You pass runners and spark up conversations. You take in the beautiful views. You realise that we’re all in this together and we’re all equally crazy. For something termed the DOWN RUN, I was surprised by how many hills there were! Hill training and the RUN WALK strategy worked well! We kept reminding ourselves… “Walk with meaning. This isn’t a Sunday stroll” as our coach often told us on training runs.

Towards the end, 1km started to feel longer and we’d look out for kilometre boards, we were now a little tired, and even though we felt like we were speeding, we were probably going at a snail’s pace. You motivate yourself with distances to go versus what you’ve achieved. The 10 km to go board and then the single digits were all milestones. A sense of accomplishment sets in and your eyes are filled with tears as you enter the stadium… You did it! Algamdulilah! You just ran the ULTIMATE HUMAN RACE!! 89km! Time is irrelevant to you. All you care about is that you completed before the gun went off and then you wait anxiously to see your friends come in.

I’d say that with the right amount of dedication and training, it’s very achievable, the only thing that really could get to you is the long day, but the most important thing is to stay determined and to just keep moving…

Algamdulilah, with medal in hand and a sense of accomplishment, this journey to Comrades has come to an end, but Insha-Allah I will definitely be back to do it again!

By Naazia Hoosain

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