SA. Ultimate human race, Sizonqoba
October 22, 2019

My journey to comrades-ultimate human race 2018 # ASIJIKI#

The idea to run the Comrades Marathon was mooted during a celebration party for the then concluded 2017 New York Marathon Participants at the Fitness Revolution Gym in December 2017. One of my friends approached me after I spoke about recreational running participation at the World Marathon Majors by supporting local charities. He asked me to think about running the Comrades for a local Charity, the rest is history. At first I resisted but through his persuasion I gave in but stated that I could not run for 12 hours only for a medal. Every sweat that dripped from my face would have to bless a less fortunate member of the society. At that point in mind I chose to run for Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital. Having known Toby Tanser the C.E.O for Shoe4Africa and his Charity work that he had been carrying out in Kenya for so many years, I decided to run this race instead of New York/London Marathons

SHOE4AFRICA CHILDRENS HOSPITAL: Shoe4africa children’s hospital is the only Public Referral Children’s Hospital we have in this country and it is the 3rd Public Children’s Hospital we have South of Sahara. The other two are in SA. This facility has a Cancer Ward and as you all know that Cancer is a big burden to many families who cannot afford treatment. This Hospital will be to admit every child in this country and so no child should die in Kenya due to lack of basic treatment. Every child deserves quality health care. That’s why I chose this Charity out of the many more.

COMRADES: This year was the 93rd Comrades Edition and it was a Down Run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban-90.184kms. This Race has a rich history for South Africans and you can listen to their stories for many hours. I was running this race for the first time and normally anyone running for first time is referred to as a Novice a name that fitted this Tata as I am normally referred to. I arriving in SA on the  7TH  of June and the following day I visited the COMRADES Expo and in particular the Novice Hospitality stand. Here you meet all newbie’s who are being ushered into this hospitality by the Comrades Gurus who have been there before some of the runners running the comrades this year were born. The runners here are motivated and they are made to feel at ease while tackling this race. If there are any remaining butterflies then one leaves this place being sure of finishing the race.

While there, I managed to speak to the following Comrades Gurus: Robb Allan who has won this race 7 times.  Another remarkable Runner was Dave Rogers Aged 76 years No: 183. He started running the Comrades in 1961 and he had run it for 45 years. The third Tommy Nehski aged 73 years by end of this month. He had run the comrades for 42 years and he was running with me this year for his 43rd title. It humbles you how resilient these men are and how they talk and encourage you. By the time you leave the novice hospitality stand you are convinced that even you too can do it again and again.  The myth and fear disappears.

TRAINING: I started my training on the 2nd week of January and due to excitement I hit the road running so many kilometers in a week without building my mileage gradually. I did many difficult runs in Ngong, Kimunye and Fluorspar. This excitement cost me dearly in the 2nd week of February prompting me to stop training 2 weeks before Mt Kilimanjaro Marathon due to an injury. After finishing Kilimanjaro Marathon, which I performed poorly, I aggravated the muscle injury. I had to be helped to the waiting bus and that was my genesis of my injury for the next 7weeks.The first time I walked to the Sports Injury and Fitness Clinic I was on two clutches completely unable to walk un-aided. For the next 7 weeks I had to attend physiotherapy twice a week due to a severe groin and calf muscle injury. This went on until first week of April when I was allowed to do a 40mins run -8 weeks to Comrades.

For the 40 minutes I had to run precisely according to the Physiotherapist’s advice. In April I was only doing 50 -65kms a week, Then came May 6 weeks to the race, this was when I was cleared to run several 20 – 25kms per week at a pace of 7mins – 7.30min per kilometer. I faithfully followed this. I only attempted to do what you call long runs-3 of them, 33kms 4weeks, 45kms 3 weeks and 30kms 2 weeks to the race respectively. That was my training. By this time everyone was worried and most people had doubts whether I would make it ahead of the cut off times in the Comrades without having done very long runs, while most people had trained and fully prepared for this race.  I took no time even to watch the videos provided to runners, the online training by Comrades Coach Barry I only listened once. I did not even go to Comrades web to read anything even looking at the route. At one time I printed the training and I gave someone to look at it and I never got it back. All these I played eye and I was ignorant and confided with myself that I would attack this race from an ignorant persons attitude. I decided to go for this Comrades as Novice, Tata, Grandma, Susu, Cucu but deep inside me I had the conviction that I would run and finish this race.

Pre  & Race day: On Saturday 9th I went for a 5 kms warm pre race at the Beach. After the run people are advised to take as much rest as possible, refraining from walking to keep the legs fresh. At mid-day we were driven to Pietermaritzburg 90 kms away  by bus arriving at 3pm.This was the same trip we would be making the next day only that this time we would be on our feet running. After checking in, we went straight to our rooms to prepare for the race day. I put up everything I required for the  for race from gels, timing chip and warm clothes to change after the race . It was like going to a war zone in Somalia. Everything had to be ready because wake up time was 2.30 – 2.45am, and breakfast time was 3am and by then you had to be ready with your tog bag. After breakfast we left the hotel at 4 am to the start line. I got to my seeding pen, which was 500 meters from the start line. The place was so lively with an entertainment band playing lots of nice music and then the National Anthem. When they eventually started singing the famous Shosholosa,I found myself joining the crowds in singing the song. “This is now the moment,” I said to myself.” if this is the way the race starts I will certainly be looking forward to coming back next year. The mood was epic. Every runner must experience this race. It is so electrifying..something that you don’t see in any other  race.

After a few minutes the gun went off and it was time for business. The temperatures were 9 degrees Centigrade. I had to run with a sweater until I was warm enough to throw it away. The entire route was lined up with lots of entertainment by Zulu dancers, bands and ordinary people coming out of their homes to cheer the runners all day long. After I removed my sweater, I joined my bus for sub 10hours. I ran with this bus all the way till 84kms.There were 6 cut off stations. Each one I came across I was 1hour 45 mins ahead of the cutoff including the last one, which was 11hrs. I was so comfortable that I knew even if something drastic happened I could still manage to walk/run to the finish within 12 hours.  I had intended to do a sub 10hours considering how I was feeling from the start but I slowed down the last 6 kms , managing to run and finish at the Moses Mabbinda stadium 10hours 27mins 15secs culminating my happiest running moment by getting a Bronze Medal . Mission accomplished # ASIJIKI#. This Motto of #ASIJIKI# keeps you going all the way.

12hour Cut Off Ceremony: This is a very emotional moment. Inside the Stadium runners trickle in some staggering in a bid to beat the cut off time. I witnessed two runners who had crawl to the finish line even though the gun went off earlier by 2 seconds. Any runner who ran 12hrs 01mins was awarded the medal.

RACE/WINNERS: This year South Africans won the race in both categories of men and women. I captured this story because the   Men winner, B. Mthembu had not seen his family for 3 months while undergoing training. He lost his best friend and training partner who collapsed and died in March while in a training camp. It affected him so much that he had opted to withdraw from the race. He is among the few who have won back to back. While the woman Winner was Ashworth who is Lawyer, 6 hours 10mins and her Motto: God made me for purpose and you should feel his pleasure. She stayed from her job for 2 months while undergoing training for this race.

Missing out by 1 minute at the halfway cut off mark was 50 years old Lucas Makones whose dream of finishing his 10th Comrades was cut short as he went hunting for a toilet in the nearby bushes. When he rejoined the Ultimate Human Race he fell short by a minute when the gun went off at halfway in Drummond and instead of shedding a tear of disappointment being the first person to miss the cut off at 6hrs.10mins, he said he would be back next year. Another runner Elizabeth missed out the cut off for the 3rd year in a row while attempting it for the 4th time, at halfway mark she heard the the gun go off and  saw the barriers and Runners alongside the wire fencing which separated huge crowd from the runners on the road. Another notable runner was one legged Runner  Xolani Luvuno whose story of determination saw the organizers allow him to start the race alone at midnight before the official time 5.30am. Luvuno overcame drug addiction and bone cancer, which led to the amputation of his leg. He ran with mentor who had noticed him begging at traffic lights along his way to work.

Gwen was residing in the opposite room in my hotel. She too narrated to me during breakfast that this was her 3rd time after missing out the cut off last year. This year in April she quit her job of Human Resource to train for the Comrades. She ran all the way making it to the last cut off time, but from 7kms to the finish she was on border line and so she started praying to God to enable her finish within the medal bracket. By this time it was getting dark and at 2kms to the finish line she hit the road reflectors and so she fell down.  She got up and continued to run, while entering the Moses Mabbinda Stadium it was dead silent and by then she was walking and delirious when noticed a camera focusing on her and everyone in the stadium holding their breath, she picked up herself and started running the last steps finishing at 12hrs 01min, fortunately the gun went off 2 seconds earlier, therefore earning herself the coveted medal. She was emotional and thankful to God that she made it.

Thank you note.I owe special tributes to various groups of people who in one way made my maiden journey 2018 Comrades so easy. Hon. Esther Passaris, Women MP. Rep Nairobi County, Hon. A. Kiai, MP for Mukurweini Constituency.  J.Ndegwa and D. Thuo the Coach who took me through the entire route & running tips making it look so easy,comrades mates Nick who I trained with on some of my runs,Wahome,Lebo,John and Timo, Sports Injury & Fitness Team headed by J. Kariakim, Media PR  R.Sang ,Fundraising team J.Amara, L.Thuo, A. Thuo, D. Gitari, W.Wangendo, Group of Special friends representation through Tito, Running groups: Urban Swaras, Run Fun and Fitness, Kitengela Mbuni Runners, Medal Hunters, Individual Runners, well wishers including those who cheer me as I run, those who send words of encouragement and keep praying for me,Donors,Patrick Makau Former World Record Holder 2011 -2013,Media houses KTN,Radio Africa,Sheila Mwanyigha ,the C.E.O and founder of Shoe4Africa foundation and Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital Toby Tanser who gave me the opportunity to raise funds for the only Public Referral Children’s Hospital in the Region and to God almighty for blessing me with good health at my “Tender” age of 64 giving me a chance to bless others with the gift of running. TO ALL OF YOU THANK VERY MUCH.

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