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COMRADES 2017: BEFORE THE RACE

June 6, 2017

After all the talk, the buildup and the nerves surrounding the travel and other arrangements, the time had come to tackle the Ultimate Human Race. I’m going to split this race report into a trio of posts beginning with the pre-race, with the race itself to come after and post race and reflections coming later in the week. This event has so many elements to it for race day, it can’t be accurately summarised in a single post like the other events I do in Australia.

After having a plate of chicken pasta from the motel restaurant at about 7PM the night before (drowned in sauce), I managed to get into bed at about 8PM and fell asleep an hour or so later. Alarms were set at 15 minute intervals on one device and set at different times on the phone so I wouldn’t rely on a wake up call from reception, and thankfully a big fear of sleeping through all alarms to miss a race didn’t happen. I was out of bed at 2AM, and in the shower before 2:30 before the routine of strapping up and getting ready. Fortunately I was able to apply the timing chip to the shoe without great difficulty, even if it required a reapplication to ensure the tongue of my left shoe wasn’t loose.

Given that I only had regulation sized band aids I had to use 4 on each nipple to ensure the bleeding didn’t happen. I also decided to put a band aid on both big and 4th toes in an attempt to prevent blistering. The remaining spots where I thought chaffing would be an issue (which I have to say included the bit downstairs as I decided to wear the skins only without underwear) were smeared in vasoline. Both knees were given the kinetic tape treatment prior to the brace going on the right knee and the smaller bandage going over the left, making sure I did everything I could to help the part of the body that I initially worried about that would prevent me to make the distance. Then it was time to apply the zinc on the nose as well as the roll on sunscreen (SPF Factor 40+) to the arms, legs and neck.

Just after 3AM I wandered down to the restaurant for breakfast. If this was a regulation marathon distance I probably would now have worried about having anything substantial but this was a far from regulation marathon. I’m not sure if the 2 glasses of apple juice, bowl of cornflakes and a banana was going to be enough, especially compared to another runner who sat with me eating 4 eggs (can’t eat eggs for some reason), but that combined with the warm bottle of Energade (for those in Australia, it tastes a lot like Staminade rather than Gatorade or Powerade) would need to be what would keep me going for a while.

The only real stress of the morning was waiting for the Wi-Fi to kick into gear so I could get the map to where the start line was, Durban Town Hall. I was contemplating a cab or tagging along with others, but the costs and potential traffic wouldn’t have made it worthwhile. As it turned out I was able to follow a few other competitors also walking from nearby motels to get to the start. Certainly this wasn’t like Australian races in major cities where plenty of outlets would be open to supply drinks and toilets, the only open shop was a 24 hour servo with a toilet line well outside the door.

Thankfully I arrived with plenty of time to organise the drop off of my “Tog Bag”, which is the South African term for gear bag. I probably should have stuck the international tag on the back bib as opposed to the one on the front (there were 2 bibs we had to wear for the race, one for the front and one for the rear) but at least it was on a bib meaning I knew where my bag was going to be. I then thought that I would tack on to the back of a queue for the limited toilet facilities at the start pens, but upon seeing the area begin to fill rapidly plus the fact that I only needed to urinate meant it was better for me to enter start pen G.

Being in a start pen without knowing anybody could be a hard task, so it was a relief that I was able to find a group of Western Australians to at least tack onto. At least us Aussies could stick together! With about 30 minutes to go and having sat in the pen for a while, it was time to get up and squeeze in so others could get in. I looked down to see a local lass almost squashed in but she assured me she was OK, and there was still enough room for me to keep myself reasonably loose.

Then came the build up to the grand beginning of the journey. Often in Australian races there would be a combination of speeches from sponsors who probably were in it for a free feed or something like that, and the Mayor of Durban did make some sort of speech that was largely forgotten. But it was the last 10-15 minutes that would get any runner emotionally prepared. Rather than the Australian practice of playing crappy electronic doof doof crap before the horn, the PA started off with “We Will Rock You” which took the mind back for some reason to Under 12’s basketball in 1995. After that came the stirring National Anthem in the various languages that South Africans are known to converse in, before the traditional hymn called “Shosholoza” drove a number of competitors nearby to tears.

 

The last few minutes of the buildup were taken up by Chariots of Fire, before at 5:30 AM a recording of the cock crowing three times and a single cannon blast meant the journey had begun…….

 

TO BE CONTINUED!

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