MY AGONY AND ECSTACY
How do you condense 12hrs into a short read, well here goes : Athens marathon 2010 was part of the training plan, the ascents in particular however it was only when we drove the route on the Saturday, the reality of my task hit home and helped me prepare mentally. 4.30am Motorbike ride started the day, then amongst the singing and jubilations whilst in the holding pens, wishing good fortune to my peers, my prayers were said, my legs never felt weak with the enormity of expectation. As I walked along with the mass of humanity to the start line, I was not scared of the race nor daunted by it’s hills and distance with over 19,670 runners, seeded according to their ability, it was simply atmospheric and I was excited. The famous ‘big 5’ hills of Cowies, Fields, Bothas, Inchanga and Polly Shorts awaited us.. (to give you an idea, almost 42kms are ascent (a marathon in itself) My run/walk strategy was in place.
The gun went off, setting off in the dark night running crowd lined streets into a new day dawning and sunrise, following the mass of energy and coloured shirts, I knew I would not get lost !!. Up and down, up and down we ran into continuous blue skies, vistas, panoramas and 27 deg C temps. Comrades is run on a well paved road, a huge local spectacle in their social calendar, crowds line the route, brai’s, fresh cooked food smells wafting, deck chairs, parasols, you keep on following the mass, at their pace, and ‘Hey ho, another one bites the dust’ as another KM mileage marker passes. I was delighted that our back-up support saw me every place they stopped along the route.
Major points of interest were 45th Cutting, Wall of Honour, Arthur’s Seat, Valley of 1000 hills, Cato Ridge, Camperdown
Whilst focusing on the present like never before, engaged in a personal mental battle, no Comrades runner will forget the experience of running past Ethembeni handicapped school about mile 34, singing & cheering uniformed schoolchildren in wheelchairs and stretchers, my gift of 15 union jack flags was received joyfully, lifted my heart to see the courage of these children, how I felt physically was temporary high 5’ing them on my way through made me count my blessings. Onward we ran, one foot in front of the other. Along the route I walked with some who were really struggling, encouraging them, some sought their green numbers, their only goal was to complete, I felt an honour to support them in my small way simply chatting, truth be known it probably helped my own energy conservation efforts to.
I lost focus about mile 47, the spell broke, I was detached, there was no pain, no longer running, I had to walk, take in fluids, solids, and legs ached, I had hit a huge dip, and needed a spike badly. This came in the form of young Physiotherapists at the next medical stop, massaging firmly both legs with Arnica and the refueling tables gave me the much needed sustenance, plus painkillers. On and on, up and down we ran. Finally after Polly Shorts, downhill all the way and I resolved to strike for home, my body relaxed, I found peace overtaking everyone in the last 5 miles. The wearing of Russ Abbott’s ‘hey Jimmy’ hat into the final arena to the cheering crowds and crossing the finishing line was pure pleasure and sheer exhuberance. It was great to cheer the stragglers in the last 28 mins, with timekeeper’s back to the runners, the 12 hr gun went off, security blocked the finish line, race over. Much emotion and sadness of those who failed to complete within time.
Into the international runners tent, legs seized completely whilst getting the essential recovery foods, couldn’t sit down, couldn’t stand up, had to be helped , Monty Pythons Flying Circus sketch ministry of funny walks came to mind, and needed help with my clothes. Leg massage afterwards was a must. Got to keep moving I told myself. Brian, Noel and Tanya my back-up support were crucial on the day, and their contribution of photos I share..
‘’Madness’’ I hear you say, it certainly helped. Gun time : 11:32:06