Seven Milers traveled to South Africa for Comrades 2009, the standard and quantity of training was different for each runner but the goal was the same, to run the 89 kilometers between Pietermaritzburg & Durban in less than 12 hours. Four of those seven were Comrade Novices and were about to find out just how much it hurts to run 90K. After all the training the “last supper” finally arrived and seven very stuffed Milers went to bed in the hope of getting some sleep.
On the day of the race were all up by 0230 for breakfast at 0300 and on our way to the start by 0330.. The Journey to the start from our hotel in Durban to Pietermaritzburg took over one hour during which the 4 Comrades Novices went quiet as they realized a) Just how far it is from Pietermaritzburg to Durban and b) just how many hills there are along the way! On arrival at the start there was just time to drop our bags and enter the seeded start pens.
At 0515 I was stood in the “C” pen listening to Shosholoza, Chariots of Fire and the famous Comrades Cockerel crow thinking to myself “you can do this Dave, Just do it”, the rest of the Milers were behind me in the “D” pen thinking there own thoughts but I somehow guess they were as apprehensive as me as to what faced us all for the next 9 to 12 hours.
The cannon fired and the field shuffled forward, no chip times in this race so crossing the line as quickly as possible is the order of the day. I crossed the line in about 2 minutes and then ran at the pace of those around me as given the width of the road and the volume of traffic that was the only option. I had a simple game plan, run each 5K split in less than 30 minutes, and pass halfway in the range of 4 hours 10 mins – 4 hours 20 mins.
The first 20K or so of the Comrades Down run are anything but down, I had forgotten just how much the course went up! After 8 – 9K we cleared Pietermaritzburg and ran down Polly Shorts Hill with the sun rising in front of us, it was beautiful and I was feeling good, I began to believe it was MY day. I passed through Camperdown at 27K in 2hours 33 mins, looking good! Kept moving on until we arrived at Inchanga hill, I was still feeling good but made a conscious decision to run / walk the hill to keep something in the bank. Fifty paces run , 50 paces walk all the way to the top, high fives with all the kids form the orphanage at the top, as usual their smiling faces almost broke my heart, they have so little but their smiles light up the world.
Half way at Drummond came up in 4 hours 16 minutes. I stopped just short of the mat to speak to Tristan a young lad who has cerebral palsy and his mum gave me a bottle of partly frozen Energade, boy that tasted good! It was just starting to get hot now but not exactly scorching by Dubai standards.
After half way comes Botha’s hill. This has been my graveyard before but kept to my run walk strategy all the way up, this was the only 5K split which crept above 30 minutes but I was happy with that there was plenty in reverse. As I ran down through Hillcrest my knees began to really hurt, time for the Brufen 600 which was waiting for a moment like this. Five minutes after taking the brufen the pain eased and I was back to the normal aches and pains of Ultra running at the same time the sky clouded over and the temperature dropped.
It was starting to get tough now but the dream burnt brightly in my mind, that Bill Rowan was there in front of me still out of reach but coming closer, oh how I wanted that little bit of worthless metal, sod the pain its relative give me the bloody medal, run Dave run. Fortunately after Hillcrest the real downhill of the down run begins and I found it relatively easy to keep moving along at 5-15 min/K. Winston park at 58K came up in 5-38, still on schedule.
After the long run down Fields hill I hit the long endless flat straight road through Pinetown I have always hated this stretch of the route, but this year I keep moving, keep dreaming, keep smiling I know that once I get over Cowies hill at the end of this endless straight I will be able to see the sea, if I can see the sea the end must be coming.
Run / walk Cowies Hill reach the top at 71K in 6-50, I can see the Sea!!! There is only a half marathon to go, come on Dave ½ marathons are easy so get on with it boy. Around now it begins to dawn on me that I have been overtaking people ever since half way and I’m not aware of many going past me, my addled brain is desperately trying to compute the worse case scenario of if I had to walk to the end from here but that’s far too much like hard work, easier to keep running.
The last cut off point at the 45th Cutting looms into sight in 7-58, 7K to go and one hour to do it in, Now I begin to truly believe and begin to celebrate, anyone who calls out “Go Dubai” gets a huge grin and a clenched fist salute, knowing that I could walk and still finish in under 9 hours is such a relief and no longer do I have to concentrate on keeping to a pace though surreally I begin to speed up!
At last the stadium comes into view, as I enter I’m not aware of anything other than I’ve bloody well done it , I’ve run a sub 9 hour Comrades I’m going to get a Bill Rowan medal…….. f….ing hell how did I do that? The clock shows 8hours 40 minutes as I cross the line with a silent prayer to all who helped and put up with me over the past six months.
I make my way to the international tent where I find official Miler “Groupie” Tom Connor taking photos and Darryl Chiles of the ABRa’S clutching a Silver Medal. Astonishingly Darryl has just run two back to back 3-30 Marathons to finish in 7 hours 29 minutes , this by a man who has only been running for 18 months.
It is no surprise that the next Miler to come into sight is Sara Connor who finishes in 9 hours 22 minutes. Sara has had a fantastic season a win at the Dead Sea and now a Comrades medal, we all wonder just how far this girl can go. I spent the last half of the race looking over my shoulder to see if she was catching me!
Next home is Chris Homann in 9 hours 34 minutes, Chris has probably done the least training of all of us as a result of a combination of injury, work, etc so this is a fantastic effort though of course the man has history with a 7 hours 52 minutes finish back in 1994.
Chris Little trots home in 9 hours 41 minutes, Chris has also battled with injuries, fatigue and lately a “Cyclops” syndrome, still he seems to have seen enough to reach the stadium and more importantly he wore his Milers vest rather than his gay boy white offering.
Fellow Comrades Novice Malcolm Gatenby storms home in 9 hours 58 minutes having in his own words “lost it” after half way. Fortunately Malcolm jumped onto the 10 hour bus and was pulled along whilst waving his hands in the air and learning the words to several Zulu running songs. I fear we have created a monster……. Sorry Sheena.
Coming home together are Martin Scadden and that Traitor Colin Foreman who travels with us but wears a Dubai Creek Striders vest, they finish together in 10 hours 40 minutes having spent the first half of the run “selecting” ladies for their fictional running calendar, anything to keep you distracted boys! The miracle was that Dunkin could actually run at all after his spectacular carbo loading effort. To anyone who has not witnessed this phenomena sign up for 2010 now!
Last miler home is Gavin Loy in 10 hours 49 minutes, as limps into the International tent he heard to mutter “I’ll train for it next time!”. Well we all thought that the 6 week training plan was probably a bit short.
Other Dubai runners to finish were
Ann Bester 08 hours 44 minutes
Savio Schmitz 08 hours 55 minutes
Marek Szymanek 09 hours 15 minutes
Cath Todd 09 hours 16 minutes
Mike Morris 09 hours 56 minutes
John Young 09 hours 56 minutes
Gigi Young 10 hours 15 minutes
Congratulations to everyone for finishing and thanks to all the wives, husbands, children who put up with us all whilst we pounded the streets for six months and became rather one track in our thinking. Now its time to relax enjoy the food and beer before dare I say it? We start all over again for Comrades 2010.