The Comrades Marathon

Posted by martin.parnell |

Quest completed:

  • Comrades Quest 87

  • The Comrades Marathon (87km)
  • Sunday May 29th 2011
  • Durban to Pietermaritzburg
  • South Africa
  • Finish Time (target): 11hrs 59 mins 59secs
  • Finish Time (actual): 11hrs 51min 23sec
  • Course: Stats and map
  • Video: Comrades in 8 1/2 mins

At 5.30am on Sunday May 29th the cockerel crowed and the 86th running of the Comrades Marathon began. The day had started at 3.00am. My running buddy Ken had flown over from India and that morning we met in the Polo room of the Durban Hilton for a pre-race breakfast. I have the same thing before any race, oatmeal, honey and a banana. The plan was to leave the hotel at 4.45am and make our way over to City Hall two blocks away. I had made up a recovery bag for after the race and Ken's wife Dori said she'd meet us at the end. We left the hotel and everyone was complaining about how cold it was. The temperature was 15C which to me is a summers day in Cochrane. The race had 16,000 starters and the streets were packed with people trying to get to the start line. Ken and I were seeded in section D and we were jammed like sardines in our coral. At 5.15am the crowd started singing "Shosholoza" a traditional Zulu mining song, then "Chariots of Fire" started to blare out of the loudspeakers. At 5.30am on the dot the cockerel crowed and the race began.

I had 12 hours to complete 86.5km from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and I felt good. Ken and I started off together but I knew it wouldn't be long before he would pull away. I maintained a good pace and the kilometres clicked by. The weather forecast had predicted a clear and sunny day so I wore my "Sahara hat" with the neck flap, a very good move. I was moving well and hit the half way mark at 5hr 20min 40sec. Each year they alternate the direction of the race. This year is an "Up" year and next year is "Down'. The "Up" is meant to be easier on the body. Tell my body that.

In races in North America "Pace bunnies" are used to help runners achieve a certain time. In marathons, there will be 4hr, 4.30hr or 5hr pace bunnies. If you can stick with the bunny you'll make your time. In the Comrades, they have "Buses". There's a 10hr, 11hr, and 12hr bus. I had been running with the 11hr bus, on and off, for the first 50km so I knew that if I could stick with him I'd be OK. At the 55km mark the wheels fell off the bus. It was getting hotter and hotter and my legs started to feel weak. The bus pulled away from me and I never saw it again. For 10km I was in a dark place. I walked most of it and couldn't get going. Time was slipping away and the possibility of missing the 12hr cut-off was looming large.

At 65km a voice behind me asked, what was the "Parnell 250" on the back of my shirt? I explained about the Marathon Quest 250 and he said I must be nuts. His name was Roy and he was from Johannesburg. He had completed nine Comrades races and if he finished today's run it would make it ten and a special medal. Two other runners were with him, Tony and Terrence. Running with this "mini-bus" picked up my spirits and my pace improved. In the Comrades you have 12 hours to complete the race. If you come in at 12 hours and 1 second you get no placing, no medal and no t-shirt. Now that is tough love.

It was going to be close for our little group. Roy was cramping up and his pace was down to a slow shuffle. We entered the Pietermaritzburg Cricket stadium at 11hr 49min and staggered around the last 400m. The crowd was yelling and screaming and our little band of comrades crossed the line at 11hr 51min and 23sec. Not a moment to soon!

Dr Randolph Randolph's book of animal jokes

Q: What's blue and has big ears?
A: An elephant at the North Pole!

Quote of the Day

"We should seek the greatest value of our action."

Stephen Hawking

On the road from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, South Sfrica.

Comrades Marathon

comments powered by Disqus