Quitting was not an option, I looked at my pace chart and realised I won’t make my expected time of 9.5 hours, but I will finish, even if I walk the rest of the way. Read Marielle’s full story
On Sunday the 4th of June, I lined up at the start of the Comrades Marathon in Durban to get that Back to Back medal everyone always speaks about. The training had been done and the road from Durban to Pietermaritzburg lay ahead of me. Some of you may have read the awesome run I had on last year’s down run. Well this year was quite the opposite. We heard Shosholoza, the National Anthem, Chariots of Fire and Max Trimborn’s recorded cock-crow and bam the gun went off and we were well on our way. I started with some of our club members and the climb up Fields Hill definitely made it a lot easier, as I remember running down Fields Hill last year thinking how am I ever going to make it up that Hill!
My nutrition was going well, I was eating and drinking enough, until I realised my seconder wasn’t able to get to Hillcrest where I was meant to have my shake and refill on my food and drinks and I hadn’t eaten anything for over 80mins as I had banked on having the shake. My energy levels started depleting and I started struggling. A kind club member kept pushing me on and told me his wife is just ahead and that I can have some of his shake. I had hit a wall when saw his family and had a complete melt down! I had the shake and some salt and water, and ran on. I tried to push on and run with my club member, but I could feel I was trying to push my body harder than what it could go, as I was starting to get a stomach cramp and headache and just had no energy. As much as he tried his hardest to get me going, my body just wouldn’t let me and I realised I either need to slack off or I will pass out. So, I slacked off. All that went through my mind was I am only 35kms in the race and I am not even half way how am I going to get to the end of this race!
Quitting was not an option, I looked at my pace chart and realised I won’t make my expected time of 9 hours 30mins, but I will finish, even if I walk the rest of the way. I managed to see my seconder unexpectedly just before half way at Drummond and she had my shake for me, but in the midst of missing me at Hillcrest she forgot to bring my other food to refill my pouch. It was already too late to have the shake, I had half and nothing worked I was still feeling very weak. My seconder, being my cousin saw how much I was struggling but never considered me giving up, she prayed for me and asked the Lord to give me the strength to carry on. Runners would pass me and motivate me and all I did was try put one foot in front of the other, the struggle was on and I had to find the inner strength to get going, but then the heat also played a big part and I started feeling nauseas. Just after halfway at Drummond I recognised someone I knew and he asked if I am okay and I said no, I was struggling big time. He was kind enough to give me some rehydrate whilst he was waiting for his wife to come past. I then again was on my way.
Whilst running up that dreaded Inchanga hill I was so happy to see someone I recognised from some training runs, I was still feeling terrible and she was like an angel from heaven and refused to leave my side. My knee started hurting and at one point I couldn’t run it was so sore. She had offered me a Myprodol and I said no, I am going to get kidney failure. She asked if I am eating and drinking enough and I said yes, I am trying with what I have, as I will only see my seconder again in Cato Ridge (which was another 10kms away) to refill my pouch with food and drinks. The pain got worse and I couldn’t handle it anymore, so I took that Myprodol and just kept ensuring I ate and drank enough! I still struggled to get going, but after about 2 hours from when I initially felt so terrible and had hit the wall, I finally started feeling normal again and got the energy to run. The lady often felt stronger than me at points, so I would tell her to go ahead, but she refused and said she will finish with me. She pushed me on and kept saying that we going to fight for this and we are going to get that Bronze medal!
We would run walk up the hills, yes, this including little and big Polly’s. Pietermaritzburg was in sight and once I saw the 9kms to go mark, I knew I would make it. With about 5kms to go my knee started hurting a little, but I knew I had to push through all the pain and fight for it as the end was near. With 1km to go I couldn’t hold back my emotions and just started crying! Entering the stadium, I heard people saying my name and I couldn’t believe I had made it.
It is honestly was one of the hardest fights I have ever had to put up, to push my body beyond what I thought it was capable of. But I now understand it when people say that Comrades is not called the Ultimate Human Race for nothing. Your training is done and you get to the start healthy, but anything can go wrong on the day and in the end, it is up to you and how you fight for that medal to cross that finish line! And that is what I did, I honestly had my toughest race to date and managed to cross the line in 10:35:39 and got my well-deserved Bronze and Back to Back medal for having completed the Down and Up run in 2 consecutive years!
And without a doubt I will be back next year. I have learnt a lot in the last year and know what I need to work on in my training for next year’s Comrades. I hope to see you at the start in Pietermaritzburg next year for the 93rd Comrades Marathon down to Durban!