“It was in 2008, when, as a group of friends, we decided we should go to Durban and watch the Comrades Marathon live. I used to enjoy watching the great race on television from start to finish, so this was a natural evolution, or so I thought.
We booked into a B&B on the Bluff; where a guy from Benoni Runners named Jason, who together with his wife, were also booked. The wife was going to be running her first Comrades Marathon.
Our group decided that we would follow these two throughout the race and they would become our heroes to look out for on our television screen. After all, we knew no other runners at the time. It was great.
We never saw them at the start. We were taken aback, quite shocked actually, to see the huge crowd at the start. The excitement was just amazing. The mix of people, of all builds and ages right there told me that I could still attempt the Comrades at my late age of 60.
Jason and his wife were in this sea of runners. We hoped we would see them at the Comrades refreshment points but to no avail. That is when I jokingly said to my friends, “You must watch me next time; I will train and prepare for it.”
It might have been said in jest but the feeling stayed with me. We never saw the pair until back in Bluff the following morning. Jason had made it to the finish but his wife was slightly too late to make the final cut-off.
When Jason explained what happens in the Comrades as a runner, the ‘joke’ turned into reality. I decided there and then that I was going to dedicate 2009 to training and joining a running club. The Oxford Striders gave me the space I needed. I had no idea as to what qualifying for the race meant until my coach Stan explained.
My first attempt at qualifying was at the Slow Mag in Benoni which I missed by 5 minutes. I then went to Howick for the Umgeni Water Marathon where I got a medal but failed to qualify. My last attempt was at the Bruintjieshoogte 50km in Somerset East. I had finally done it! My club gave me a trophy called Vasbyt!
I was in for the 2010 Down Run. The entire group was with me. I gave them the best I could.
One thing I did not do was to read the magazine in my race pack given at registration. Excitement had hit me very hard. People were talking of cut-off points as we ran from Maritzburg with their faces not very relaxed. I just ran and thought to myself that I had nothing to do with cut-offs.
I just cut them off until I came to the stadium but too late for the medal. My group was there at Drummond. They were at Kloof and even in Pinetown until after the 45th Cutting.
My most exciting point was when I ran past the sign: Durban 10km. I knew I was going to be in the stadium soon. The welcome and frenzied atmosphere was exhilarating in the club tents. I met my team and we never slept. The main topic was: Pietermaritzburg to Durban?
I was their hero.
In 2011 I was wiser and more prepared. I gave the Comrades a try and hit it with a medal. I finished with Vuyo Mbuli next to me. We went into an excited gorilla hug and he said, “Baba Tom, this is an achievement of a lifetime. We have made it.” May he rest in peace.
When I was in my hotel room, the medal was with me in the bath, in the toilet and under my pillow. I would care losing my wallet but the medal? I would die for it.
I have collected four medals so far but the number will go up as my age goes up!!
The organisers make our lives so easy and their year to year improvements build our confidence in the race too! Well done.”
The winner of this month’s Arnica Ice hamper is Zamayedwa Tom.