MY COMRADES STORY BY RENE VENTER - RACE NO. 60216

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

“I am a casual runner, having started running at the age of 64 in May 2017. I was overweight and unfit and my wife’s comment one day…’My man, jy is dik!” made me change my lifestyle, and Parkrun became my life.

Over 4 years, I had completed 118 Parkruns and 43 Myruns; and simply loved being out there with other people who enjoyed the spirit of running/walking.

We all know what Covid did to our running habits and during lockdown last year I started doing a number of virtual races and enjoyed the challenges that they posed.

I took part in the Mzansi Lockdown challenge and completed a total of 180km during the total lockdown period in my flat in Cape Town, running up and down a 9m path from my kitchen door to the front door which amounted to about 20,000 loops.

Then in June last year Comrades was cancelled for the first time ever, apart from the war years and the virtual Comrades concept was born. I entered for the 21km “Race the Legends” event and completed that and felt part of the Comrades spirit.

In December 2020 we moved to Langebaan in the Western Cape, where I joined the Mykonos Multisport Club and started doing longer distances than my normal 5km runs. Then in March, the idea started to form about Comrades 2021. I chased the crazy idea out of my mind as being ridiculous, but then after doing a few 21km runs, I decided to attempt the Monster.

I shared my thoughts with my club members who had seen me progress from 5km to 21km but never beyond that; and I think they were extremely sceptical about this 67-year-old who had never ventured beyond 21km.

Quietly I started to prepare myself mentally for the race and also made sure that I did between 30 and 40km every week; and prepared myself to run it alone in our estate in Langebaan. I found a pace with which I was comfortable and took into account that I would slow down towards the end. I calculated a possible time of 15 hours and prepared my nutrients for 9 stops at home, after every 10km.

I got permission from the Home-Owner’s Association to start my run inside the estate at 2am on Sunday morning, and I was on the road at 02:10. I am a spiritual man and as I headed out, I asked God to be with me and give me the strength to complete the race. I also carried a very special promise with me that God had given to me three weeks prior to the start when I questioned Him as to whether I should attempt this or not.

{Isaiah 40:30,31 – Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.}

I ran my slow pace for the first 50km and then felt the lactic acid build up in my leg muscles and I then changed to a brisk walk up to 69km. I did NOT feel tired, but my feet were taking massive strain with a serious blister under my right foot.

At 69km I came into my house and seriously considered baling out. I sent a message to my wife who was with my daughter in Cape Town, that I was taking strain. She went into her room and prayed for God to send his Angels to help me finish.

I took to the road again in absolute agony in my feet, and each step was pure hell, and did not know how I was going to handle the last 21km. At the 19km to go mark, one of my running club members who lives in the estate appeared out of nowhere and joined me. Then another friend of mine came looking for me on his bicycle. He parked the bike and also joined me.

At the 15km to go mark, another one of my running group members phoned and asked where I was, telling me to come past her house whereafter she joined.

In my mind, God had sent these three angels to get me through it and they were with me until my Garmin said 90km. Without them I would not have made those last 21km and I am eternally grateful to them.

My initial estimate of 15 hours was bettered by 14 minutes and I completed my own Comrades in 14:46.

This has been a life changing experience for me in my personal belief in myself, and in my spiritual life and I want to encourage people out there to never give up.

I am sure there are thousands of untold stories of human triumph in this, the greatest human race, and each one is precious and special in its own context.

I salute the men and women of Comrades past, and I thank God for enabling me to share the euphoria of completing it, and I share the pain of thousands who have attempted it and been turned away for not making it within the allotted 12 hours.

Thanks to the organisers for the virtual event concept, which allows participation, and the ability to finish in 23hr59min.”

The winner of this month’s Arnica Ice hamper is Rene Venter.