90KM DOWN RUN

MY COMRADES STORY BY MOLOKO MAKGATO

“Aged 45, I thought my chances of tackling my first ever Comrades Marathon were slowly fading away. After a few years of postponements, I was finally pushed by my running mates to give it a try. They gave me all the support I needed, including information on training, pacing, nutrition and other support.

 

A man with a plan:

I qualified on my first attempt in January, to avoid any pressure during training. 9 June 2019 came and there was no turning back. As a novice, my pacing calculations told me that I should finish just before 11 and half hours. I was entering uncharted territory. Tears were shed but my mind was set for the day.

 

It was only when I saw the route marker boards that I realized there was something not right with my watch, meaning I had started slower than I had planned. I then decided to up the pace. 

 

Isithembiso - The promise:

I believe that when I was at the foot of Inchanga, God had sent me a group of runners whom I had decided to join. I prayed, ‘Lord, if this group was sent by You, it would either make me or break me’. Somehow, I made it through!

 

Going downhill, I notice a big cross of Jesus Christ. I looked at it and said, 'Thank you Lord for sending your angels my way.’

 

I nearly missed the opportunity to see the cheering kids at the Ethembeni Home but thankfully ran past there in time to receive a blessing. I gave them high fives and a felt good about seeing the children. This gave me renewed hope to push on.

 

Uyabatwala abakhe - He carries His people:

From 60km, it was starting to be a mental game. I started recalling encouraging words and prayers from friends, colleagues and family who believed in me; and also about my wife whom I had met at halfway and was now on her way to the finish line.

 

I was starting to get disoriented. I just wanted to stop running and lie down to stretch my legs. I then started singing my motivational gospel songs. Seeing that 27km-to-go sign, I asked my late parents, ‘What am I doing here?’ 

While lost in thought, I heard a little girl shouting 'Jelly babies!’ I stopped and picked a few and said, 'Thank you so much my girl'. I put them in my mouth saying, 'This energy should take me to PMB'. 

 

I saw my yoga instructor from gym in the crowd who offered to rub my knees and thighs with ice spray. I got reminded of the breathing techniques he had taught us in yoga and Pilates classes, recommended by my physiotherapist when I used to struggle with my knee which has since recovered.

 

Ebunzimeni - I can’t give up now:

Now came the nightmare of all the hills, Polly Shortts. I was not going to give up, not with about 8km to go. I had come this far from where I started. Nobody told me that it would be easy but I believed that God wouldn’t have brought me this far just to leave me. 

 

I then heard chanting and whistling from the 12-hour bus. I continued to run in front of them to their rhythm. 

 

Uyalalelwa – Listen to God regardless of the situation:

I approached the refreshment station, splashed my head with iced water and rubbed my knees and thighs with ice blocks.

 

I continued but as the winter sun was beginning to set, I started feeling cold. I was limping on both legs and my hips were sore but most importantly my breathing and heart rate were still under control. 

 

It was just like a dream when all those things that Bruce Fordyce and others had described to us were unfolding bit by bit in front of my eyes. 

 

‘He prepares a table…’:

Finally seeing those lights in the racecourse was like gold. On the green carpet final straight, I sang while clapping my hands to the beat, “We will rock you”. 

I shed a tear getting my well-deserved medal, finishing agonisingly in 11:49 and looking forward to my Back-to-Back medal. The pain of satisfaction and the spirit of victory will be in my heart forever. 

 

This whole experience taught me that despite life’s challenges, we will ultimately get the crown that is reserved for us.”

 

The winner of this month’s Arnica Ice hamper is Moloko Makgato.


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