By Clive Msomi
Its 4am in the morning, it is still dark and very cold, all of these factors makes it clear that winter has set in. There is a very small number of people and cars moving up and down the streets as opposed to the buzzing and busy movement that these streets are known for during business hours of the day. In each corner where there are blockades there is either one or more policemen and women, in other part there are street Marshalls who are dressed in an orange aprons and carrying a flag. One is not allowed to walk in certain areas let alone the cars are not even allowed to be parked along the street. The only people who are seen moving towards the direction of the City Hall are in trios and pairs dressed in athletics gear. From a distance you can hear the sound of music and a voice of an announcer can be heard. As you go further down West Street approaching the Post Office and the main Durban City Hall, one begins to hear the music audibly and the sounds that tells you there is a large number of people gathering in this place. It is now evident that something is about to happen because now the start sign, bearing the sponsors name is very visible with red and white colors coming through. Even the number of people along the street, who obviously are here to support what is about to happen is also starting to increase, and the excitement can be seen and felt. As you get closer you start to see people walking up and down with numbers and dressed in running gear of different clubs. Whilst others are warming up running up and down others are trying to get to the nearest portable toilets obviously to relieve themselves, and on the other side there are those who are also standing in another line to get their tog bags secured in the van that will take care of their belongings. There is excitement and yet there are those you can also sense they are feeling some kind of way either being in the state of happiness whilst dreading what is yet to take place. It is indeed 2019 Comrades Marathon.
According to the organizers there are more than 25 000 runners taking part in this year’s race, with entries from South Africa Zimbabwe, Russia, Swaziland, Switzerland and France, actually from all corners of the world. Travelling to Pietemaritzburg by car takes about an hour and few minutes depending on how fast one drives and taking into consideration traffic on the road. It is a distance indeed that one travels. So what really do all these men and women aim to achieve by putting themselves through this.
Trying to answer these questions cannot be tackled in one instance and be completed at once. It might even be a research of a doctorate dissertation perhaps, what is also evident is that one to understand better and gain the insight to be able to answer all of these question, one will have to be part of these man and women who in the eyes of one standing from the side might look insane.
If one were to tackle and understand the psychology involved that these number of participants go through in deciding to participate in this race one also needs to look at the reasons why the number of participants in this race continues to grow year after year. It is not an easy task indeed. This is because if one were to look at it standing from the sideline, one is bound not to have a proper understanding of the motivating factors that gets these men and women to trade comfort of their beds and homes for such weather conditions can only be answered by the runners themselves. BASIL KOK who has run the race for 31 times states “Comrades has taught me many things , namely respect for authority, integrity , honesty , perseverance and courage …” Whilst BARRY REED who has run it 33 times ,did it for healthy reasons ,he states “ My family has a history of heart disease and I realized that I needed to get healthy again if I wanted to make ‘old bones’. (2019 COMRADES MARATHON SOUVENIR MAGAZINE)
There are different reasons that motivates one to participate in such a race. Whilst for others to participate in this race is an accomplishment or fulfillment of their life’s bucket list, for others it could be totally different. The physical and mental challenge that is involved in this race, the discipline that one has to go through preparing for it. The training, nutrition and all other aspect to get one ready to participate without difficulty are some of the skills that are enhanced for each individual. Some of other skills that are built are integrity, honesty, perseverance, courage and teamwork. All of these aspects are built on one from the moment that one begins training for the race and some are achievable and tested on the day of the race ,especially courage and perseverance being very significant .Most runners agree that ones mental strength in very important for one to be able to finish the race without difficulty . They further state that during the race as one begins to fatigue and experience pain in every muscle in their bodies one is more likely to bail out because of what he /she is feeling . But if one has mental strength that can say “mind over matter” one is able to push through the pain and in most cases are able to complete the race. They further agree that both mental and physical state should be in balance at all times.
We can then conclude that running the Comrades is not only about running for the medal but there are certain human aspects that are enhanced built from the day that one commits to taking part in this till the last day when one crosses the line. So the next time when you are standing on the sideline and cheering these men and women know very well that they have had to go through a lot of character change and enhancement in order that they are able to reach the end of the race. And each time when they run towards the finish line respect what they have gone through and may be learn a thing or two from their experience. Not all participants will be able to reach the end, either because they did not have a plan on how they will run their race, or lost focus along the way, or they might have experienced some form of muscle pain or injury.