By: Clive Msomi

Time is 4:30 am, the place is abuzz with people, police, athletes from all over the world, personalities, TV and radio crews and well-wishers. As cold as it is, but the energy that is all around tells a story on its own – that something big is going to happen and you are also going to be part of this gathering.

So you have done all that you can to prepare yourself for this day, you have clocked your miles, followed all the advise of those who have done this before. Trained very hard over the past months, changed your diet to be in line with your training regime, had enough carbo-load a day before to have enough energy to sustain along the way You followed the rules of the race and made sure that all your tags are in the right place, and your shoes are as comfortable as possible to sustain you throughout the race .Basically you are certain that you have crossed all the t’s and dotted your  i’s to the best of your knowledge.

You are now in the starting line and what seemed so far removed is now so real; right in front of you. You are part of  20 000 participants who are going to give it their best travelling from  5:30  from the streets of Durban, and run a distance of 87 km to get to Pietermaritzburg  within the 12h00 stipulated. This has indeed become surreal.

The countdown begins and you try to contain yourself. Mixed emotions run through your mind and you try not be overwhelmed. Even your mind tries to play tricks on you and you try very hard to escape that place of fear. Soon you hear the announcer going “…15 minutes to go!!!”, and you think where did all the time go. Your heart starts to beat faster now and you try to contain yourself and just play through your mind what will take you forward. Soon it is time to sing the national anthem; you not even sure if you are indeed singing the correct words, as the crowd goes wild at the end of that singing. Now you know its game on. It’s when the “ Chariots of fire” starts playing –  something you only saw on TV ages ago, that now you realize there is indeed no turning back .And then the gun goes  boom!!!,and everyone goes wild, slowly you starts to make your way out of the street of Durban.

You cannot help but feel proud that you took this journey. As you appreciate those who are cheering you as you move along, you also appreciate that you are right there and part of 20 000 participants. You also understand one thing, that from that moment on, how you make it to the end is only up to you, and there is prescribed way that anyone can tell you to run the race, hence they always say it’s a mind over matter situation that you have signed for .

The realization that the road ahead has a lot in store, is one that can be emphasized, yet again you cannot allow it to stay in your mind because it can also be self-defeating. The best way is to enjoy the race and all the people that you get to meet along the way. It’s called Comrades for a reason – because there is something that people tend to share in the quest of moving forward from sharing water and helping each other when one meets some difficulties along the way, to making friends even if it’s for a short-while. You now realize that you are not alone in this quest, and that gives you encouragement to do better as you realize that you can do better as long as you stick to your plan.

At this time, your target is making sure that you can pass the 1st cut off time with much more time to spare so that you can be able to make it to the next 6 cut- off points – at least that is your target for now. Enjoying the view and the people who have woken up in the wee- hours of the morning to cheer you on makes you want to do better. Your body is also responding positively and it feels like this is like your normal daily run.

It is only after you pass the half way mark that your body starts to show signs of fatigue and you try to console yourself that you are ok. As you go along you also start to see people  who have done this many times start to struggle, others throwing in the towel in most cases because they are experiencing some difficulty. You begin to say a little prayer and words to encourage yourself forward. It is during such hours that you cannot let any words of defeat enter your mind as this can have bad results. A smile on your face and enjoying the crowd from one place to the next is your best tool to take you forward, at least your mind gets distracted even if it’s for a few minutes .You know the end is near but yet it seems so far. You start to wonder if you can sustain it. Yet you know you cannot stop now, you tell yourself “I can’t give up now, I have come so far!!!” At least you can console yourself with that. You are now counting down the kilometers along the way. Soon you have passed the 60km mark.

This is where the real work begins. For some reason, your body just gives in at this time. You try to put one foot in front of the other and you know you cannot move anymore. At this time it’s so important to make sure that you do not shut down, because if you do it definitely will be very hard to get back in the game. Your mind also starts to play tricks on you. You now have to find anything that will take your attention away from the pain that you are now experiencing. You can sing to yourself to not feel the pain and as you look around, people are also using different methods to take away the negative thinking. At this time more and more people decide to give up and step aside. You keep telling yourself “I am not giving up, I want that medal”.

You are now running and walking at least that is what everyone else is doing. And what you await along the way is to cross the 6th cut –off point which is your last and only 10km mark. Now the joy comes back and that little energy that you reserved starts to kick in but your legs and your feet can’t move, you settle for small steps because now you know you are assured to get to the finish line no matter what. Make no mistake the road ahead is still long. Now you start to see the single digits on the side boards and you know you are here. However as you feel excited that it’s getting closer, it also seems so far at the same time and your body wants to give in. Its only when the people on the side of the road start to say, “Welcome to Pietermaritzburg!!!” then you know you have arrived. Ironically the sun is about to set but there is a light that shines through.

Fatigue starts to go away, now you are about to come to the finish line and your heart starts to beat faster in the realization that you did it. You pray and thank God for taking you this far. You cannot hold it back, as you come to the stadium you realize “You got this!!!”

And then you come to the finish line and you can’t wait to have that medal on your neck. You now realize it was worth it. As you walk away from this there are so many lessons to take with you and something no one else can ever understand better unless they are part of this race. And all it takes, really takes is to give in. Zinikele!!!