JOHANNESBURG - Eleven hours, 59 minutes and three seconds! I only just made it. But I completed my first Comrades Marathon. And it was mainly because I was strong mentally that I finished it that year (2012).

I began running Comrades because of my husband really. For while I have always been health conscious, my mom was a matron who was big on healthy living, I actually used to think people who ran Comrades were crazy.

My husband Kevin had run six Comrades when we met and he did that coming all the way from the UK just for the race. I remember asking him: “are you mad?”

But after I began supporting him, waking up at ungodly hours, I got tired of playing support and decided "let me do this thing".

I was in the process of redefining myself at the time, life after YFM and East Coast Radio. I wanted to do shows that had meaning, to be more than just a DJ, you know.

So health matters became my thing and at Gagasi FM I started talking about those and I announced I am going to run Comrades. Some people thought I was crazy.

Kevin didn’t run the 2011 race but we went to watch and the experience was amazing. The ambience and seeing people from all walks of life made me really want to run.

And so I went to run the Soweto Marathon in 2011 and when I finished he told me I’d qualified.

I later found out that there had not been any prominent media personality in KZN who had done the race and the fact I was going to be the first spurred me on. I trained hard and was confident that, with Kevin by my side, I’d do it.

But then he had flu and couldn’t run. Still, my dear hubby insisted that he would run with me. I hit the wall at the 21km mark and I began doubting. But then Keni said to me "remember you have all the listeners of Gagasi waiting for you on the road and at the finish". I went on.

At around Kloof, he started clogging up and he told me I looked good and I should keep going.

I looked at him and said: “I don’t have directions.”

Oh that man laughed at me. How he managed to laugh that much with those clogged up lungs beats me.

Off I went, putting one foot in front of the other. My heart sank when the 12 hour bus passed me at Westville. I felt I was gone. But Kevin had advised me to never give up and I kept on running.

When I got into Commercial Road and made the approach to the stadium I could hear the announcer saying: “you have four minutes.”

I always knew that we women could multi-task but that day I took it to another level. I was running, I was praying, I was screaming, I was crying all at the same time. When I eventually got to the stadium and could see the clock, it was on 11:58 and ticking. I ran and I ran and my official time was 11 hours 59 minutes and three seconds.

At any point I could have given up. But something within me said I should keep going. You really need to understand what you are doing it for because that is what will pull you towards yourself when it gets tough, and it will get tough. And for me it was to inspire people.

* Phindi Gule is a businesswoman; Media Personality and SANBS & New Balance SA Ambassador

The Star

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