I discovered the spirit of Comrades, and I loved it
You would have sworn I had attained the much coveted silver medal.
My run into the Scottsville Racecourse on Sunday was my most contented Comrades Marathon finish since I made the silly decision of taking on the torturous ultra run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg three years ago.
Granted it was almost an hour later than the required time for the targeted medal, and even an extra 30 minutes more than the time I’d set myself.
But I was content alright! So contented I approached the finish line with a huge smile and outstretched arms in a celebration that became even better upon hearing an all too familiar voice shouting out our clan name.
My wife was on the sidelines awaiting my arrival, and her excitement added to the contentment.
For someone who was so hell-bent on running a silver medal time, I too was surprised by the calmness with which I accepted my failure.
I bawled my eyes out last year when the wheels came off, and I knew 7h30 would have long passed by the time I reached the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Not on Sunday.
I was still on track after the 60km mark and even with 23km to go, I had a chance. But my legs were stiff and hard as I tried to run, it just was not happening.
At the 75km mark, I made peace with the fact that silver was gone.
And then it happened – this incredible clarity of mind enveloped me, and I realised that just having made it to where I was, at the time I did, was an achievement many can only dream about.
I knew there and then that I actually had to be grateful for a lot of things.
A scene from one of my favourite movies flashed into my mind, and all I could hear were the words ‘There are children dying of hunger in the Sudan’.
Of course there are. Not just in faraway Sudan, but villages a stone’s throw away from where I was running, and I wanted to work myself up for missing out on a medal?
I took out my phone and called the Mrs to let her know my “silver medal chase was over”, but I was continuing.
I later called our Fat Cats Athletic Club’s chairperson, asking her to tell our next support point at about 77km that I was struggling.
It's all over for me. Will walk the last 10km of @ComradesRace— Matshelane Mamabolo (@Tshiliboy) June 9, 2019
Before I reached our club’s support point, I went to the side of the road and asked for a hug from a white auntie who was clearly waiting for her people.
She gladly obliged me, and I sat on her chair for a moment. This is what it is all about.
There was, as usual, support and encouragement aplenty from my club, and three of the ladies walked with me for a bit – the group having allowed me to rest against the car and moan about my tired legs.
From that point on, the race was immensely enjoyable. I jogged, I walked, I struck up conversations with many runners, I took in the scenery and I even found myself counselling others gutted at having missed their silver targets.
I discovered the spirit of Comrades, and I loved it.
Of course I also loved the first 60km, when I was in my element running at my usual fast pace, with just the target in mind.
But should I go back to run Comrades again, it will probably be for something way bigger than just a small shiny medal. It will be to give gratitude.
For believe me, to be able to complete that monster of a race – no matter the time – is no small feat, and those of us who are able to have a lot to be grateful for.
That is why I was as content as I was at the finish.
* Matshelane Mamabolo is the Regional Sports Co-Ordinator for Gauteng at Independent Media.@Tshiliboy