MY COMRADES STORY BY GOOLAM SULEMAN

“I almost became the last finisher of the 2005 Comrades Marathon but how I even got to start was beyond me. Admittedly, there was no inspiration or motivation for me to run the Comrades Marathon. All the hype that every South African should run it at least once was just a sports marketing myth, or so I believed.

However, after completing it, I got to understand just how much goes into this race and what every runner actually puts into it – their training, nutrition, dedication, time, immense effort, their very heart and soul!

I am a strong believer in the inner force which drives one to fulfill life’s aspirations. I started running at a sane age of 58 for the very first time in my life, doing the 21km at Om Die Dam.

As a matter of fact I didn’t know anything about the sport – nor did I own a decent pair of sneakers or running attire – and for all sincere intents and purposes, was ‘throwing myself into the deep end’.  Running is a bug that grows on you until you decide to call it quits.  After I ran my first Two Oceans Marathon in 2005 and with less than five hundred kilometers of road running experience, I developed this fervent craving and desire to go out and conquer the ultimate of ultramarathons.

Of the many Comrades Marathons that I attempted and completed my most memorable achievement was in the year 2005. To me this Comrades run was totally suicidal as I was unprepared for the daunting road ahead with such minimal training mileage and absolutely no planning.

On that icy, cold wintry morning of June 2005 I was one amongst the almost twelve thousand male and female athletes anxiously waiting for the start of this momentous event…the 2005 COMRADES MARATHON.

I’m not sure whether it was fear or shock that gripped me because I was emotionally shattered to be among elite athletes who were taking on the world’s most grueling marathon. Frankly I did not know what to expect.

I braved myself with the best affirmative self-talk, psyching my sub-conscious to remain calm and take that suicidal plunge! I could write extensively on the challenges experienced throughout the eighty-nine kilometres of tarred surface made up of bends, flats, uphill and downhill terrain but I’d rather save that for my personal memoir.

Finally my determination paid off when I was the third last runner to complete the Down Run in a time of 11.59.55 at the Kingsmead Stadium in Durban.

Whilst being celebratory and overjoyed at this achievement I had to deal with some serious soul-searching questions as to whether I would ever attempt the Comrades again after putting my body under such hardship and pain?

I had barely exited the Kingsmead Stadium and had already committed to run the following year’s Up Run. Yes, the 2006 run was the highlight and ultimate experience of the Comrades Marathon, especially upon achieving the coveted Back2Back medal.

The Comrades experience is really an eye opener and is most definitely not for the faint hearted. To me it’s not about how many kilometres or how grueling your training’s been, it’s about listening to your body and managing your race.

For all that it’s worth, the Comrades Marathon is the greatest race of all.”

 The winner of this month’s Mr Price Sport voucher is Goolam Suleman.