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> Comrades Report

Friday, 4 June 2010 - 00:29

After 8 months spent swimming and cycling from England to South Africa I crawled out of my nice warm bed at 3.45am on Sunday morning to take on the final leg of my charity triathlon, the 89km (56mile) Comrades Ultra Marathon. Having chowed down some muesli, liberally applied vaseline, plastered the nipples, attempted and failed to lighten the day's load & slipped into a homemade bin bag dress, or in James's case a particularly fetching pair of Sammy's tights, to ward off the cold, we arrived at our start pen looking like a couple of drag queens from the local rubbish tip. Despite my finely tailored bin sacks, beard and St George's England wig I was soon shivering and covered with goose bumps however this wasn't so much a result of the 6C air temperatures but the palpable pre race excitement amongst the 20,000 plus nervous athletes and an incredibly moving & enthusiastic rendition of the South African national anthem from the rainbow field of competitors.
With the gun going off at 5.30am I tore out of my bin bags and set off on the long and hilly road to Durban at what I hoped was a very sustainable jog. Following on from a couple of week's excessive carbo loading and relative inactivity it wasn't till first light around 6.30am, after various hasty toilet stops, that I started to get into a nice rhythm although realising that I had forgotten my most important pre race ritual - to consume a malt loaf - really knocked my confidence and had me doubting for the first time whether I could make it to the finish!! Unfortunately my friend James' hip started playing up and we had to split but I was feeling pretty comfortable through the first marathon and relishing the race atmosphere along the route with thousands of spectators, including my folks and fellow cycling buddies Sam and Danny, turning out to tease us with the smell of bbqing meat and give us some much needed encouragement up the hills.
Beyond 42km I was into unknown territory having never run further than a marathon and it wasn't long before the muscle twinges and aches plus some incredibly painful bones in my feet raised a few doubts in my mind as to whether my body could handle the pounding given that I hadn't even reached half way! Maximising the food & drink stops I ploughed on and slowly but surely pegged back the Km although the terrain seemed to become more and more torturous. Things started to go wrong around the 60km as pain from my lack of lower leg and foot conditioning, particularly on the road camber of the downhills, along with a failure to digest my food which caused me to vomit in my mouth a couple of times and have to swallow it back, took me to some extremly dark places. Hopes of a sub 7hr30 time soon faded as I focused on just getting to the finish and thanks to the occasional bit of walking and plenty of people cheering me on calls of 'run forest run', 'go santa' and 'you can do it Jesus' I continued to make steady if extremly painful progress in my increasingly hot afro wig.
Seeing even my Mum running for the first time in my life as she gave me some support with about 20k to go along with my old man, provided me with a timely lift and hitting the cokes 10km out gave me just the pick up I needed to make it down the hills into Durban. Entering the final sector lined with thousands of cheering crowds desperate thoughts of just getting the race over and done with were soon replaced with joy as I realised I would finish, and I became very emotional reflecting on the months of hardship and adventure I'd been through in getting to this point. Suddenly running felt easy again as I was buoyed along by the incredible atmosphere, and my England wig came into its own, making all the extra sweating and wind resistance worth while for the additional crowd support and even some TV air time as I entered the stadium finish.
Given my preparation around all the cycling, and lack of experience in long distance running, I was over joyed to cross the line in 7hr48 in 815th place and extremly emotional at finishing. The support during comrades was phenomenal and it provided the perfect climax to an epic triathlon that has pushed me to the limit. While not as mentally tough as the swim across the Strait of Gibralter, Comrades is more of a physical challenge and I have the utmost respect for those that have run the course, especially those that come back for more punishment year after year! Special thanks to James for flying out to join me, he also had a great race coming in under 9hrs, and also my folks, Sammy, Dan and Sam for coming out to support.
It's now 4 days on and I'm no longer shuffling around like an OAP which is a good job as I'm setting off today by bicycle with highly trained athletes (?) Danny and Sam for Englands first match in Rustenburg. They've confidently informed me that they will have no problems tavelling the 700+km uphill to the game in time because their entire lives have been spent carbo-loading for this moment! Decked out in England memorabilia to show our support it promises to be an entertaining week so I'll keep you up to speed with our progress.
We still hope to hit the charity target of 19,000 so it would be great if you fancy making a donation to Re-Cycle via my JustGiving page. Bicycles really do change peoples lives across Africa (including probably Danny and Sam's!) and what better use for old scrap bikes in the UK? Thanks as always for all the support, without all your comments and encouragement this entire triathlon wouldn't have been anywhere near as enjoyable or achievable and I hope I get to thank you all in person sometime very soon.
Enjoy watching England win the world cup- I certainly will be provided we make it in time!

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO (At the bottom of the Video Blog)

Comment Count: 1 Comments




Hi Rob. Massive congratulations on finally finishing!!!! Don't know if you remember me from uni, but it's been great to follow the triathlon on this website from time to time. It's really amazing what you've managed to achieve and it looks like you have a great support team there with you. Now England just have to hold up their side and win the World Cup...!


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Triathlon Completion: Day 255 - Sat 12 June
-20,293km Rustenburg, SA

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