Tomorrow almost 20,000 runners will once again gather at the start line in the dark early Pietermaritzburg morning to run the roughly 89km of the Ultimate Human Race.
The Comrades marathon was probably the biggest event on my husband’s exercise/events calendar and even though he’d added Ironman and the Rottnest Channel Swim to his calendar in more recent years and completed countless other marathons and races, the Comrades was always in his blood. It is totally captivating to those who’d run it as well as many others.
Since I can remember it’s always been the race that stops the (South African) nation, and also brings the nation together. Brave runners from all walks of life come together from near and far and display the true spirit of camaraderie while spectators from all walks of life line the 89km long route to cheer, admire and support them and the imaginations of thousands more at home are captured. I’ve always had the utmost respect for Comrades runners and endurance athletes, it takes something special to do this.
In 2012 our beloved Ironman completed his 10th Comrades marathon and in doing so gained himself a prized green (permanent) number. We were living in Australia by then and the kids and I were in Albany for the long weekend. After doing the traditional Elleker 10km race that morning we rushed back to our cabin to be there for the start of the Comrades in South Africa and live track our Ironman. We were listening to Shosholoza and Chariots of Fire on repeat in the car, emotional music, picturing him on the start line with all his brave fellow runners.
He made his way past the Comrades Wall of Honour where he’d had a plaque installed in honour of his dad who’d run the Comrades in 1959 and had passed away a couple of years prior. Little did we know that the 10th would also turn out to be his last Comrades. On Sunday I will be live streaming and watching the race as we’d done for years, but for the first time I will do it without him. I’ll be listening to Shosholoza and Chariots of Fire and I’ll be reflecting on all the times he’d stood on the start line as these songs were being played, and gritted his way to the finish, from the silver medals of his youth to the slower times in later years. I’ll be following the runners as they make their way along the route and past the Wall of Honour where there is now a plaque in his honour as well.
I’ll never get the chance to cheer him on at the start line together with thousands of other runners as Shosholoza and Chariots of Fire are being played and then make my way to the finish line to welcome him there wearing his green number, as we’d hoped to be able to do one day, but I will always honour his memory on this remarkable day especially. His indomitable spirit was that of a true comrade and he was such an incredible ambassador for every race and event through his energy, enthusiasm, passion and devotion to all events, to friends and strangers alike, but with races the Comrades was his first love.
Through Comrades many friendships have been forged over the years, in South Africa, Dubai and Australia. One of these good and long standing friends went to the Wall of Honour the other day and kindly sent me some photos of Ironman’s plaque. I’ll be cheering all the runners tomorrow, I admire you immensely, and for those who knew our Comrade and Ironman please wear the Comrades beadies he loved so much. I’ll be wearing his.