My running plan was pretty simple – 89K in 12 hours equals to 5 hours of running at 8 kmph and 7 hours of running at 7 kmph and never to run beyond 9 kmph. Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be that easier. Also, I had to cover up the 10 minutes missed at the start line. The first 4 hours was relatively a satisfactory one. There were obstacles like bad weather conditions and crowded route that slowed me a bit down, which later turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
At the end of four hours, I spotted Ram and caught up with him. He looked very tired considering that he had slept for just 2 hours in the preceding 30 hours! We were having a nice chat and running together. We went past picturesque locations taking photographs and chatting about every topic on earth. He had his music player glued to his ears (not to escape from my conversation) and the next song on his playlist was from the Pancharatna Kriti of Saint Thyagaraja – Endaro Mahanubhavulu. Knowing the first few lines, we both tried singing the kriti loud enough to attract strange looks from our fellow runners. It is a very beautiful song with a deep meaning. The meaning of the first line is given below
Salutations to all those great men in this world!
That song seems to be apt for the occasion. On that day, each one of those who ran, volunteered, organised or even witnessed the event would have experienced a sense of greatness about themselves. It was great to be part of a event like that in a country torn by conflicts between different ethnic groups. This was a moment when people rise above their petty differences to come together as one nation. In addition, the presence of runners from many countries vouched support for the Nation once isolated from the sporting world. The fifth hour went smoothly running with Ram and we covered the required 8K. We also agreed that only both of us wear the minimalist shoes and it was a bad decision indeed.
We were approaching the next cut-off point at the half-way point at Drummond. It was here we experienced the ‘real’ challenge of Comrades – The Inchanga Hill . A steep climb followed by a steep slope downwards. The climb was so steep that any attempt to run it was futile and most runners opted to walk and A day before the Comrades, we got introduced to Anand Sookraj, a Comrades Green Club member with over 17 finishes. He suggested that we shuffle between run and walk in these hills to retain the momentum. Shuffling is more rapid alteration of run and walk, say 30 second run and 30 second walk or lower. Also, I realised that I feel better running up than running down with my shoes. It was here I had to break away from Ram and go alone. If I had to walk the distance, there was no way that I would regain my run after the hill. I was also sure that Ram would recover in the downhill, something that I was not capable of.
After the arduous climb and downhill run, I reached the half-way point in 5:47:27 (The cut-off time was 6:10). Ram finished a minute later. The half-way point was at a distance of 44.97K from start and with another 44.2K to go. Mathematically, I had to repeat the performance from the first half to ensure that I clear the distance smoothly. I managed to comfort myself by recollecting that I had actually run it in 5:37 (10 minutes to start) and the next half need to be finished in 6:12.
After the half-way point starts the Botha hill and another steep climb needed to be tackled. A fellow runner commented here ‘They call it a downhill run, eh!’ Downhill or uphill, the only truth about Comrades is that the route is not flat except for the finish area at Kingsmead. At the end of the 6th hour, I have finished only 46K and there was another 43K – a little over marathon to go.