Sunday 13 June Virtual Comrades Marathon Pushes Brawlette to the limit, and brings the best out of her
By Tracey Mawoneke
Almost 12 months to my last article in the Digital Sunday Express – I made contact with the Sunday newspaper this week and told them that I had a story to tell – about the world famous Comrades Marathon, and in particular, this year’s edition.
The date was set, the race was set. The running kit was nicely laid out the night before. The kit had a story to tell about the race. A Zimbabwe colour-based top with the label: “Zimbabwe, a world of wonders”.
Indeed, Zimbabwe is a world of wonders as we would run in a route with scenic views.
Red tights, red tutu with white polka dots, socks and trainers, red being one of the insignia on the national flag which symbolises the blood and sweat in this context the training that had been invested.
This colour was to take us through the first half of the journey. White on the tutu symbolised peace, that we enjoy a country of peace and we run in peace.
0430, Sunday 13 June was when it all began. I cannot begin to explain the excitement around the race. Here we go again on a 91km journey of hope.
The bus trip to the start point had three other passengers dear to my heart namely Davison Chihambakwe, Faith Dube and Clive Mparutsa.
The first step began, and who would have known at the end of it all I would have clocked 110 000 steps. What an amazement.
It was bitter cold, typical of a winter June morning in Zimbabwe and the temperatures had taken a fall in the previous week. In addition to the kit, we wore gloves, long sleeves, and a beanie hat.
There was no escaping the cold! It was worse where we crossed the plains along Churchill Avenue and Enterprise Road, you could feel that the temperatures were worse than cold.
As the journey continued to Shamva our minds could only but wonder on what could lie ahead.
To say that it was easy would be a lie but there were times it was relaxed. After the sun came out, the temperature was more promising, but we still stuck on to our long sleeves and gloves.
It was almost easy when we ran with other fellow runners. It was easy when the little boy or girl waved and said hello.
One of those easy moments which showed a runner is self-sacrificing when a little boy asked for our energy drink and my partner gave him.
Gentle soul, oblivious to the struggle that lay ahead of us when we would eventually run out of our supplies.
However, I am reminded of the verse from the Bible which says, “I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink……whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:35-40 He was our guardian angel and offered that strength we needed to go on. Bless your heart, oh little one!
That the journey was hard is one of those statements one would say. Of course, months and mileage had been put into training but there must be some form of hard that must take place.
The better part of the route had an undulating terrain and at that point the eyes would see the hill or someone on top of it then tell the brain: “Mate we are going there” then it registers that it is hard.
There was no escape, it had to be done and each hill was tackled inch by inch till we got there.
One then remembers the hill repeats, steps, or stair workouts that you would have put in and remember that all that training was meant to prepare you for that.
Midway along the run was the food booth. I had no appetite to eat anything but continued to have hydration only.
My young brother also arrived at that opportune time so I could get my energy sweets, drink, and bars.
Halfway there, the kits had to be changed. We stuck to that theme of being “truly Zimbabwean” and this time the tutu skirt changed to yellow with white polka dots and black tights.
Yellow on the flag symbolises the rich minerals found in Zimbabwe and how appropriate that we were running into a mining town that I should wear yellow.
The black tights being most of the population in the country, of which I belong to.
The red socks and trainers remained until 77kilometres when I then made a change of trainers.
When I completed the previous year, I was awarded with a gift of trainers, and I thought they also need to journey with me on this occasion.
So, at 77 kilometers I changed into my pink Nike vapor air to carry me through to the end.
Why pink, which had no relation to the theme at hand, but being my favorite color, I would be in a happy place as I completed Comrades.
The rules of the virtual run included recording the run on a watch or phone app and I used the latter. My Garmin watch, which was a precious gift from yet another comrade who was doing the run, Sisa Mpofu, performed well. I made sure that it was fully charged and only turned it on when I was starting the run.
At 85kms it started giving me a warning that the battery was low. I almost panicked because the power bank we had carried had been made use of by the other team members and had also run out of power.
Thoughts of losing my run now crept into my mind but I figured if the worst was to come to the worst, they would have to use a tagged run.
However, I managed to get another one with the help of the cheerful water point ladies Sindy and Tatenda and then had to run almost 3kms with the watch in hand until I also had to give another runner to charge theirs.
We were fully prepared for that as the boy’s scout motto says.
One of the pictures that was captured on camera made me laugh to myself! My face had a grin, stern expression and I can only wonder what was going through my mind.
I was once by my driving instructor as I learned to drive that I would do it a lot.
Maybe it was a sign of being nervous but on this occasion, I was far from nervous and could only think I should have been singing Jah Prayzah’s song “Mwana waMambo”, the part which says: Mambo kwindima, mwanasikana kwindima, haa kwindima muromo mumhuno kwindima” literally translated meaning the mouth in the nose, an angry expression.
The overall strategy was to imagine this race as a large chocolate cake that could only be had in thirds.
The first 30km was really “a piece of cake”, so yummy and went by fast as we clocked it in 3hours 10mins 36s. The second third of the cake was relatively tasty and consumed in 3hours 40mins 35s and after this it became a whole new game.
The last bit of the cake almost turned stale before being consumed.
The strategy then began to count in 10s and it worked for 20kms. The last 10 was now more of a mind battle, the body saying it cannot be done yet thinking I am almost there, but it is taking time.
At 87kms I began to be like a little child whining for no reason.
I swore I would never do it again and that I no longer wished to be associated with the running crowd.
I cursed on why I registered for 90kms and felt envy for those that had so long finished their shorter distances and were cozy and snug in their homes.
Davison would not hear of it and kept encouraging me even though he was amid pain from his calf muscle, he was my stronghold and I felt I should not disappoint.
The little devil arose again at 89kms, and I questioned why we were doing 91 instead of 90 and once again he was that soft voice of reason that puts you on track.
90kms clocked and R. Kelly’s song of victory rang in my ears, there is only a km left. A km only, we could do it and do it we did!
Tracey Mawoneke is a runner and businesswoman who lives in Harare. She is a correspondent for Zimbabwe Digital Express.
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