Running 90kms? That’s pure madness. Are you out of your mind?
By Kira Klyv
There are some events in any runner’s life that seize the collective emotions of both fear and intrigue. There will always come a time where a runner gets bored and wants to try out something outrageous.
Having been a middle-distance runner for so long ( I had become somewhat a half marathon specialist having run them since 2016) and having only a handful full marathons under my belt (less than 5 to be precise), the thought of attempting a gruelling, arduous ultra-distance race was simply scary.
The only other ultra run I had signed up for was the 2020 Two Oceans Ultra Marathon which was unfortunately cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
To be quite frank my entry into this year’s Comrades Virtual run had been a somewhat haphazard rather than a well-planned or well-thought-of decision.
Somehow the thought of my first ever Comrades being a virtual run was not enticing at all to me.
There’s something about virtual runs that is not as intriguing as running the actual run.
For that reason it took me ages (plus a lot of convincing from my running buddies) to finally register for the run… which I managed to do with only 3 weeks left!
The following is the backdrop of the attempt of my longest run ever: 1. longest distance run was 50kms; 2. no proper training and 3.only 3 weeks to be ready!!
I was faced with a dilemma. Just when everyone was tapering down, I had to accumulate mileage in my legs and also to shed off a few kilos. All these tasks seemed insurmountable to say the least.
“90kms- that’s pure madness. Are you out of your mind?” My friends and family would scream. But having been around other ‘Comrades’ like Innocent “Sir Inno” Maringa you tend to get sucked into this enthusiasm that envelops you when you think of merely completing this arduous feat in a reasonable time, without any lasting damage to your body and also being called a ‘Comrade’ too.
So for the next 3 weeks, I put myself under serious training. I was to train twice a day (run in the morning and cardio/strength training in the evening).
This saw me at one point training in the blazing heat of the day on hills like Hampstead Road (Highlands, Harare), Beeston Road (Mandara) and Kent Road (Chisipite).
All my other run-mates had put in the work and I was the one that was lagging. It was all hands on deck for me. By the end of week 2, I was in some sort of shape though the weight was going nowhere fast! I could feel it in my knees as I took each stride during any of my training runs.
I was in a fix. The Comrades training programme was telling me I should be carb-loading and there I was cutting down on meals. Everything was vice-versa for me.
Strategies had to change as the day was fast approaching. I decided to have a feel of the terrain to see what of horror I was going to be faced with.
I joined Loreen “Lutah” Chari (the architect of Zimbabwe’s version of the Comrades Virtual Run from Harare to Shamva), Yvonne “YV” Chilowa and Noreen Goddard for a drive through the course.
What I saw encouraged me a bit. There were no steep scary hills throughout the course. So I knew that what I needed most was mental strength over physical strength. Relief. From this point on, the belief started to creep in.
Having hoped into bed at 5 pm the night prior to race day so that I get maximum rest, I was up and ready to be picked up by Tracey Mawoneke by 3:30am to go to the starting point.
There we met our other run-mates Faith Dube and Davison Chihambakwe. The goal was to start early (the start time was flexible as it was a virtual run) and cover as much ground before the sun rises.
After a couple of ‘before it happened’ pictures, the run started at 4:30am. The weather was so cold, I recall, but that was the least of my worries. I had 90kms ahead of me!
At some point the body is going to thaw, I told myself. Kilometre after kilometre the distance started falling, and with a bit of ease as we were paced by Faith.
Before we knew it, half the distance was done. After grabbing refreshments at the half-way point, we were on our way again. We had developed a run-as-long-as-we-can on flat and down surfaces and power-walk (also run without straining ourselves too much) on up-hills.
This strategy proved very effective until strategy struck on the 80km mark! Horror. I tore a calf muscle!! I have never felt so much pain in my calves before. I sought assistance from the paramedics.
They advised me to pull out of the race but I was having none of that. I was only left with 10kms for crying out loud! I asked them for an alternative and they wrapped a bandage to compress the muscle.
They advised that I put less strain on the foot and do more of walking instead of running. I was back on the road. My goal was to finish within the cut off time of 12 hours.
With 1h45mins left, I had to manage somehow. I summoned that energy from the cheers we were getting from other that had finished and were now lining up on the roadside, the villagers and my pacer Faith.
Wincing in pain, I finally clocked the 90kms at 11 hours 56 mins! Would I do it again, of course yes! I can already see myself crossing the line to a larger cheering crowd. The feeling is simply unparalleled.
Kira is an entrepreneur, digital marketing strategist and a freelance graphic designer who lives in Harare. He is an avid sports fan and a fitness fanatic. He writes for the Digital Sunday Express in his personal capacity. See morew reports of the 2021 Virtual Comrades Marathon below
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