Comrades Determination and Voltaren
I write this from the comfort of my bed, but the comfort is fickle. As long as I don't move, I should be fine.
What a day! The ups and downs. A smile here, a tear there. The pain and the joy. It is a memory that is very hard to explain, but I will try.
The day started with a 2:30am breakfast, where I found myself surrounded by an air of anxiety, determination and Voltaren.
Everywhere I turn, I am greeted by a smile - a smile of mutual anticipation and respect. I feel a part of something so incredible and even though these people are all strangers, I feel a kinship with everyone.
Waiting at the start, I am surrounded by nervous chatter - mainly last minute tips, stories from previous runs and the chatter of teeth.
And then the anthem.
Anxiety is replaced with patriotism, pride and unity. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. There are moments in our recent history which have united our country more than all the years combined - the start of Comrades is one of those moments. There is no gender, no colour, no age; there is only this shared understanding that what you're about to go through can only be truly understood by those around you.
The cock crows, the gun is fired and the ultimate human race begins.
I remember several things from along the way.
The first uphill, where the crowds of people spanning every inch of ground looked like an ocean, with the shadows from the streetlights creating the most incredible wave-like effect.
The effect that the music had on me whenever I went through a big spectator spot. No matter what slump I was in just before, one song and I was back in the game!
Pushing on up to the top of Drummond. What? This is a down run?! "Just keep moving Tara - do not let that 12 hour bus catch you!"
Approaching the halfway mark and thinking how quickly it went and how easily I managed. "This is going to be a breeze". Ha! How ignorant I was at that point...
Running past the fallen, the injured, the bailing and the vomiting (so many vomiting) and feeling hugely grateful for the strength I was able to sustain.
The Runners Rescue busses nipping at my heels like my very own little shoulder devil.
Running past the 33-to-go mark and knowing that I had just taken my first step into completely unknown territory. "The furthest I have ever run. Now this is where it really begins."
The slump (the big one at least). Wow - when it hits you, it really hits you. From about 22-to-go, I started feeling it. 22 is so close, but flip it is far.
Every step feels like someone is shoving iron rods through the bottom of my feet and they are exiting somewhere in my chest. I want to walk, but I also want to cross that line as soon as possible. That bloody bus is whistling and tapping it's tambourine just behind me; a wall of people resembling an army marching to battle, which I just don't want to get swallowed up in. The cheery, beer-drinking, boerewors-braaiing spectators that I thought were so wonderful before, I now want to slap across the head and tell them to shut up. I curse every downhill, waiting for a comforting uphill to ease up on the iron rods, at which point I curse the uphill and mentally bitch-slap the guy who wrote about the course. Did he just forget about these hills?!
Despite all this, I knew that I was so close to the single biggest achievement of my life so far, and no matter how painful each step was, I was going to keep going until my timing chip beeped for the very last time.
And that's what I did. I crossed that line after 11 hours, 33 minutes and 33 seconds of endurance, determination, elation, pain and pride.
It was a moment of unbelievable joy. I pushed and I fought. I gave up and I pulled through. I dug deeper into my soul than ever before and found strength I never knew I had. And I did it!
As for today - well, I have also successfully mastered the art of the Penguin Shuffle. Everything sucks; walking, standing and peeing. But I wouldn't want it any other way, because each painful moment is a reminder of what I achieved yesterday and I never want to stop marveling.
I wear my yellow t-shirt and my Penguin Shuffle, with pride. I earned it.
I completed the Comrades Marathon!