It’s good to have a goal. The goal in front of me right now is one I first learned about way back in the eighties (yes, the 1980s) when my father spoke about the races he hoped to run “someday”. Ranging from an indoor mile at an invitational track meet to the 100 mile Western States Endurance Run through the Sierra Nevadas, my dad was able to compete in most of his “must-run” events. Except for one: The Comrades Marathon.
First of all, the name is misleading….the marathon, by standards and definition, is 26.2 miles (roughly 42 kilometers). The Comrades Marathon, however, is technically an ultramarathon, as its distance is longer than a marathon. The distance of Comrades varies from year to year, but it is always around 90K. Let me do the math for you: it’s basically two marathons back-to-back, with another 5K tacked on just for fun. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it 56 miles.
Still with me?
As if 56 miles isn’t hard enough, check out the race course elevation profile:
The above profile is for the Comrades run in even-numbered years and is known as the “Down Run.” Yesterday’s 2015 Comrades was run in the opposite direction– an “Up Run.” My dad thinks that the “Down Run” will be easier, though all accounts on the internet indicated that it is the biggest beat up your body will (hopefully) ever undergo.
Billed as “The Ultimate Human Race”, Comrades isn’t for weenies. If you’re crazy enough to undertake such a challenging course, you do so knowing that you have to complete it in a very strict 12-hour time limit. Fail to do so, and you don’t even get billed as a DNF (“Did Not Finish”), your name simply doesn’t appear as an official competitor. Ouch!
So, why now? Why Comrades 2016?
The Comrades Marathon is in South Africa. When my dad was in the prime of his running career– a prime that lasted far longer than anyone has any right to!– it wasn’t advisable for an American to travel to South Africa. Under the National Party and its rule of apartheid, an American who went to SA for leisure (if you can call running Comrades “leisure”) would be seen as endorsing the policy. Despite my father’s desire to take part in this legendary race– one that is ironically founded and still run nine decades later as a testimony to comradeship– he did not want to align himself with the tolerance of an unjust society.
“Someday” has arrived. Now nearing 70 and having faced several years of physical challenges that have affected his ability to run long distances, my dad wants to train hard so he can line up at the start in Pietermaritzberg, tackle the five big downhills (and lots of other fairly significant uphills), and find himself in Durban less than 12-hours later. And I would like to do it with him.
There are two things (other than my dark brown eyes) I got from my dad: a love for running, and a love for travel. To line up at Comrades with him on May 29, 2016 would be a terrific blessing.
As they say at Comrades: “Bamba Iqhaza!” Be a part of it!
I’ll be writing more about our journey to Comrades over the next year.