Comrades Update: Travel Planning

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Comrades running training is going well.  I’m less than a month until my qualifying marathon, and despite a few annoying not-quite-injuries-but-not-quite-right issues I’m dealing with, all signs point to a decent qualifier.

But now that we’re t-minus six months from heading to South Africa, I’ve turned a lot of my attention to putting together my travel plans.  Fortunately, the whole reason I’m going is to do this race with my dad, and he was a travel agent in a former life.  Long ago he acquired the nickname “Suntan Steve” thanks to his love of travel planning, so I’m not exactly going in to this trip blind.

After a lot of discussion, we’ve decided that I will meet my parents in Johannesburg, and from there we’ll catch a flight up to Zimbabwe for a few days at Victoria Falls.

The local name translates as “the smoke that thunders”– and I cannot wait to hear the roar of the water.  (For those of you new here, I am a water person.)  While we are at Victoria Falls, we’ll do some very easy hiking around the area to take in the natural beauty.  We also have a helicopter tour planned.  I’ve traveled all over the world in all kinds of planes, trains, and automobiles, but I have never ridden on a helicopter.  I’m only the tiniest bit anxious about it.  But to see the Falls from that vantage point will be absolutely spectacular.  After the view on high, we’ll enjoy a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River.  There’s also a daylong excursion to Chobe National Park in Botswana for a safari.

I am so excited about the prospect of seeing Africa’s “Big Five.”  I have no doubt that I will be awed by the imposing grandeur and power of these animals.  I am looking forward to this portion of the trip because it will be a totally new-to-me set of experiences….but it should be thrilling without being exhausting.

After these four days of natural wonders, my parents and I will fly to Durban.  My dad and I need a few “down days” before Comrades.  We’ll hang out at our hotel, visit the Comrades Expo (before the locals arrive), hopefully meet some of the other American Comrades I’ve been chatting with online, and basically just hang out.  I haven’t decided yet whether I want to do the bus tour of the Comrades route (and potentially lose whatever small amount of confidence I have managed to muster) or if I want to go into it with only the excitement of the day to carry me through.  I have a while to decide.

My husband will arrive in Durban on Saturday, May 28th.  I will try very hard not to go Pre-Race Crazy on him.  He will, after all, have just spent 40 hours travelling after a week of solo parenting.

Sunday, May 29th is race day.  It starts early, with at 2.30am bus departure to the start in Pietermaritzburg.  The pre-race festivities start around 4am, and the cockrell crow start is at 5am.  That’s when my 12-hour time limit starts.  I hope to arrive back in Durban under my own power before 4pm.  I’ll hang around the stadium, cheer on the other Comrades, and then waddle back to my hotel and sleep.

We are departing Durban the day after Comrades, and I’m wondering if I’ll regret this decision.  Obviously, I won’t be moving very fast.  But I’ve also read that a lot of the international runners meet up for a brunch Monday morning.  I’d like to stick around for that, and then we’ll grab a flight to Cape Town Monday afternoon.

We’ll spend a few days in Cape Town, taking in the sights.  I’ve heard the city described as a cross between San Francisco and Honolulu– sounds good to me!  I want to go to Robben Island, to see the site where Nelson Mandela was held captive and launched the South Africa we know today.  We’ll see if I feel up for hiking up Table Mountain.  Doubt it!  Pray for good weather so we can ride the cable car.

We’ll head out the Garden Route and spend one night at a game reserve.  While some reviews liken these parks to glorified zoos, I wanted my husband to have some experience of African wildlife during his stay.  Also, I wanted to drive the garden route anyway, so it makes sense to combine this journey with a stay at a lovely lodge.

After that we’ll make our way to the Cape Town airport and head home.  All in all, my trip will be 16 days.  This will be the longest I’ve been away from my children ever– when my husband and I went to Peru, we were gone 8 full days (plus the night before).  My husband will be gone 9 days inclusive of travel, so everyone is comfortable with leaving the kids for that length of time.

Not that we know what we’re doing for childcare yet, but I’m still trusting it will all work out…





Image from Ian Halsey


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