Sunday, 7 June 2015

Go forward, go forward...

I still can't believe A) I did it and B) it's already in the past.

That's the thing with time isn't it. It just keeps moving whether you like it or not. The hardest thing about long term goals must be that you spend months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds counting down until you're so close to the event you can hardly breathe. And then you're on the start line and the gun goes but before you know it (even in a 90km race) you've crossed the finish line and it's already sailing into the distance leaving you with memories, sun burn and really sore legs!

So here, if you'll indulge me, I'm going to steer away from the traditional race report because Comrades for me wasn't about my performance on the day, or in fact the time. It was about re-finding the non-mummy in me and having a challenge that I actually wasn't sure I could complete.

For those of you who don't know. I completed it. I ran from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. It was nothing short of amazing and I could definitely have given ye olde Cheshire Cat a run for it's money because not only did I do it but I did it with the biggest grin on my face from beginning to end.

But I cried.

A lot.

I cried in short bursts along the way and I did it many times.

Here's why...


I was leaving my babies behind for the longest I ever had. I always said that through all of the training I was running away from them. Actually I missed a bit out. I was running away from them to keep them closer to me.


And so when I got this picture the night before the race I cried... not sad tears, just tears. 

And then I got to the race start and was in the pen with our mate Ben & as Shosholoza (a bit like us singing 'Swing low Sweet Chariot') struck up and the sound of 19,000 native South Africans with their velvety low, beautiful voices started singing. I cried again. Holy Moly, I was on the start line. I was elated and emotional and couldn't wait to get started.


video

A rough translation of Shosholoza is:

Go forward
Go forward
from those mountains
on this train from South Africa
You are running away
You are running away
from those mountains
on this train from South Africa

I was running in the dark (I cried) and I was running when the sun came up (I cried) and I finished just before the sun went down (I cried). I was out there for 10 hours and 11 minutes. It took 7 minutes to cross the line so my chip time is 10 hours and 3 minutes. I took every minute of those 10+ hours in and I lived completely in the moment, it took my breath away. 



I ran with Ben for about 2 hours and then he started struggling due to a virus he'd had. I ran the next 8hrs on my own and they passed so incredibly quickly. I wanted to stop time and savour it but the kms were just disappearing before my eyes and when I got to 30km to go I couldn't believe I only had 18 miles left to run. I saw Tom (I cried). I thought about the kids (I cried). I was bloody doing it (I cried). I reached 27km to go and then my legs started to cry! I was still keeping to my run/walk strategy and I was still grinning like a Cheshire Cat but at 27km left to go there was a marked change in how my legs felt. Here we go I thought, this is what Comrades is all about. And so I glugged down more CocaCola (which had fuelled me the entire way) and just cracked on. I high fived the kids, I smiled at the spectators, I cuddled my husband, I even phoned my mother while I was running (I think she was worried I might die doing it). I poured water over my head and I held ice in my hands and I just kept moving forwards, never stopping, always forwards. I was still running and I was always conversational. I knew if I elevated my heart rate and my body overheated I'd be doomed. So I walked the majority of the steepest parts of the climbs and I ran the second I crested them. I ran on the waves of the Shosholoza singing groups and cried and smiled as their tribal chants urged me onwards.

The last 10km... wow, what a complete bastard!

I hit 3km to go and saw Tom, his Dad, Lexi and Eleanor who had spent all day chasing their tails to see me at various points on the course. I was nearly home and dry and I could hear the cricket oval where the finish is in Pietermaritzburg going wild in the distance. I was almost there and I truly couldn't believe it. I ran past the last aid station and listened to the crowds and the cheers and as I turned into the Oval it was like being an Olympian. The roar and the smiles and the cheers of the spectators were like nothing I've ever experienced. As I ran around the oval and neared the finish line I heard the PA announce me about to finish. I'd only gone and bloody done it. 


I crossed the line, got my medal (I cried). Someone shook my hand and congratulated me and I just beamed at him. And then while I walked from the finish line to the International Tent I cried a bit more.



I've had an eventful journey to Comrades that actually started when I had our babies and I felt like I'd lost a part of me. I've made (for me) a necessary change to regain some of what was missing and that feels great. Thanks to you all for being part of my journey. I could feel the love and support of you all every time I crossed a chip mat.

What more can I say except if you want to know what it feels like to run 90km, sign up. 

"Go forward
 Go forward..."

H x
Comrades 2015 
10hrs 3mins 52 secs
Tantrums - 0
Tears - lots

Thanks again everyone. x




14 comments:

  1. I read your blog, I cried..... Well, maybe not - I'm a bloke after all, so that's not allowed! (although I cried like a girl at the end of my first marathon!).
    Huge congratulations, as much for the journey as for the result. My wife suffered with postnatal depression after our second. It's immensely important to have something to focus on outside of children to make you realise that being a Mum is just one part of you rather than all-consuming.
    Be very proud of yourself, and the team around you.

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    1. Thanks Neil. Yes, identity is such an important thing to keep tight a hold of and understand. It's so easy to let go of all the things that help make you you to become a Mother. Just because we're female people (including ourselves) assume we know what we're doing with this mothering malarky, when actually we have about the same idea as the next person. And it's hard work, much harder work than just being who you were before. I hope your wife climbed back into the light too, it's much nicer here that's for sure! And thanks for reading and your support :) H

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  3. Wonderful Helen, so pleased for you and how good it has been to follow your journey - from the day before Rosie was born right through to finishing reading above. You did it for you and shared it with us, so a massive well done and a huge thank you too! Look forward to hearing more about it in time! xx

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    1. Hi Keith, thanks to you and Penny for being part of the journey :) What a cracking day it was. Look forward to seeing you both up North soon. Hope you're both well too. H x

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  4. Excellent stuff. Many thanks for sharing your journey with us.

    Derwyn

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    1. Hi Derwyn, hope your legs have recovered! Wasn't it just and amazing day?!! Hope your mates are all blown away by your cracking time. We made memories that day that no one will ever really understand (unless they've run it) because actually the race itself was a huge journey too wasn't it! Great to meet you in the tent afterwards and share our stories. H x

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  5. Superbly written.
    Brilliantly run.
    Well travelled.
    Great journey.

    So well done!
    Thanks for taking us along with you ��

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    Replies
    1. And thank you for your ever kind and supporting words along the way. Everyone's just been amazing. It was worth the hardship, hard work and the tears along the way because man alive, Comrades is a race I'll never forget as long as I live :) H x

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  6. Congratulations, fantastic result! Listening to your account of the day on MarathonTalk pretty much has me convinced to head back there again next year for #4 :)

    B2B for yourself surely?

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    1. Thanks John. What a cracking day! Glad you're heading back there again. Hope you had as great a day as I did. I won't be doing the b2b because I had such a magic day, I'd hate to tarnish my amazing memories with a bad one and I'm not sure I could bear the training again lol! I'm going short for a while I think. Good luck yourself though and enjoy :)

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  7. Fantastic race report Helen! Your whole Comrades journey was/is inspiring. I was listening in on Marathon Talk, and kept cheering you on in my mind. Congratulations on a wonderful race:-) Hannah

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    1. Thanks Hannah :) It's certainly been one heck of a journey! Thankfully a good one in the end lol!

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