Spirit of Com­rades and the Lord car­ried me through

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - Mat­she­lane Mam­abolo

THE BILL ROWAN did not ma­te­ri­alise. I missed it by some 13 min­utes.

Dis­ap­point­ing as it is, I wouldn’t trade my nine hour, 12 min­utes Com­rades Marathon de­but fin­ish for any­thing.

Of course the com­pet­i­tive me has been kick­ing up a fuss, some­what an­gry at my hav­ing had those stops for pic­tures and the walks that should have been runs. Damn he is even point­ing fin­gers at me for hav­ing had con­ver­sa­tions with some of my team­mates en route. “Those min­utes cost you” he chides.

But those are mo­ments to cher­ish. Else the race would have sim­ply been a trudge up from Dur­ban to Pi­eter­mar­itzburg that de­liv­ered the tar­geted medal (Bill Rowan) but no memories.

The name Vusumusi Mathebula would mean noth­ing. Now, that is a name of a new friend, a brother ac­tu­ally – for he didn’t think of me as weak when I cried in his arms at the fin­ish line. Such were the emo­tions of hav­ing com­pleted The Ul­ti­mate Hu­man Race.

Vusi and I met early on in the race and spoke for a bit. He was run­ning his sec­ond and told me he was chas­ing a sub 9hr fin­ish hav­ing done 9h40 last year.

I left him be­hind only for us to meet to­wards the end with about 20km to go. We ran that en­tire dis­tance to­gether, en­cour­ag­ing each other and even de­vised a plan to try and make our tar­get.

He waited for me when I stopped by the side to take a leak and when I got my sup­plies from our club’s sup­port team at the 75km mark. And when he cramped, I didn’t think he was de­lay­ing me. I waited and even said silent prayers for his re­cov­ery.

That we couldn’t achieve it didn’t in any way di­min­ish our sense of achieve­ment at the end and so we high-fived each other and hugged.

In be­tween my runs with Vusi, lit­tle mir­a­cles hap­pened that con­firmed to me that it is only through God’s will that one gets to com­plete such tor­tur­ous events.

Of course our club (Fat Cats AC) had a proper sup­port struc­ture – with peo­ple at the 30km, 42km, 60km and 75km marks. But I was pleas­antly sur­prised to have peo­ple pop­ping up at places I didn’t ex­pect them, yet at times I needed some lift­ing up.

An old high school friend of mine who lives in Pine­town had promised to wait for me at the 26km mark with a bot­tle of co­conut wa­ter.

I missed her and she in­cred­i­bly man­aged to find her way to wait for me fur­ther up in the race (about 56km) at Cato Ridge. I was dog-tired then, walk­ing al­ready when she popped up shout­ing “it will hum­ble you”. She snapped away as I guz­zled up the wa­ter. Re-en­er­gised I ran off.

Ear­lier on at a wa­ter point in Gil­lits, I heard some­one shout my name - not like the gen­eral sup­port­ers who read it off the race num­ber but some­one who clearly knew me. It was an­other lady from my high school, early in­spi­ra­tion.

Of course I ex­pected to see my wife at the marathon mark and my daugh­ter at her school (St John’s DSG) three kilo­me­tres from the end. Still, the ex­cite­ment of see­ing them knew no bounds and pic­tures were taken in the midst of hugs and kisses. And then there was col­league Mosi­bodi Whitehead (Kaya FM’s sports editor who has run many a Com­rades) at the 60km who did not only take pic­tures but also ran a few me­ters with me shar­ing his ex­per­tise. Price­less. As if that was not enough my wife’s friend popped out of the crowd at Cam­per­down to give me a bot­tle of en­ergy drink. I had on a bracelet with the name Sa­muel – the lit­tle boy who died of a rare dis­ease just after turn­ing one whose par­ents I in­ter­viewed last week and who had two ladies run­ning for a char­ity named Foot­prints for Sam. And ev­ery breath I took I re­mem­bered how Sam never got to breathe on his own and I thanked God for hav­ing blessed me with this abil­ity to run given my asth­matic con­di­tion.

I had a plan of sorts on how to tackle the race. But once that gun went off, my mind went blank. Ev­ery­thing that I’d read about Com­rades just dis­ap­peared and I just ran. I even ran up the dreaded Polly Shortts – Vusi and I run­ning in be­tween the rub­bish bins and walk­ing as we tried to make up time.

Yet through­out it clearly was God’s spirit that car­ried me, for while other run­ners cramped, vom­ited and even col­lapsed, the pains I felt were the nor­mal ones of hav­ing pushed the body too hard. But not once did I feel like quitting.

The Lord was the wind be­neath my wings and He car­ried me all the way into Scottsville Race­course – in a time set by Him.

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