The green grass at the end of the Com­rades race must feel like gold to those who fin­ish

The Witness - Wheels - - SPORT -

with run­ners and sup­port­ers by the minute, it’s strik­ing to see what colour there is in the race. Of course, the weather pro­vides mag­nif­i­cent sun­light at this time of year — although two weeks ago there were mini floods in and around Dur­ban as the rain came down — which brings forth the dif­fer­ent hues in all their glory.

Out on the road, the coloured vests and run­ning shoes light up the harsh­ness of the hard, un­for­giv­ing black tar that tests the men from the boys on the day, plus var­i­ous spots have the colours of key spon­sors to give hope and de­ter­mi­na­tion to the run­ners.

But, look­ing around the fin­ish from the ad­van­tage of the press box, there is colour all around. Be­sides the green, blue and turquoise seats that adorn the stands of Kingsmead, look­ing over the hal­lowed cricket turf one can­not help but no­tice the kalei­do­scope of colour out in the mid­dle.

Dom­i­nat­ing the scene are the bright red bal­loons flut­ter­ing in the breeze over the fin­ish line. Spon­sors of the fin­ish for­tu­nately have bright colours in their logo the red and pink signs in the fi­nal few me­tres of the race add some fes­tiv­ity and some pos­i­tive feel­ings as run­ners com­plete their run, their chal­lenge, their dream, their win­ning bet. For those who do care to no­tice the sud­den burst of colour, it must surely take away the pain and grind and trans­fer some gas to the adren­a­line lev­els as the joy of fin­ish­ing the race hits home.

The huge white mar­quees are also prom­i­nent, one to wel­come the run­ners af­ter cross­ing the line and where they re­ceive their cher­ished medals, an­other an area for the in­ter­na­tional run­ners to re­flect on whether their sac­ri­fice to run this mad race in Africa was re­ally worth­while. An­other of­fers med­i­cal as­sis­tance to those who have un­der-es­ti­mated the harsh­ness of the long road that al­ways seems so much eas­ier to drive and with so many fewer hills.

There are the bright yel­low shirts of the Com­rades Marathon staff and helpers and the black-and-yel­low Com­rades logo lit­tered at strate­gic spots around the ground. But per­haps the best and most ap­pre­ci­ated colour of them all is green. Nei­ther the green seats to re­lax in af­ter­wards, nor the green flags and gaze­bos of some spon­sors, but, as the leg­endary Tom Jones sang, “The green, green grass of home”.

Of all the colours on dis­play at Com­rades day, green must be the most com­fort­ing. That is the colour of the grass at Kingsmead, the first bit of grass the run­ners set foot upon all day. Since leav­ing Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, they have seen plenty of dry grass along the road­side, but the green grass of Kingsmead must be sim­i­lar to en­ter­ing heaven. Af­ter nearly 90 km on hard, hot tar, the run­ning shoe sud­denly hits some­thing soft and com­fort­ing, some­thing not so bone-jar­ring.

It’s like run­ning on air. It means you are home. You have made it and con­quered Com­rades. A medal awaits, the most prized of all. Much is spo­ken of the green hills of KwaZulu-Na­tal that shine like bea­cons in the win­ter months, but noth­ing matches that strip of green at the end of Com­rades.

For ev­ery run­ner, that grass is worth ev­ery sac­ri­fice, ev­ery early morn­ing alarm, ev­ery step on the road. It’s like gold to all of them and that is why ev­ery Com­rades run­ner is a win­ner. They all reach gold at the end of their run which, for many, is their great­est achieve­ment in their lives.

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