5 June 2010 (event summary)
It was a phenomenal performance by the UAE-based contingent. It is testament to the calibre and spirit of the running clubs in the UAE that all the UAE-based runners completed the gruelling 89.28km run (results below). I know all of the runners would like to thank their sponsors, friends, families and relatives.
Noel Rossouw: 9:20
Jacques Rijkmans: 10:19
Bridgette Stoffberg: 11:27
Julie Rossouw: 9:20
Samantha Cadwallader: 9:28
Chris Little: 11:26
Sally Johnston: 8:46
Michelle Jooste: 8:53
Anne Bester: 8:42
Simon Beeson: 8:53
Russel Da Silva: 11:33
Sara Connor (formerly Dubai-based): 11:26
Zoe Da Silva: 10:55
Here’s a short summary of the event for your interest.
Unlike many of the world’s commercial marathons, the Comrades run seems to hold a near spiritual place in the hearts of South Africans. Originally established as a memorial to fallen Comrades from the First World War, it is a unifying event, where for one day at least, the Rainbow Nation’s socio-economic challenges take a back seat to celebrate the human resolve to overcome adversity.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 30 May, around 20,000 runners lined-up under the night sky outside the townhall in PieterMaritzberg (PMB). It’s worth remembering that each runner’s presence at the start line marked the end of 6-12 months of dedicated training; early mornings, gruelling runs, time away from loved ones, battles with injuries, and, for many runners, a commitment to run for a personal cause, often a recently deceased friend or relative. So, while most participants were physically prepared at the start line, the event held a special significance for them and their emotions were never far from the surface.
The announcer at the start reminded everyone of the heritage of the run, its special meaning. All the South African participants, who are by far the majority of the runners each year, then sang out the Zulu anthem Shosa Losa, before the traditional playing of Chariots of Fire brought a tear to many an emotional eye. Then a cannon was fired to start the race.
Thousands of spectators lined the route, many with duvets wrapped around them, and all wearing excited smiles and cheering on the runners. No louder were the cheers than when we passed the Ethembeni school for handicapped children at 38kms. The school owes its existence to donations from Comrades runners and their supporters over the years, and is now one of several good-causes supported officially by the Comrades Marathon Association. The enthusiastic welcome from those kids was straight from the heart of Africa, and they were rewarded with high-fives and various garments from the runners – gloves, caps, sunglasses, overshirts. For many of them, this would most likely be the only gift that they would receive until next year’s race.
Some of our runners owed their finish times to the official runner ‘buses’ – large groups of runners led by one experienced pace-setter, the official bus-driver. Many people say that Comrades is a mental challenge more than a physical one, and it is true; having your body firing pain & fatigue signals to your brain, but knowing that you have to put up with it for another ‘X’ hours in order to finish the race. Then, as you approach the final 15-25kms, a different voice beckons you to give-up on your aggressive target time, suggesting that you can still finish before the 12hour cut-off if you just take it easy.
The unbalanced shuffling gait, or glazed eyes of many of the runners crossing the finish line in Durban's Kingsmead Cricket Stadium showed that they were mentally shot, possibly even having been hallucinating for the previous hour or two.
I watched one guy who, with 2 minutes to go and only 20 metres from the finish, wobbled to a standstill against the railing. Spectators screamed at him to walk / crawl / roll to the finish line, but his legs and mind were completely spent. He swayed for a few seconds, and then dropped to the grass as though all the bones in his body had dissolved. That’s when I realised that the ‘heartbreak’ was not limited to the runners themselves, but was felt just as keenly by the spectators, many of whom had tears rolling down their faces as they watched this guy, and many others after him, get stretchered away for treatment after pushing themselves for so long.
As the final seconds approached, the spectators in the stadium and hundreds of thousands watching on TV or streaming internet video awaited the ‘heartbreak’ of the 12 hour cut-off, when the finish marshall turns his back on the runners racing towards the line, and sounds the closing gun precisely 12 hours after the starting cannon had sounded in PMB. After 12 hours of running, 1 second can make the difference between a runner ‘finishing’ Comrades, and a runner receiving no formal recognition of having participated in the event: no listing in the event records, no medal, no certificate … nothing.
As the finish gun sounded, the journalists raced for the traditional interview with the first non-finisher. Sat on the grass a few metres from the finish line, breathing heavily and clearly in some degree of discomfort, he said defiantly, "I'll try again next year". Such is the Comrades spirit.This was truly a memorable day. Emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting. Thank you for the various ways that you supported us.
How thrilling life can be.
26 May 2010 (4 days to go)
So here we are. The training is complete. Some of the team have already flown to South Africa; some will be flying on Thursday & Friday this week. I know that every member of the team wants to thank their family, their friends, their relatives, their employers and work-colleagues, and other runners in our respective clubs, for the emotional support and the well-wishing. We're all very cognisant that the training has demanded significant time apart from our loved ones, time which one cannot take for granted. On the event day, each individual runner will know that their presence in the event is the result of a TEAM effort. Thanks to you all.
We're also very grateful for the generosity of all our sponsors. Your donations are directly funding critical research, the benefits of which will touch the lives of so many people around the world. The fund-raising drive has reminded us that we are blessed to be able to run at all. We are sure to be reminded of that en-route on Sunday, as we pass the school for handicapped children, whose rousing welcome at the roadside marks an emotional 38km point.
If we could cross the finish line by the sheer will of our supporters alone, then we'd all be wearing our Comrades medals already - your support has been immense. A huge thank you to you all.
Michelle Jooste (# 41752)
Sally Johnstone (# 38862)
Chris Little (# 27397)
Simon Beeson (# 44381)
20 May 2010 (10 days to go)
All of the team would like to say a huge thank you to all of our kind sponsors. Your generosity for the Institute of Cancer Research (www.icr.ac.uk) will help to galvanise our spirit when the body is suffering, much as the results of the research you're helping to fund provide hope for cancer sufferers and their families around the world. Thank you.
Race day approaches, and you can "Track Your Runner" via the Comrades website (www.comrades.com) using each of our race-numbers (see below). We've included the race numbers of the other Dubai-based runners that we know of ... there's quite a contingent heading down to SA!
At least 3 members of the team have spoken about having a confidence-knocking "bad run" in the previous week, sensing heavy-legs and fatigue. This is apparently perfectly normal and those who've done Comrades before have taken it in their stride. As a newbie, my confidence will remain shakey until I have the finish-line in sight.
There should be time for one more update before the race, but for now, here are the Dubai-based runner numbers:
1519 Noel Rossouw
2892 Jacques Rijkmans
8976 Bridgette Stoffberg
22898 Julie Rossouw
23036 Samantha Cadwallader
27397 Chris Little
38862 Sally Johnston
41752 Michelle Jooste
41936 Anne Bester
44381 Simon Beeson
44828 Russel Da Silva
44833 Zoe Da Silva
TBA Warren Coles
9 May 2010 (21 days to go)
The longest training runs (and the associated 2:30am wake-up calls) are now behind us, and the team is looking forward to some proper lie-ins - at least until, say, 5am. The so-called 'taper' period before an event is always eagerly anticipated, but tends to be a time of mild trepidation too as one attempts to remain injury and illness free until event day. It also feels disarmingly 'easy' after the hard training, and can invoke concerns of becoming unfit by race day. Just one of myriad mental challenges that every Comrades competitor faces before and during the event.
Michelle and Chris are looking very strong, and on target for good performances at Comrades. Equally, Sally has made an excellent recovery from her injury, and is looking well-prepared. Regrettably, Carmel is definitely out, and Simon remains a 'maybe' due to his recent tendon injury. Ice-massage, ultra-sound, laser-treatment, physiotherapy, anti-inflammatories and, intriguingly, crushed onions seeds are all being employed to get him to the start line. His significant wager with his brother is likely to be the most potent force to get him to the finish line!!
The Comrades website (www.comrades.com) enables family, friends and our generous sponsors to track the progress of the runners on the big day (30 May). For this purpose, you'll need the team members' running numbers: Michelle (41752), Sally (38862), Chris (27397), Simon (44381).
Thanks to all as ever, and will update you again soon.
17 April 2010 (43 days to go)
Sally & Carmel are currently nursing injuries; we're wishing them a speedy recovery.
Friday 16 April saw the remaining team members set alarm calls for 2:30am, in order to arrive in Hatta for a 4:30am start. 7 hours later (5:30hrs of which was spent running), we concluded the planned 54km route in 38-degree heat.
The team enjoyed great support from multi-Comraders Jacques Rijkmans (a green number holder, having completed 10 Comrade events), Noel & Julie, and Bridgette, all of whom will be on the start line in Pietermaritzburg on 30 May this year. Adventure Race specialist, Cath Todd, isn't doing Comrades this year, but joined us "just for the fun of it".
It's fair to say that temperatures, humidity and distance conspired to make this probably the hardest preparation run we've done, and I dare say any one individual may have considered quitting early. But as a team, we pushed on, each member being in turn inspired by the determination of another.
A special thanks goes out to Tisch for sacrificing a good chunk of his weekend to be our support driver - you are a great motivator, and an excellent bar-tender, Sir!
From now, the 'taper' begins, with training distances reducing to enable our legs to recover prior to the event on 30 May. The focus now switches to core strength training, and fund-raising. Thanks to all the donors for giving your hard-earned dough / bread / lolly / wonga etc to this great cause. Your karma account is no doubt well in credit :)
Until the next update, best wishes from the Dubai Comrades Team.
12 April 2010 (48 days to go)
We have a caption competition for the snap currently adorning this team page; the image is Simon receiving attention after his Dead Sea Marathon in Jordan ... perhaps a little too much attention. The winning quote will be posted to the page (provided it's clean enough!).
Thoughts now turn to how the team can achieve the requisite 60km training run (likely 7 hours including breaks) before the heat of the day hits mid- to high-thirties. Planning for a 4:30am start, which means a 2:45 - 3am alarm call. This distance running really isn't compatible with a decent social life; it's a wonder we ever get invited to any parties!
Congratulations to Veronica Rivera, who finished in the top third of competitors in this year's Marathon des Sables, and to Victoria Hughes who won 1st place in the Dead Sea 50k Ultra-marathon. Inspirational women ... there's no escaping them! Well done, ladies.
3 April 2010 (57 days to go)
Yesterday's Hatta hill run was preceded by a small detour to join Jane Beare on her remarkable 10 marathons in 10 days challenge, running from Muscat to Oman. Jane was in great spirits and certainly appreciated the company.
Another inspiration was Cath Todd, who joined us for the hills, just a few short weeks after running a 100 mile (140km) race in California. With Veronica Rivera starting this year's Marathon Des Sables challenge as I write, it seems that we are surrounded by inspirational women. Take note, Chris - us fellas can't let the side down!!
The next 4 weekends will herald the longest training distances for everyone training for this year's Comrades, with some runners expecting to tackle as much as 60kms in a single day. I'm still struggling to comprehend that a distance of 1.4 marathons can be considered a 'training run'. I guess this is what comes from being surrounded by inspirational women.
28 March 2010 (63 days to go)
Another member joins the team - welcome Sally!
As tempratures move into the high 30's, some team members headed for the Hatta Hill road for a session with other Dubai-based runners who are training for the imminent Boston Marathon. Good luck to those chaps & chapesses.
A big thank you to all our donors. With your assistance, we've rocketted past the £500 mark. £1k here we come! :)
23 March 2010 (68 days to go)
... and another two Dubai-based Comraders have surfaced - welcome to the team Michelle & Carmel. Chris & Simon's complaints about their sore legs are becoming a little more persistent now :) Early start planned this coming Friday, 26 March, for 44-52k over the Hatta hills, in the UAE. Making the final arrangements for Dead Sea marathon in Jordan on 9 April.
21 March 2010 (70 days to go)
A 3:30am start last Friday to meet up with some other crazies to hit the hills of the UAE. 3 hours later, we began the run. Temperatures rose beyond mid-30's in the wadis, but the intrepid team completed the full 48kms, reaching the car before the onset of any hallucinations. The training distance, and the temperature will continue to climb for another month, until we begin the taper in early May. Night-time running may be the only answer - better get some batteries for the head-torch!
16 March 2010 (75 days to go)
It's comforting to know that mine is not the only mind that has apparently lost all sense under the strength of the Dubai sun. Since registering for the 2010 Comrades 89km Ultramarathon in South Africa (www.comrades.com), another loony has appeared who has also registered for the event. So, while pounding the streets and off-road wadi trails of the UAE together, we decided to see whether our own efforts might help others somehow; namely, with your kind generosity.
We're supporting the prestigious work of the Institute of Cancer Research. These are the researchers whose work receives much of the funds donated to those larger cancer charities we all know. Their work covers all cancers, regardless of age or gender, and their findings are for the benefit of cancer sufferer around the world. I firmly recommend a quick review of their website to understand the impact of their studies - a truly humbling experience (http://www.icr.ac.uk/).
As for donating via the JustGiving website, it's totally secure; they’ll never sell on your details or send unwanted emails. They simply send your donation directly to the charity. If you are a UK taxpayer, please highlight the 'Gift Aid' option, which further boosts the funds that ultimately reach the charity.
We'll update this page regularly with photos and details of our training, and on the big-day, you'll be able to track our progress along the route in South Africa. We're proud to support ICR's work to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer in our world.
Thank you, All.
Sally, Michelle, Carmel, Chris & Simon
Dubai Comrades for Cancer Research