Run Comrades, run: Getting the runs on a run

2012-02-22 08:46

Heaps of extra chilli and garlic with the grilled squid heads seemed so fine and macho, especially after my friend remarked, with tears in his eyes, that the stuff was rather strong.

Being an endorphin junkie, I’m a little bit addicted to the burn, but ego sometimes overrides sensibility.

I was cruelly punished for my squid heads on Tuesday morning when, barely 10 minutes into my warm-up jog before my hill training, I really, really needed to go.

At 4.45am in the middle of an upmarket residential area, it was an unreasonable demand by my body.

For all the crude jokes us runners make about the boost you get from a dose of legumes and/or chilli the night before, these actually slow you down.

Because the faster you run, the more you get the runs, and this only eases with walking, but walking doesn’t bring you to a loo faster. So you walk-run.

Fortunately for me, the hill I normally train on is near a BP garage.

Garages, as all runners will tell you, have two vital facilities: toilets and taps. Sometimes, though, you find yourself in an area without a garage, which is better than finding the garage closed.

Then you resort to checking out dark bushes and corners (non-working street lights are a blessing, sometimes), but I’m really too much of a coward to use these.

The problem with dark corners is that you can’t see who else is using it, or a car could come by and light up these places. I don’t like surprises so early in the morning.

I’m also not one of those immaculately groomed, fragrant, waxed, self-tanned women who always carry tissues when they run. So I grind my teeth, put up with the extra, feverish sweat for however long it takes to get to the nearest loo.

My most memorable runs on the run happened a few years ago on the Solovetsky Islands in Russia, a place with an enigmatic Russian Orthodox monastery once used as a Gulag camp.

Solovki, as the islands are also known, with its population of less than 1 000, is rather bushy, with gravel roads and not much transport, so I decided to run the 20km or so to see some torture steps Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about.

I fortified myself with some cherniy khleb (black rye bread) and water, but sadly I didn’t see the Cyrillic sign warning that the water should be boiled before drinking. So I had the runs, all the way to the torture steps and back, and all the way drank some more of my water to avoid dehydration.

Fortunately there were loads of bushes and trees by the road, and I think I had the sense to carry tissues, but the little comfort these provided were removed by the vicious mosquitoes, which trail after you like a pack of dogs. Memorable to say the least.

Fortunately in South Africa our water is clean, but some of us (myself excluded, so far, touch wood) don’t always have the sensibility to wait until after the Comrades Marathon to indulge in Durban’s finest and hottest cuisine.

Let’s pray for humility, restraint, brown rice and broccoli the night before the race.

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