Hats off to the Comrades legends who just won’t stop

2014-05-31 00:00

AS Pietermaritzburg wakes up to thousands of runners making the long trek to Durban tomorrow morning, the enormity of the occasion will be inescapable.

The race commands attention each year, and the fact that it draws competitors from all over the globe is testament to the phenomenal job that the organisers do so seamlessly time after time.

In the build-up to this year’s down-run, Witness sports reporter David Knowles has profiled a couple of participants whose achievements are nothing short of mind blowing. Knowles, though you would never tell by looking at him now, has completed 11 marathons himself. But his interviews this week with Dave Rogers and David Williams (wow, that’s a lot of Daves) left one feeling rather intimidated.

Rogers (71) has completed 45 Comrades — more than anybody else in history — while Williams (62) is all set for his 40th medal should he finish tomorrow. That is enough to make you question your entire existence. They say that a life of road running is taxing on the body, but a look at these two gentlemen defies the logic of that argument.

There are many people, myself included, who shudder at the thought of what it would take to run 90 km in a day. It is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s torture.

And there you are, thinking that you’re doing okay health wise because you play footy twice a week and pay the odd visit to the gym for a light-hearted gallop on the old treadmill. Until you hear the story of the guy who’s in his 70s and still running Comrades, and has been doing so since he was 18. Then things begin to sink in, and all of a sudden your steps on the treadmill exude more embarrassment than they do pride.

Knowles says he and his mates used to run because they enjoyed it. He describes Comrades as a love/hate relationship. You love the running, and that’s why you do it, but you hate the work that you have to put in so that you can run the big races. And they don’t get bigger than Comrades.

Imagine the discipline to keep coming back year after year. Those countless cold, dark mornings. The aches and pains.

But that is what our Comrades legends have to do. And they are legends, make no mistake. Regardless of the number or colour of your medals, if you complete this race just once, you earn your eternal stripes as an accomplished athlete.

To all of the runners tomorrow — Rogers and Williams especially — take a bow. Regardless of the outcome, you are attempting something epic. And that can only be applauded.

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