I started my running back in 2013 with a colleague as part of a physical exercise programme that was offered at work. This was a structured programme to help employees achieve their fitness goals through regular exercise, good nutrition and the other aspects of fitness.

I suppose the company’s management felt that employees who are physically active stand a better chance of being more productive in their respective work environments. Anyway, I wasn’t part of the full programme, but I took the opportunity to join their running sessions, which were aimed at beginners like me.

From there, I fell in love with running and started running on my own.

So what is the hook?

It was only until I ran my first official race that I realized that there is more to running than what meets the eye.

I was always used to doing 5, 8 and 10km runs alone in my neighborhood, but it was on the day I did my first official race, the Deloitte half marathon in Pretoria that I realised running also introduces you to a community of wonderful people which have similar aspirations as you both from a running perspective as well as social or even professional perspective.

The camaraderie that you experience on the road amongst fellow runners is a feeling that is indescribable and only a runner will relate to this statement. You can have a conversation with a CEO of a large corporate during a race without even knowing because that’s just the nature of the vibe that is out there on the road.

We are all out there to encourage and motivate each other and this is what matters. With that said, I really started to take my running seriously in 2015 when I decided to enter the Two Oceans marathon and since then, running marathons and ultra marathons has become part of what I love to do during my spare time.

My Comrades experience

I don’t know where to begin because I’m sure that for every runner who has conquered this race there is so much to tell. From the sacrifices (I thank my wife Ntombikayise for her immense support) that come with months of preparation for this race, the build up and finally race day itself – there is lots to tell.

When you are doing Comrades for the first time like I did, there is a lot of excitement leading to the build up, but there is also the fear of not knowing if your body can manage the distance of an ultra marathon such as the Comrades. Remember when you prepare for Comrades, you only ever get to 50km or 60km as the longest distance that you have covered during training and as a result you don’t know how your body will stand the test of 90km on race day itself.

I was very fortunate that about 2 weeks before the Comrades marathon, I was introduced by a friend to his run club, Fat Cats Run Club.

I travelled to Comrades with Fat Cats and I must say this trip was one of my highlights of the 2016 Comrades marathon. The trip made me realize that running is even more fun when you are part of a club that has like minded people. Everything around our trip was so well organized and this really made my Comrades experience memorable. I have since decided to join Fat Cats Run Club and in fact, I ran my Comrades in Fat Cats club colours.

Now going back to the race itself, the reality that you are just about to do something special sets in as soon as you hear Chariots of Fire in that crowd of 17 000 people.

My plan was to finish the race inside 10 hrs and I was on track until about 50km, but I started suffering around the 60km mark and lost a lot of time. When I got to Pinetown at around 70km, I started asking myself why I am putting myself through this torture because I was completely broken and felt very lonely at that point.

I started thinking about my wife and little girl back at home. As the slogan for 2016 Comrades marathon says “izokuthoba, meaning it will humble you” and that is exactly how I felt. I struggled along until a friend, Mahlasela, came from behind and pulled me along with him at around 80km mark and miraculously I managed to regain my strength and finished the race at 10hrs 20mins.

Comrades Marathon

2016 Comrades Marathon Finish

This was a good finish given that when I was at Pinetown, I was happy to settle for a 12 hrs just to finish the race and get my medal and that is a sign of how broken I was at that point. When I eventually crossed that finish line, I was so proud of myself and felt that I can take on any challenge that life throws at me. This for me was the biggest take away from my first ever Ultimate Human race.

So, where to from here?

I have learned a lot from this Comrades and I am going for more in years to come. Interestingly, it also made me realize that I have been running way below my potential. I believe I will do much better in upcoming races. With that said, I’m training to finish 2017 Two Oceans Marathon around 5 hrs (cut off 45 minutes from my time in 2016) and at the 2017 Comrades marathon I will be aiming for a sub-9 hrs finish to earn a Bill Rowan medal.