A Family of a Fellow Comrades Runner

by Irene van Staden

4 sisters supporting their mother with her 10th Comrades and in her dream of gaining her Green number.

Walking to the starting line we followed the sound of excitement as the comrades host entertained and encouraged the runners. We greeted our mother at the barricades. Each of us giving her a hug and blessing.

The excitement heightened when the host announced that there were only 9 minutes left till the starting time. They started the count down by playing the National Anthem. Both runners and supporters joined in song and continued singing with the followup song, Shosholoza. The last moments where embraced by the Chariots of Fire, a crow of a rooster and the sound of a canon releasing the runners to the open road.

Returning to our vehicles we headed off to the halfway mark, Drummend at 43,05km. With the first runner still on their way, we headed to our mother’s runner’s club tent, Polokwane (Limpopo). There we sat and stood next to the road, anticipating the arrival of the runners.

The first runner arrived with an escort of police and traffic cars. Their sirens and lights blazing with enthusiasm. Supporters started to gather on the side of the road more than ever, cheering him on and eagerly waiting for their friend, family member or partners.

While we busied ourselves with reading, coffee and the eating of food we awaited the arrival of our mother. Constantly checking her progress via the Comrades app and scanning the ocean of runners for her face.

It was amazing to see how many people from not only different parts of South Africa, but also from around the world came to run the Ultra Marathon. People from Russia, Australia, Switserland, Stellenbosch, Strand, Cape Town, Durban, Polokwane, Pretoria and plenty more.

Some in very creative costumes. A woman with a strawberry hat, resembling the Red Queen in Alice and Wonderland. A man decorated with porcupine pens and a man from the Blood Donation Bank, running with a stuffed toy on his back. The hand of the stuffed toy waving back and forth as he ran.

Finally we recognized a small face and waved franticly to gain her attention. Almost like a car in a formula one race, we geared our mom for the rest of the way. Giving her things to eat, filling up her bottle with Rehidrat and making sure she had something to eat along the way.

In the end she finished her 10th Comrades Marathon in 10 hours and 49 minutes, achieving her Green number. Stiff and with a few missing toenails, we celebrated our mother for her endurance and strength. Listening to her account of the run while sitting on her bed or on the floor of her room. Feeling extremely proud
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It is amazing to think the Comrades started on the 24th of May in 1921 with only 23 people and has grown to what it is today. All because a man called Vic Clapham wanted to honor his fallen comrades in the 1st World War. The Ultra Marathon is a memorial to the suffering they had to go though and any runner there would testify to the hardship of running for 10 hours or more.

However, most importantly, they would testify of the fellowship experienced between the runners. Just like Clapham’s impression of the camaraderie of his fallen friends during the hardship of war.

For further reading on the comrades follow this link: http://www.comrades.com/marathoncentre/club-details/8-news/latest-news/326-history-of-comrades

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