Bruce Fordyce said it so eloquently in the foreword of my Comrades Marathon book; “The good that Comrades does is not only restricted to those who have won. Thousands of runners have had their lives positively changed and enhanced forever. On the one hand we each earn the badge of courage. Regardless of our time or position, the words “Comrades Marathon” on a C.V. tell us much about the person. Here is someone who is a disciplined achiever, someone with endurance who can see a project through to its conclusion. Here is a winner”
I was privileged to be involved in the Comrades Marathon Panel Talks, and each year the promise is made “You will never be the same person, nor will you view life in the same way once you have run this race” I have made that promise often now, and I have made good to each and every one I have made that promise.
There is always an air of uncertainty about the novice runner. There are nervous laughs and there is a lot of idle chatter. Don Oliver and I joke about the motley crowd we have to deal with. It’s all good fun, but we are very aware the training has serious side. We know that we will have to deal with the same crowd in May next year. We understand that and know early on in the New Year we will rejoice in the challenge.
Those hopeful novices are the same faces, but a year on the person is completely different. You can feel it in the air… There is calmness, a confidence and a strength that is difficult to understand. For us who have passed the test, have run the race and have grasped the medal, we do understand that quiet, self-assured silence that has now replaced the light-hearted banter. We understand it well; for we are in the company of giants… we are brothers and sisters of another type.
Bruce Fordyce continues: “On the one hand, the Comrades brings with it tremendous health benefits. The Comrades runner is slimmer, stronger and a healthier person than his or her counterpart. I believe that the greatest gift the Comrades runner receives is that of enhanced self-esteem and knowledge that we can truly control our own destinies. In a world often characterised by confusion and chaos, Comrades runners learn they can establish their own order and bring about control in their lives. In a world full of spectators, Comrades runners are some of the very few players. After all the runner who can force tired legs to battle up 45th Cutting after running 80 kilometres, can do so much with life’s other challenges.”
Distance running is a very special sport. It can be done and mastered by almost any person. The time taken is not really that important, not as important as the distance covered. Each one of us emerges a better soul for the effort. Every time I run, I feel a small part of me grows a little bigger. I am a runner, and that makes all the difference.
I turn to the first Comrades Great, Arthur Newton for the inspiration: “Running or any natural exercise is physical as well as mental development, and it makes the whole machine more capable. When your physique is about as near perfect as nature can make it, all your abilities become greatly enhanced; you can work better, think more clearly and play more actively and intensely than before. A welcome result is that you get a lot more enjoyment out of life, which is what we look for; we only do things because we consider the results will bring us pleasure in one way or another, even if it is only indirectly”