Comrades 2016 – Nabeela Gangat
Izokuthoba – It Will Humble You: Nabeela’s Comrades Experience
I required a few days to ponder, think, absorb and reflect about my Comrades journey…
Eating breakfast at Ilawu Inn, right outside pen G, I noticed this quote on the wall, “Be strong when you are weak. Be brave when you are scared. Be humble when you are victorious.” ~ by Michelle Moshetti. How apt and appropriate for the occasion. It was a sign and motto that I thought about very often during my run…
Standing outside the beautifully lit Pietermaritzburg City Hall just before 5:30am, many thoughts crossed my mind. Are you crazy thinking you can run 90km? Why run 90km? I banished all those doubts and decided that I would conquer the distance respectfully!
I had breathed Comrades for the last 8 and a half months. I started running and training to run the Comrades and the moment had finally arrived! It was a period of intense dedicated training. Waking up at 4:30am on most weekday mornings required a steely determination that would surpass all excuses! I had completed the training and had made it to the start, I was so blessed and needed to believe that I was going to push my body far beyond anything I had ever done before!
As our beautiful national anthem began playing, I choked on my tears that were streaming down my face. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I reminded myself about the unity and combined camaraderie that I was engulfed in, amongst some of the fittest people who had all gathered for one purpose, to complete the journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in the greatest ultra marathon event in the world! I soaked in the atmosphere of the anthem that unifies South Africans of every creed, colour and religion. As Shosholoza began playing, the tone altered and seemed to intensify… As the grand finale, Chariots of Fire began playing I seemed to lose all control of my emotions and needed to gather my emotions and myself. This seemed to be the climatic moment where everything made sense, yet no words could rationalise the reasons for undertaking this epic journey! I loved the intensity at the beginning of the race, it fitted the occasion and the journey we were embarking on; almost 90km to celebrate the sacrifices and lives that were lost so many years ago… As the traditional cock crowed and the gun fired, an expectation to move forward was abruptly halted. Seeded in H, I managed to only cross the start after 8-minutes! H seemed to stand for Hopeful, yet I seemed to interpret this hope as pure Happiness! I began running at a comfortable easy pace feeling extreme elation, some anxiety and a looming trepidation about the unknown. As I passed the first few kilometre markers, my heart rate increased dramatically. I shunned every negative thought and kept telling myself, “You Got This!!” I continued and suddenly started feeling like I was able to run quite comfortably but I remembered the infamous words of Coach Parry, “Comrades rewards patience”, and I stuck to my original pacing plan that I had prepared.
As the sun rose on the horizon ahead, I enjoyed seeing the amber-oranges turn into an intense bright ball that followed me, almost like a guiding light as I continued along my journey.
The supporters lining the streets, like an endless guard of honour was a highlight. The children from the Entembeni school was a sight to behold as every child believed that we were there to see them. I high-fived many little hands and slowed down to smile and share a special moment with each of them and was grateful as their cheers echoed in my mind for a long time! Passing the amazing spectators and support along the way seemed to fuel and energise me. As the race progressed, I started feeling stronger and happier…
After reading every conceivable blog, Facebook post, book and article about The Ultimate Human Race, I thought that I was prepared for the vacillating landscape… But I was not! Seeing the dramatic inclines up Inchanga and Drummond, forced me to re-assess the glorious landscape that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. My legs seemed to effortlessly carry me up the inclines as I seemed to be dumbstruck and in awe by the beautiful surroundings. I had never seen the landscape alter so quickly, steep inclines, curvy roads and fields of endless vegetation all filled my soul and provided many picture-perfect moments that I will hold in my mind’s eye for eternity.
Every single Comrades runner has a story and I seemed to spend many parts of the race wondering the reasons why the person in front of me was undertaking this journey…
There are many parts of the race that a blur, I remember the feelings during the blurry moments, almost like I was in my eternal happy place and imagined that this was how addicts felt on a high!
As my feet touched the grass at Sahara Kingsmead stadium, emotion yet again overwhelmed me… As I turned the corner, faster than I imagined after running 89km, the cheering crowds and bright fluorescent lights confirmed that I had indeed conquered The Ultimate Human Race! As the tiny medal was placed around my neck I felt like every fibre in my being was altered, forever… I run to free my mind and as I crossed the final mat, I felt like I was now part of a select few who had dug deep to conquer, overcome and silent every demon that voiced its unwanted opinion in my mind on so many occasions! I was in control and felt a pure distilled sense of elation… Probably all the endorphin’s firing away in my brain…
I had successfully achieved my goal of completing my first Comrades Marathon in a time of 11 hours, 28 minutes and 46 seconds… I loved very single second and felt like I had surpassed self-imposed limitations! I have now witnessed the power of one’s mind! Writing and explaining the essence of the Comrades marathon is quite difficult as it a unique and very personal experience.
I was humbled on many occasions during the run and have to pay tribute to My Creator for giving me the strength and fortitude to complete this amazing journey.
To My dearest Husband, Ebrahim, thank you for all the early mornings of driving me to races! Thank you for being my first fan and an avid supporter from my very first marathon in early February to The Ultimate Human Race!
To My dearest sister, Tasneem, you are amazing and have achieved your goal! I am so proud of you with your quiet determination and steely focus! You are a true runner!!
To My Running Club, Jozi X Cross Training, thank you to every single member who had assisted me on this amazing journey of self-discovery where I have finally found the best version of myself.
To My Family and My Friends, thank you for your unwavering support and belief that I would complete this feat.
To the Supporters and Volunteers, thank you for every single water sachet you handed out, every single runner you cheered and for every single rub, spray and kind word that you gave so selflessly. It would be impossible to undertake and complete such a journey without you!
I think I can now wear the title of runner with grace and humbleness! Izokuthoba, I was humbled and honoured to run the Comrades Marathon 2016.
I will be back…