I had an awesome race. I had wanted this one soo badly. To achieve my permanent green number in 2013 took a decade of Comrades participation and 25 years on the road. I had to wait for another 3 years for my finish, running with the green number. This is the ultimate achievement, given special recognition in the running fraternity.
Jozi X Chairman Yasien Sarlie put me on a strict diet, he said: “You are going to eat. It is going to be a gourmet feast the whole day through, and for heaven’s sake no bonking please”.
The day arrived. I ate four fried eggs for breakfast and an Energade. I was stuffed, how much more could I eat? I was on the Comrades bus to the start at 3:30am with Yunis Fakroodien and wife Zahida Osman. The bus took a long route causing us to sit jostling around for 2 hours.
As Yunis stated earlier, “The clock ticked to 5:05am and we were approximately 3km from the start, according to the maps application on my phone. Panic started setting in. Runners were anxious as the clock ticked on. They hurled words of “wisdom” at the driver from afar. The repeated question echoed, “How far to go”. Eventually at 5:25am with 1km, we disembarked. We ran like demons on a mission to make the start. A block away I heard the ‘THUNDER’ of the gun and that was our start. We managed to slip into the ‘A’ seeding pen and off we were on the official Comrades road, albeit a whole three minutes late”.
This was just the most disastrous start ever. My nerves were on edge, my legs were pounding the road at a frantic pace to Polly Shorts and my breathing was totally erratic. I had to talk to myself to remain calm and slow down. I was clutching a chicken sandwich in my hand, which I kept for when I would reach 30 km, through Cato Ridge towards Harrison Flats.
However I just went through the motions. I did not plan anything. In fact I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no confidence in myself, no goals nor pacing limits. I just ran like Forest Gump. I ran …….. and I ran. I took it easy up the hills with a run walk strategy and I just allowed my body to flow on the downhills.
I ran sensibly to Drummond, the halfway mark. Most of the other club runners were ahead of me. I ran smartly but I kept my eyes off my stop watch, I just listened to my body. When I felt strong I ran as best as my body could carry me, and when I felt I was tiring I took it easy.
I reached halfway in 5:11:53 and slowly passed other Jozi X runners. I was feeling strong and confident. As a club team mate said when I passed him in Hillcrest, “Jaffer wasn’t running, he was bouncing”, whatever that means.
Thanks to Yunis and Zahida I got my steak sandwich at about 60km, at Winston Park. I ate my second sandwich in small bites, through Kloof and down Field’s Hill.
I met none other that our esteemed Yasien Sarlie, who was at one stage going for a sub-10hr finish with Farhana Madhi. He was feeling nauseous and strangely enough, sleepy. We ran through Pinetown but he needed to rest.
We found a grass patch and proceeded to lie down. As soon as his head hit the ground he was asleep. Two minutes later I was up and out of there in a flash. My adrenaline was just pumping and I unfortunately had to leave my friend behind. Yasien must have been there for at least 10 minutes …… ever heard of someone sleeping on the Comrades race, but then again there are stranger stories of runners stopping on the side of the road to take a smoke.
I have to say, I never felt soo good in any of my previous 10 Comrades. No aches, no pains, no nausea …… no nothing. My running was flawless, my spirits were soaring in the clouds and I ran like hell.
I passed all the cut off points with at least one and a half hours to spare, finishing 10:32 in Durban. Comrades medal no. 11 in the bag. One of my best times, not bad for a 54 year teenager, and the oldest finisher in the club.
My praises go out to all those that sacrificed with me. My family and friends …… Jozi X’s Mehmood Patel’s unfailing support, Anwer Madhi’ s strength, my friend Farhana Madhi’s courage and my secret weapon, none other than Hanifa Ebrahim, who coached me through all those periods of difficulty, which some called my mid-life crisis. Without them I surely would not even have entered for Comrades 2016.
A huge thank you to Jozi X and the support team. Praise the Almighty, soo which of the favours of your Lord would you deny.