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Ashira Singh

My Comrades Journey – Ashira Singh

Little did i know when I registered for the 2018 Comrades Marathon, it was to be my most challenging race ever…

Having being diagnosed with TB spine and lost partial use of one leg, I thought I could never walk normally again or leave alone, run again.
I had extensive surgery done on my spine to remove the abscess caused by TB. After months of intensive physio I learnt to walk properly again.

Running Comrades Marathon was never on my bucket list. My sister-in-law’s bucket list item became my challenge. How could a lame duck like me, do this. In November 2010 i registered for the 2011 Comrades marathon and then my training began. My doctors thought I was crazy and advised me against running, They stated that it was too much strain for my spine to endure. My stubbornness won the day.
After arduous training and a difficult run, I qualified with 13 seconds to spare. I was on my way to my first Comrades.
I did not complete Comrades that year but still determined, I entered the following year and in 2012 I completed my first Comrades.

Fast forward 2017, I decided to run the 2018 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon Ultramarathon.
I started preparing in August 2017 with wanting to qualify at the Kaapsehoop Marathon. My training was going well until my mom was diagnosed with Cancer. Her health started to deteriorate rapidly which meant frequent trips to Durban. Sadly I lost my mom on the very day of the Kaapsehoop marathon
4 November 2017.
My dad had also taken ill and 23 days later he also passed on. I was devastated with losing both my parents within such a short space of time.

One and a half months later I resumed my training. But I guess the double tragedy took its toll on me. I struggled to qualify at the Sasol marathon. I then had one final attempt at the Township marathon . Unfortunately I finished in 5:05. Just five minutes too late.
That was the last race to qualify for OMTOM, and I had not managed to make it.
I wrote a letter to the OMTOM committee to allow me to run the race condsidering my circumstances. I was not expecting any positive outcome but was surprised to receive a mail allowing me entry into the race. I was estatic at the news but I knew deep inside it will be a tough race. I decided to rather use the 56km as my long preparation run for Comrades.

I had yet to qualify for Comrades and quickly running out of time. I began frantically looking for qualifying races. I was told I was running too many races in desperation to qualify. But I just could not give up, not yet. I registered for all the remaining qualifying races. We flew down to Durban the Saturday afternoon to run the Durban City Marathon the next day. With the help of my dear husband I eventually qualified. I was so relieved.

Two weeks before the Comrades Marathon I injured my arm at a karate training session. Thinking it will heal, I never gave it much thought. I soon realized I could not wear my running watch due to the pain and swelling. I then decided to have an XRay done. To my horror, the Xray revealed I had fractured my wrist. I told myself “one does not need ones hands to run. Consider yourself lucky your legs work.”

I had tears in my eyes at the start line of the Comrades marathon this year thinking of how hard a journey it had been to get there. Knowing I had not put in the recommended milage on my legs, and having fractured my arm two weeks before the race I was still determined to finish. The gun went off and we were on our way to Moses Mabida Stadium. Running in the dark for the first hour felt like cattle being herded for slaughter. Watching the sunrise down Polly Shorts makes you feel so greatful to be alive. Pacing ourselves up Inchanga with other Jozi team mates made climbing feel like a breeze.
All was going to plan until I got to 60km, then my hamstring muscles started to cramp. Slowing down and icing did little to relieve the pain. My husband had to make the difficult decision of leaving and continuing the race without me. Yet I was not going to give up. Instead I pushed myself on, just making the Pinetown cutoff by 3mintues to spare. By then my legs were completely shot. Every step down Cowies Hill was torturous. Running down 45th cutting I literally was the last person on the road. The bail bus tailing me, waiting for me to give up. Despite the excruciating pain there was no way I was going to set foot in that Sorry Bus. I staggered on until I got to the last cutoff mat, but obviously I knew I was out of time. I was heart broken and deeply disappointed. Not receiving that little medal was devastating.
Then the questions started…was it my training or perhaps is it that I am just not strong enough to do ultra marathons. Am I just fooling myself, torturing myself year after year? Should I just give up?

However if you ask me if I will do it again… I will say YES !!!

Often focus is placed on the finishers, little attention is given to people who don’t finish on time. All their hardships, agony, the deep, deep disappointments.
It is even more courageous to dust off and start again.
We are not all blessed with good running genes. But the mere fact that we are out there trying, is all that matters. You do not have to be a podium candidate to be a winner, you just have to be a participant.

It does not matter if I do not finish another Comrades marathon but I will not give up trying. It is what keeps me alive.
I can never be a spectator again.

Never give up on your dreams.

By Ashira Singh

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