My first ultra marathon – Nita Kanjee

I awoke many times that night before as many runners do. When my alarm clock eventually buzzed that was the sound that the day has arrived to run my first ultra. I awoke with the song by Matt Simons Catch n Release playing in the background of my mind.”

There’s a place a go to, where no one know me,  Its not lonely, It’s a necessary thing, It’s a place I made up to find out what I’m made of,  The nights are stayed up counting stars and fighting sleep Let it wash over me ready to loose my feet Take me to the place where One reviews life’s mystery.  Steady on down the line lose every sense of time Take it all in and wake up that small part of me.

Day to day I’m blind to see and how far to go…..

I felt positive and ready for the day, embracing my new challenge. I remember putting on my running shoes a little slower this time taking my time to appreciate my feet my legs and my shoes that were going to take me the distance today. I said a prayer with gratitude for being able to run so far injury free and just gratitude to my feet my legs and to God.

This time was different because it was the first race that I was not getting ready in the comfort of my home but I knew this was the best rehearsal before comrades. When we met the other members of my group I started feeling more excited and ready for this new challenge.

We all made our way to the start and so began the first few footsteps of my first ultramarathon 52km.I was deeply touched by the people on both sides of the road that came to cheer us on. People from the rural areas. There were mainly children, some in school clothes ready to go to school then some who didn’t have shoes or jerseys and standing on the cold tar mac to support us. They cheered us on so enthusiastically with huge smile on their face. It filled me with gratitude and appreciation. I couldn’t reciprocate their gesture back at the time but I thought more must be done for children in these areas. This really touched me. That is when I decided to run for a purpose for a cause and set up my charity profile for the Starfish foundation.

The scenery was truly mesmerizing. The mountains on either side of us towering against sky line. The clouds hugging and hovering around the mountain peaks as the sun was about to rise welcoming a new day, new opportunities and new challenges. All natural elements possess this unique magnifying power, the ocean, forests and of course mountains and being able to run within its element was a blessing that filled me up with this bountiful energy. The air was fresh and crisp felt good filling up the lungs.

We all were in good spirits and chatting and then after 15km slowly people started breaking away into their own pace of running. I found myself running the rest of the race solo which was new to me coz I had company in most other races. According to the race profile there was one hill called Child Hill that looked like the most challenging hill but as we kept running there seemed to be hill after hill and as I looked at the hill from the distance approaching it I said “Bring it on” and ran up most of the hills until I was at the top then caught my breath and enjoyed the down hill. Every time I lifted my eyes from the road and looked to the sides, there were the majestic mountains over looking us. A reminder to appreciate your run and its natural beauty.

21 to 30 km’s I already started feeling hungry so I enjoyed the scenery and ate my energy bar. I also had my first bush experience during those km’s. Then I saw ahead we were approaching the dirt road which I thought initially was just a few km’s but ended up almost 6 to 8 kms. 30 to 40 km was marked with running on the dirt road. The legs already felt different running on the dirt road coz of the stones and the un-level footing trying to find a level path to run on. I knew if I don’t carry on running it would be difficult to get my rhythm back especially running on this dirt road. It was a long endless dirt road with only fields on either side now. No majestic mountains any more. Its amazing during these lonely endless patches how one finds interesting thoughts to keep you company. At one point I thought of the movie Forest Gump when all he did was run on long endless roads. Up ahead there was another hill which brought relief of normal road to run on. I took my energy gel at 32km and knew that this training run was essential for me to work out my nutrition plan and what works for me especially preparing for comrades.

I experienced a runners wall in both my previous marathons at 38km and now I kind of waited to see how that was going to plan out for me. I reached 40km and thought wow I got through it. Our support car came up slowly driving next to me. Seeing a familiar face and having the words of encouragement and supports sends new energy down my entire body especially the legs. Having music played for me and driving slowly next to me I felt what it must feel like being followed as a lead runner. This road seemed endless too so I started running 5 poles and walked 1.

At the second last water table they said only 5kms to go but sometimes those 5kms seem the hardest to run. But I kept myself positive repeating my mantra putting a smile on my face and taking in all this universal energy around me. The tune I woke up with in the background of my mind that morning started playing again. I started now looking ahead for some sign that we would be making our way into the town. One step at a time I kept repeating. Legs were starting to get sore and feet tired reaching a point when walking feels so good. All my walks were however fast paced walk that seemed to get my rhythm back into running easier.

And there at the last watering table came relief that we were in Ladysmith and approaching the stadium. I felt a new surge of energy I my legs realizing the end was near but mainly because for me this was an awesome run for me. I felt good throughout the race I kept myself positive my running mantra worked for me, this was the perfect preparations before my big race next month. I believe not seeing those km signage helped me coz if one didn’t have a gps watch one wouldn’t know how many kms were run since there were no boards.

Running into the stadium felt awesome seeing my other team members I even had enough energy to sprint the last few metres. All in all I finished strong. I felt confident in my running abilities and that’s what I needed right now with just a month to go before Comrades. A moment I will remember forever was seeing one of my team members who has been trying to qualify come into the stadium with his 2 other friends who helped throughout the 52km. The sheer pride jubilation and emotional relief could be seen all over his face. That was a true testament what us runners go through when we finally arrive at the place we envisioned ourselves to be at.

As we drove home I looked at those majestic mountains again, the clouds hugging the peaks again and the sun about to set. Another day coming to an end yet so much was achieved running between those mountains. A day I learnt so much about myself and I felt confident as a runner. I developed a new respect for those mountains and although I have driven passed them so many times to and from Durban now they represent my memories of my first ultra-marathon running within its magnifying universal energy.

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