It started when I failed to wake up on time on 10 October 2021 to run 55km in memory of my aunt on her first birthday in heaven, whom we lost on 20 March 2021. The urge intensified when my grandmother died on 17 January this year at 101 years.
Having gone through painful sicknesses leading to both their deaths, I gained more courage to endure the same pain by racing in the Ultimate Human Race at the 2022 Comrades Marathon. So, I dedicate the run to honour them for being amazing guardians all my life.
When it was announced that the 2022 Comrades Marathon will take place on my 39th birthday (28 August 2022), it was there and then that I was fully convinced that the 2022 Comrades Marathon, themed ‘The Return-Sishay’lbuya’ is and has to be my run.
Therefore, I was among the first to enter the second phase of entries, qualifying with my first Two Oceans Marathon ultras, which was quite a brutal 56km run where I clocked a time of 06 hours 16 minutes while battling a left ITB (Iliotibial band syndrome – one of the most common overuse injuries among runners), which I picked up during the CapeGate Vaal Marathon (42.2km) on 6 March. With the ITB still active by 26 March, I did the Sasol Marathon (42.2km) and clocked 04 hours 25 minutes, in anticipation of the Two Oceans Marathon.
I affirmed my ultra-strength and readiness for the 90km with a Swasap Ultra Marathon (52.2km) on 4 June in Bloemfontein, which I smashed nicely with a time of 5 hours 25 minutes; so, I was convinced again that I can now face the 2022 Comrades Marathon.
After that, I did the Sedibeng Marathon (42.2km) at Vaal and finished with an amazing personal best of 4 hours and 7 minutes. But I picked up an ITB on my right leg after the run, and could not run much after that.
With that, I just had to nurse the ITB with gym strength training and water activities, though the healing process was very slow; hence I underwent a good number of physiotherapy sessions leading up to 13 August 2022.
The last week heading into the Comrades Marathon came with so many other life activities but my mind was set to do the Comrades’ Ultimate Human Race. I maintained a good diet and minerals, vitamins, and cramp-stop daily boosters as advised by my brother Frans Amakali, who is Namibia’s 2022 Comrades Marathon ambassador.
On 25 August 2022, I sadly missed my 10h40 flight to Durban. I panicked a bit at the Lanseria airport and I had to pay for the standby flight. Few minutes later, I was advised against the standby amidst the high demand in flights to Durban for the Comrades’ return.
My attempt to request for a refund failed and at this point, I was overwhelmed with negative emotion and thought maybe it’s a sign that I should not do the 90km. Suddenly, I rubbed off that thought, and then I took a flight to OR Tambo Airport where I had to wait for the Kalamazoo Bus departing at 20h15.
At this point, I told myself I am going to conquer that marathon, so I bought a book titled ‘Sour’ by TD Jakes to read and pass time and took naps in between at Spur Steak Ranches until the bus departure for Durban.
I slept all the way and arrived early at around 04h15 on Friday, 26 August. I was welcomed at the Durban station by my host Tertius Gerber owner of The Travel Inn (TTI), who assisted with booking the bus. I had a good warm shower and slept for a good three hours before we went to the Comrades Expo to collect our race packs and buy other Comrades’ goodies. After the expo, we spent the entire day at the Gateway Mall.
On 27 August, I needed to return to the expo to exchange an item and a Sub-11 pacer with a Sub-10:30 because I felt the sub-11 is too slow for me. We then went to the Pavilion Mall briefly for other goodies and returned at 16h00.
After dinner, I thought I would sleep from 20h00 but I was just tossing in bed and eventually had a very short sleep that ended at 00h03, when I automatically woke up on my birthday, 28 August. So, I started with birthday celebrations on social media.
Few minutes later, the “adrenaline rush” kicked in affecting bowel movement. I was now between two rooms until 00h50 when I decided to take a bath for the big day. I ate some forced oats for breakfast and then at 02h30, we went to the bus pick-up point to Pietermaritzburg for the start.
I got a spot between G-H instead of my F-seeding. There I said lots of prayer requests to my Jehovah. After all formalities, the starting gun went off and I was on my legs and immediately hit my smartwatch to mark the start of the race.
I erroneously rolled over to the swim option. I didn’t know what happened but all I knew is that I couldn’t track my running pace having a weird display of my progress. I decided to catch up with the sub-11 buses but my aim was to reach the 10h30 bus. Eventually, I found the 10h30 bus directed by and stayed with it. The first 60km went down so unexpectedly without any pains whatsoever as I passed Drummond and Botha’s Hill like it was a fun park run.
I continued downhill until Pinetown and still felt extraordinarily strong. Cowie’s Hill brought some exhaustion once the climbing started but it was bearable because I could see the light ahead of me very clearly.
A good lesson learned here for ultra-runners is to incorporate some power walks in ultra-training. Nevertheless, I entered the Moses Mabinda Stadium smiling and sprinted to the finish line at 10:25:39.
Another testimony is that everything is possible with faith.
To conclude, Comrades Down Run did not humble me, could the Up Run humble me perhaps? May Kuku and Aunty’s souls continue to rest in peace.
To be repeated!