I always wanted to run the Comrades Marathon one day. One day, but not too soon because I thought running a very long way was nuts. The Comrades Marathon is 89km long. It is an ultra-marathon run not only by ultra-athletes, but by thousands of ordinary people. I grew up along the route. Every second year, I witnessed the mass of people jogging, walking or clawing their way past Westville (where I grew up) with the last 14 kilometres to go to Kingsmead in Durban. On the other year, they would be running past with more energy, but a full 75km to go, up the Hill to Pietermaritzburg. Growing up in Kwa-Zulu Natal, growing up in South Africa, means the Comrades Marathon is part of who you are.
But 89km? That is just mad. I thought I would wait till I was older. I knew there would be damage done, but it was a trade off. Something I really wanted to be a part of. Almost a pilgrimage. I once got to shake Nelson Mandela's hand at the end of the Comrades. I practised a line that felt incredibly inadequate as I waited. I have forgotten the words. What I remember was how big he was, and that his response was something along the lines of, 'No, it is you who are an amazing man.' He then went down a line of people creating further life-long memories. The Comrades always felt like something I needed to do.
Then about a year ago, I had two books recommended to me that changed my view on running 180 degrees. Together, Born to Run and Eat & Run make a strong case for running being very much a part of a healthy lifestyle. Not just short runs. We are meant to move. Done properly, with the correct style, and the correct diet, running is a potent transformative medicine. A way of maintaining lifelong health. It is our destructive sedentary lifestyle which leads to running hammering the knees and being a regular source of injuries. Doing nothing, sitting at a desk or on a couch for hours and hours, and then running, is (unsurprisingly) not a good idea. It's the couch and desk that are the problem. Not the running.
So I have been slowly building up my walking and running mileage with an aim to do this year's Comrades Marathon. Last week I broke my walking (49km) and running (21km) distance records. I have no idea how long it took. I didn't time myself. Part of the idea ventured by McDougall and Jurek that resonated with me is to listen to the body. Almost a yogic approach. Run as fast as you can while still being able to maintain a comfortable conversation. In yoga, the idea is you should never push yourself so hard that you lose control of your breath. Your breath is your best coach.
Today, I am on a long walk day. I am still listening to 'The Wealth of Nations' as I walk along the Thames. A walking marathon with a lunch break to write. I am still amazed how relevant Smith's commentary is 240 years later. It gives insight into Colonialism, Government, Business and how good ideas spread and bad ideas die.
My understanding that running was a bad idea deserved to die. Bring on 29 May 2016!