I'm finally settling in and finding time to write my Comrades race report.
Our team arrived in Durban, South Africa after an all night trek departing from Rwanda, flying through Nairobi, Kenya and eventually landing in Durban early Friday afternoon. After checking into the hotel we made our way to the expo and picked up our race packets. I was excited to see my orange bib which served as an indicator to other runners that I was running my second straight Comrades and was hoping to complete the back-to-back challenge. The different colored race numbers are one nice feature of the race, all internationals get blue numbers, back-to-back orange numbers, ten time finishers earn the coveted green number and have their race number is retired from circulation and belongs to them, there are other colors too for people who have completed, 20, 25, 30 and even 40 races!
After a great night's sleep on Friday it was a relaxing Saturday morning with a short walk along the beach and lunch with friends at Durban Country Club before heading to Pietermaritzburg and an overnight in a school dorm. I was thrilled I had brought eye shades and noie cancelling headphones as it allowed me to fall asleep in the room we shared with a few South Africans, one of whom snored like a freight train. So much so that by the time I woke the rest of our team had moved to different rooms!
Rolling out of bed at 3:00 I got myself dressed and made my way downstairs for breakfast which consisted of toast, juice, fruit and coffee. After double checking my gear our team got on our bus at 4:30 and were headed for the start line. As we climbed off the bus my level of excitement was building and entering the starting corral I could feel the air around was buzzing with energy as we anticipated the start at 5:30.
With 15 minutes to go I the Shosholoza began to play and everyone was singing heartily. This was followed by the South African national anthem, again well sung by the runners, after which the theme from Chariots of Fire filled the air... silence... cock crow... gun! We're off.
It's dark, still an hour and half to sun up and the wind is blowing, the temperature is 48 degrees. I'm loving it, everything feels easy as we make our way through the streets and out of the city. After the beating Polly Shorts gave me last year it was very pleasant to run her down hill and near the beginning this year. After Polly Shorts we began the climb to Umlaas Road, the highest point on the course. We were really feeling the wind at this point but it was still fairly easy going as were only about 20k into the 90k race.
I wish I could say that it was all downhill from this point, as this was a down run year, but that's jsut not the case. I was running with another member of our team and while we hadn't discussed it before we decided we'd run the whole thing together.
The next big hill was Inchanga, easy running down but steep on the upside. We took it in stride and were on pace for just over a 10 hour finish. The run down into Drummond and halfway felt really comfortable and I was celebrating that I made it to the halfway point feeling very strong with no aches or pains. What a difference a year makes, last year both calves had cramped on me and I was struggling to make it through the second half of the race.
As we made our way past the Ethembeni school for the disabled I slowed to a walk, even though it was downhill. Taking time to give every kid a high-five and even a few hugs was definitely a highlight of the day.
As we climbed out of Drummond my fellow Comrade was starting to hurt, problems with his knee and some nausea issues. We slowed to a walk and I assured him we would make it to the finish, we could walk it in if we had to, and from the previous year's experience I knew this was true. On we plodded, one step at a time. As my friend Rusty likes to say, "one step closer to the finish is... one step closer to the finish!"
The goal of a 10 hour finish quickly vanished and the new focus was on getting both of us to the end within the 12 hour time limit.
The climb to the top of Botha's hill was a long one but we managed to get there and ran down the other side of the hill now looking at possibly breaking an 11 hour pace. As we reached to top of Field's Hill we breathed a sigh of relief and started down it at a comfortable jog. The eleven hour pace group caught us here and then we passed them further down the hill. I asked my Comrade if he wanted to stick with the group, we tried for a while but then we let them go. They looked like they'd finish around 10:45.
When we arrived at Cowies Hill we took a leisurely walk to the top before a run/walk down the other side. This was the last of the running my Comrade would do in the race, I found myself having to run the downhills just because walking them hurt to much. At the bottom of each hill I'd wait and on we'd go together.
As we entered the streets of Durban the sun was beginning to set and it was a beautiful late afternoon. We paused and took our pictures with 1k to go. We had 40 minutes left! I remembered from the previous year how much I enjoyed my time in the stadium as the last quarter mile was on grass in front of the crowds so I left my Comrade to allow him his moment and ran on to wait for him at the finish.
I was ecstatic as I crossed the line, I run Comrades back-to-back. I'd made it but more than that, we'd made it. Over the final half-hour hundreds of others crossed the line, one couple came in after us holding hands, he'd run 23 Comrades and she'd jsut finished her 20th!
This is a race about friendship, participation and getting yourself and others to the finish. Comrades really is the greatest race on the planet.
On Tuesday I'll be on my way to Rwanda. In 1994 Rwanda was decimated by genocide during which some 10% of the population was murdered over a period of 90 days. In terms of the numbers of dead it would be the equivalent of killing the entire population of Dallas between now and August.
If we took the % of population killed and brought that into the United States it would be the euivalent of losing the entire populations of New York, Lost Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, San Fransisco, Austin, Fort Worth and Charlotte.
I don't know about you but I find this very troubling.
World Vision has been working in Rwanda since 1976 and I am thrilled to be travelling with and involved in their work. While on the ground in Rwanda I will have to privilege to meet Vincent, one of the six children our family sponsors in Africa. Vincent is 8 years old and I pray that his future and the future of his country would be one of peace and prosperity.
Would you consider sponsoring a child like Vincent and help change the face of extreme poverty in our world today?
I have plenty of sponsor packets available for kids in the communities I will be visiting in Rwanda. Contact me if you'd like to sponsor a child.
Two weeks from today I'll be in Rwanda and then South Africa. We'll be visiting communities full of sponsored kids but there will be hundreds of other kid still waiting, hoping and praying for a sponsor.
What should I tell these kids about my wealthy American friends? I'd love to be able to say that everyone I know sponsors at least one child in the developing world.
1. Let me know you'd like to and I will send you a sponsor packet.
2. Use this link SPONSOR. If you use the link please send me a copy of your confirmation email so I can track the sponsorships that are coming in.
This past Saturday I ran the Trail Mix 50k. It was a cloudy, 45 degree day at the start and it stayed that way through the end. As I meandered my way to the start I wondered why I allowed myself to run races of this sort of distance and then I had to remind myself that this was merely a training run for Comrades which is now just over five weeks away.
I had two goals for the race, one was to monitor my pacing in kilometers to prepare for Comrades and the other was to make sure I felt good when I finished.
I thought I'd probably run about a 6:20 min/km as this would be my goal pace for Comrades. However I quickly found myself set in a 6:00 min/km pace. After I completed the first loop at this pace I thought I should slow for the second loop, however the 25k race was underway and the top runners kept passing me, at the same time they pulled me along at the 6:00 min/km pace and loop 2 was completed in the same time as loop 1.
As the third loop started I was determined to slow my pace to preserve my legs for the next days run. The problem was the 50k team relay where all four members of the team raced one loop of the course. This race started about 5 minutes after I began my third loop and, needless to say, they dragged me round faster than I had planned. Another loop at 6:00 min/km.
As the final loop began I felt very strong and ready to run so I decided to see if I could continue to be consistent in my pace. It helped me push for the finish when the rain started with about two miles to go. I finished in 4:59:25. Four loops of almost exactly 1:15 each. That's the kind of consistency I really needed.
Walk early- walk often
Get the right nutrition and stick with your plan
Don't run when walking uphill is just as fast
Listen to your body
I'm still asking friends to help me reach my goal of 100 kids sponsored by the time I run Comrades on June 3. I still need to find sponsors for 41 kids. Are you willing to change a kids life for $35 a month?
I asked a friend who I hadn't seen in a while if he would sponsor a kid, I love his response.
"World Vision's sponsorship programs are such an "easy" way for us to help around the world. We just picked up a new sponsor child from Zimbabwe a few months ago. Our [son], now 7, selected him and is helping pay the monthly cost."
Let me know if you'd be willing to sponsor a kid and help me reach my goal of changing the world for 100 kids, their families and communities.
What one friend says about a child sponsorship drive we held at my previous church about eight years ago...
"I waited until everybody was gone and found one packet for a skinny 11 year old Indian boy named Ashu. In his photo he looked like a tadpole. No body but two huge white eyes, accented by his olivine complexion. He is finished with high school now, going to college (majoring in computer science, naturally). His 19th birthday is next month and I have committed to supporting him through college. He is still skinny but he has a mustache. It has been an absolute joy watching him grow ----- both grow up and grow into a young man of God. He will never know this side of Heaven how much he has done for me."
Sponsorship changes kids lives and can reshape our own lives. If you'd like to sponsor a kid to support my trip to Rwanda and South Africa please contact me and I'll tell you how you can change a life.
International Peace Marathon in Kigali, Rwanda. The next Sunday I will running the 56 mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa.
In between the races our team will be visiting area development projects within Rwanda, meeting sponsored children and observing the work World Vision has accomplished in these communities.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to once again visit Africa and see the work World Vision is doing in developing nations. It is a great privilege and not one that I take lightly. That I am able to take my love for running and my passion to see the end of "stupid poverty" and combine the two is very special.
My goal for this trip is to continue to find people to sponsor kids in both Rwanda and South Africa. Over the last year I have found sponsors for 52 kids but would love to blow past the 100 mark before the end of May. There will be more information on how you can help with this coming soon. In the meantime I ask that you would begin to pray for our team and the kids whose lives will be forever changed because of sponsorship.