Comrades: Where to Start?

The Long Jog to Comrades 2 Comments

Where to start? Where to start? That is the question.

I have this familiar feeling. I’m out of my depth and floundering. I shouldn’t be here. I feel like an imposter. You might know it, too: imposter syndrome. It creeps up on you holding a wet fish and whacks you round the chops before a race. It doesn’t matter what event: parkrun, an enticer distance tri, a marathon, the one where you want that PB. Every event has it’s own element of epic. And the moment you’re on your own, you look around at the field of honed athletes and wonder how on earth you slipped through the gate. There must have been a mistake. And whack – wet fish in the chops.

Only, I’m not at a start line. Not one where you stand around with people in shorts and singlets and running shoes. Or tri suits and googles. ¬†Or a carbon steed between your legs.

Instead, I’m just sitting on the sofa.

Start line phobia?

Besides, let’s face it, standing at a start line is not a familiar feeling this year – start line dodging has been my forte – but that’s another story…

My start line is simply the will to start. The will to move my body; the will to ignore the fact that I’ve drunk too much wine, eaten too much curry, too much chocolate and every other delicious thing I could shovel into my mouth, and created extra wobbly bits, which will jiggle uncomfortably. Or even the will to go outside and try.

You see, I have a goal.

Goal 89

A grand plan.

I’ve had a few of those before!!!

There is a snag with the sofa-loafing. Wine glass in hand, laptop primed and credit card akimbo; signing up is just too easy. And thus, I entered for Comrades 2018. Yep, I’ve signed up again. For 90 kilometres of running down hills. Me and the 21,499 others who had entered by 21 September*. Woohoo!

Except right now, I’m not feeling the woohoo.

Finding why in Whyalla

I spent an hour wallowing in the bath tub yesterday. Searching for inspiration. Because, where else do you look for running inspo? Surely it all comes from sitting or lying around….or gazing at Pinterest… I was searching amongst old photos taken when I was training for the Up Run in 2015. And I felt the spark. The sense of purpose I had on those early mornings around the dusty Whyalla streets, grudgingly awake before the dry South Australian heat became too intense to go outdoors. The days when 5km hurt, not because it was too far, but because my body was only just easing into its rhythm.

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Now 21km feels intimidating.

A distance that used to be standard on a Saturday morning and that was before the long run on Sunday…

So what’s the matter with me? Why can’t I start?

Actually I did start. I did run this week. I ran on Tuesday with all the lovely peeps from tri club, and I have to report that it felt amazing. The pace felt good, the fresh air felt good, the camaraderie was fabulous. And then I woke up on Wednesday feeling like someone had removed my spine and replaced it with a cricket bat.

For those old enough and British enough to remember the advert, I felt like I needed a Shackleton High Chair** when I got to work – I could barely get out of my seat. Which gave me a perfectly valid and genuine excuse not to run. Except it had eased by Friday and was further sorted by the magic of massage at RHP Physiotherapy, so why didn’t I run on Saturday? Or this morning?

It seems to me the longer I put it off, the heavier the weight of starting pushes down and pins me to the sofa. A cold compression of quiet panic freezes each fibre of my legs, my arms, my body and stops me in my tracks. Instead, my brain rapidly fills with a myriad of excuses until the bottomless bucket labelled “I can’t” has inconceivably reached a point of overflowing. A couple of this week’s specials are:

  • my back is brokened, so I must not run
  • the washing machine is brokened, so I cannot wash running clothes

I know I need to co-opt some running buddies, even though I still get scared that I’ll be too slow and unable to keep up. I know I need a running plan, even though there are plenty available online. But mostly, I know I need to put one foot in front of the other. To make that commitment to myself to just get out there and try. Only I can do this.

Right now, I have another excuse to add to the bottomless bucket: I need to go and collect Herbert from trials at school. (By the way, I would rename him, except the name he best suits is already taken. He has become another Grumpster. All hail the joy of teenage hormones!)

But here it is: my commitment to you (but really my commitment to me): I will pull on my trainers and get out for a run before today is done.

I want to go far, so please come with me. Let’s go together.


*The race organisers closed entries after 3 weeks!! – the window is normally 8 weeks – because entries had exceeded the race capacity of 20,000 lunatics entrants.

** Australia has some fantastic adverts – Noel’s caravans‘ theme tune is a particular favourite, but I think this is a classic. Particularly as it came from Bradford, and therefore eternally reminds me of my Grandma.

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