Day two postscript
The day is almost over with race bags packed and alarms set for tomorrow’s event. Sharon’s alarm is for 3:45am and I get to sleep in until 4:15am at the latest. The hotel is buzzing with activity as different groups congregate around planning their last minute strategies. A trio of young Russians are sitting across from me and a bunch of either Aussies or Kiwis are across the way.
The serious runners have headed off for bed some time ago – the ones left are primarily just hoping to make the cutoff time of 11 hours. Not sure if I have mentioned it yet, but another unique thing about the Comrades Marathon is that they have a hard stop at 11 hours. A gunshot is fired and the race is over. After at, no one who crosses the finish line is counted – it’s like they never ran at all. Quite a blow after so much hard work. There are people on the course who act as ‘pacers’, whose job it is to run to a certain time. So, if you want to finish in 9 hours, you can run with the 9 hour ‘pacer’. If the 11-hour pacer passes you and you can’t catch back up, you are basically screwed. At dinner tonight, we happened on a professional team from South Africa, who are really trying to win the race. As it happened, we were all trying to get a simple meal of chicken versus the pasta and curry options available. The coach noticed that we were asking for the same thing as he was for his team, and included us in his plea to the chef – and as time past came over to talk with us for a bit. Turns out that he personally recruits each runner from all over South Africa and has had them training in the mountains for the last five weeks – according to him they are all ‘starving’. When the food finally came out they piled their plates with chicken, bread, rice and potatoes, and all left with napkins wrapped with more of the same for their pre-race breakfast. We ran into one guy in the elevator, and I told him I had just heard that the hotel ran out of bread, thanks to him and his teammates. He laughed – again, everyone is very friendly. I guess that winning is a very big deal here, as there is a lot of money to be won and a great deal of prestige throughout Africa. Prizes go to the first place overall man and woman, the first place Zulu man and woman, and the first place south African man and woman. That’s it.
As for tomorrow, the father (Lindsay) of the couple we met on the plane will pick me up at 5am. I have no idea what happens next, but I will hopefully see Sharon cross the finish line between 8 – 9 hours later. Can’t even imagine what that journey will be like for her.