it always seems impossible until it's done
an emotional comrades finish might have been my first indicator - after the race ends the real soul work begins. after running a distance that only a few years ago I thought was a joke, I was thinking about what else might be possible. after the marathon, i visited a hare krishna temple in chatsworth, meet two comrades champions, and received some coffee shop wisdom to help me set my future goals.
hare krishna, hare krishna
upon entering, the temple, a priest stood us around his pen and paper to explain some things. I wiggled my bare feet on the marble floor of the temple. they were still shocked from comrades the day before. I got comfortable in case of a long sermon.
the need for self-actualization
he drew a pyramid with 4 lines - maslow's hierarchy of needs. in ascending order, we discussed how everyone needs food, security, friends, a sense of achievement, to realize their full potential.
yo! i thought. what a coincidence! I had just experienced all of these things just yesterday. i was never so hungry (physical need) or happy to hit a hotel room (shelter need), see a familiar face at the finish (belonging) or clutch a medal (self-esteem) than after my first comrades! but what was next?
you are not the body
we spent the most time talking about the top of maslow's pyramid. "you are not the body", the priest taught. you own the body, but you are the infinite soul that drives the body, outlasts the body.
wow! another interesting explanation for something I learned running the comrades. almost 20,000 people ran the 56-mile course i ran. a huge swath of humanity! and they were all ages, shapes, and sizes- men and women, moms and grandparents- pro runners and office workers. they shared stories of gnarly injuries and bodily setbacks galore. in some ways, it just made no sense. except, perhaps, that if there was no uniform body fit to complete the challenge, all shared the same invisible and indomitable spirit...
"that, my boy, is the spirit of the comrades"
that was the punch line to a great story by bruce fordyce, but it is also a very true idea. there is a common spirit that runners share, especially at comrades, that transcends the physicality of the sport.
the chance to meet Bruce was unexpected and fortuitous like all the had led up to that day. I was so stoked, especially when I realized I wasn't the only last minute guest to this party, Camille Herron, who had just won Comrades for the first time yesterday, was there too!
meeting two great champions of Comrades was humbling and inspiring. Part of the challenge of finishing Comrades is that it was this big goal I had been thinking about for a few years. In a way, as I soon as I crossed the finish line I felt I had lost a great dream by realizing it.
meeting Bruce and Camille was a jolt to my imagination; living, breathing proof of the insane things that are humanly possible.
Camille had just run Comrades UP in 6:27:35, a blazing fast time on a course so challenging it took me over 11 hours to complete its climbing hills and grueling distance.
Bruce has won comrades 9 times. now semi-retired from running, he is a living legend for the sport. he inspires thousands of people to start running and then to run comrades!
The brief conversations we had will be burned in my imagination for years to come.
Camille was already looking forward to her next goal, the Western States. She told me she had averaged 100 miles a week for the past 10 years (in sickness and in health) giving a glimpse into the kind of work she put up to achieve her results. She also runs in addition to her day job, loves beer, and cracked her phone screen on a run - stars - they're just like us!
Bruce is not only an excellent runner, he is great storyteller and can't help but share his passion for running. In that way, his career as a professional athlete goes beyond his joints and speed. and When I met him, he instantly asked me what time I had run Comrades in. Wow! I thought, I didn't even think it would matter I was so far outside the winner's circle. And Dang! Does he think I have it in me to post a better one? Do I?
mulling things over
The next day, something not so serendipitous happened and I flew to Cape Town according to my plan for the trip. There was a fierce rainstorm, and I wandered the cold, beautiful city aimlessly as many top attractions were closed by the weather.
That Thursday, I spoke to a single soul all day- an anonymous Durban transplant- over coffee off Kloof Street. She congratulated me on finishing and warned of the up and downs people often experience after conquering all those hills.
"You've done something really big, you should be proud of yourself. But you've stirred up a lot of chemicals and things, It might take a month to start to process. A lot of people experience a sort of loss, because you've accomplished your goal but at the same time you've lost what you were working for all this time, and now you must find what to do with yourself"
It's been less than a month, so I guess I'm still processing. But I'm glad to have a had a chance to reflect on self-actualization, the infinite, regenerating spirit, and meet top runners to inspire me forward.
I feel ambitious because I did something I thought was impossible.
I want to start running 100 miles like Camille.
I want to run a fast marathon and then Boston.
I want to run more ultras and place.
I want to visit a Hare Krishna temple in India.
I want to qualify for and run the Western States 100.
I want to run Comrades again for a faster medal.
I want to inspire others to run with what I've learned!