This is a race-day report from 2009 Comrades Marathon finisher Onne de Boer whom we met on Twitter where he is one of our loyal followers. We thank you for this piece and ask our readers to submit more wonderful articles like this:
Hi, my name is Onne de Boer. I live in Canada, in the Maritime province of New Brunswick. I’m 45 years old, have been running most of my life. Not competitively, I have been competing in triathlon. My greatest athletic feat to date is the 25th Anniversary of Ironman Canada. Finishing in 11:56 (Pictured on the right)
Qualifying and Training for Comrades
The event I used for qualifying was called “Not the Honolulu” Marathon in November of last year. This event is a self sufficient event, meaning I have to carry everything for the distance there is no support. A good friend accompanied me on the second half of the marathon, which was the official half for the day. I finished sub 4 hours for a D grouping at Comrades.
I followed the sub nine hour training program from the Comrades site. Training started in January – a little bit of running prior to that, but nothing formal. Please know that training was very difficult, I was usually in temperatures that ranged from -5 to -20 Celsius. On more then one occasion my water froze next to my body under my layers of cloths. Weather improved by April and there were a few days I could run in shorts and a jacket.
Once in PMB my family hooked me up with Christopher Zondi (15566) 14 time, now 15 time finisher of Comrades. We ran together a few days and the benefit of having someone local is that I didn’t have to pay attention to where I was. Thank you Chris! A true Comrade!
I had a restful sleep in PMB. I was awake at 3am, rested until 3.30 and then got up for a bowl of oatmeal and some hydration. I went back to bed to listen to some music and finally got rolling at 4.30. I had all my own energy drinks ready the night before and had everything ready to go. I sleep better that way.
I was corralled by 5.10 and being on my own I was in my own thoughts. Thinking about how difficult the training was, thinking about the supporters I had here and at home and thinking about those who will inspire me to put one more step in when I might think that I could not. The gun/cannon goes off and the mass of people moves forward. A remarkable moment is when you get just passed the cemeteries on the right in PMB, Alexander Park?, there is a slight downhill then uphill beyond that and you can see the people running. Near the home of my family I saw them on the side of the road cheering me on.
I felt very comfortable at my training pace of 10kph for the first 25km. I felt a little struggle maintaining that pace after Camperdown. I started behind the 10 hour bus and caught up to the 9 hour bus. I started to think this pace us unsustainable if I wanted to finish so I had to let the 9 hour bus go and settle back to my own run again.
After Cato Ridge and going into Inchanga I felt the wheels start to wobble on my wagon. I try to think why, I suppose my two reasons 1. The temperature was increasing and morn then likely my pace was a little to fast for the climbs.
In Drummond I thought I was at risk and I needed to focus on maintaining what I had. I began to off my plan, walk parts of the hills and run the downhills and flats. I maintained my fluids drinking from my stock and the tables constantly.
The climbs on the down hill are incredible and after Botha’s Hill (and a shoutout to Gary Botha, 4 time finisher and founder of buttons4cancer.co.za) my day was getting really hard. Pinetown was a welcome change from the big downhill. Again, the uphills after Pinetown are crushing, all the way into the last 4k in Durban. At some point the 10 hour bus caught me and I joined them – again I could not maintain that pace.
With about 15km to go I really felt 3 wheels come off the wagon. I was struggling badly to continue. Knowing I would not give up all I could do was keep one foot in front of the other and run when I could. I picked points on the road to run to – rewarding myself with a short walk after reaching that point. Thanks to my inspirational people.
I had one moment on the highway where I was focused on the the road ahead not where I was and tripped over a catseye, I fell, did my tuck and roll, got up to cheers from the crowd and concerns from fellow runners. With a dose of adrenaline on board i decided that a little push was in order. I check my watch, I couldn’t believe what I saw – I was at 9.15 with about 8km to go. As the adrenaline wore off I noticed a pain in my leg from the fall – not enough to stop though – nothing short of passing out would stop me now. Entering the finish was an amazing experience with thousand of people there cheering, just fabulous!
In retrospect I would that my training was good for a finish – a person really should train a full year for this event – there is little that can prepare you for the full effort it takes to finish Comrades. Although overcast, the temperature was high for me from where I came from. All the training is worth it. I feel fabulous!
I purchased ZOOT compression tights and they are the BOMB! I have 70% less muscle pain with them on. I have 3 blackened toenails – first time ever for that. This has been a fabulous trip, seeing and petting cheetah, visiting SOWETO, and meeting my sister-in-law’s family. On top of all that great stuff I finished Comrades with a Bronze!
As a Race Organizer myself, I tip my hat to Gary Boshoff, Renee Jordan, the rest of the staff and committee members. A BIG Thank You to the volunteers and citizens of South Africa! You have a beautiful country and one song comes to mind when think about it. Closer to the Heart – by RUSH. Here are the lyrics – request it on your local radio station often…
Closer to the Heart
And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones to start
To mould a new reality
Closer to the heart
The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
Forge their creativity
Closer to the heart
Philosophers and ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart
You can be the captain
I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the heart