I tried. Well, I made a less-than-worthy attempt. My heart wasn’t in the training. I could never quite see the glamour or ‘worthiness’ of shuffling furtively round the dark streets long before sunrise, but I gave it a go. Joined a club – maybe that’s where I went wrong? I joined Westville with their red & white caterpillar outfit whereas historically I was more suited to be a black-&-white Savage with a Zulu shield, knobkierie and spear on my chest. Years before I had been Savage No. 451, so maybe I should have stuck to that? Westville gave me number 159738b or something – I don’t think they valued me like Savages did.
Anyway, I shuffled and I shuffled and eventually the big day arrived and I hadn’t arranged anything so I took myself off to PMB to my folks. Mom dropped me off at the start long before sunrise (more dark streets – now with crowds of lunatics milling around).
Some guy crowed like a rooster and a gun went off in the dark and nothing happened. Five minutes later still nothing had happened. The chatter of the would-be runners had changed to an excited murmur but nothing else had changed. Eventually we started shuffling at a very slow pace (slower even than my training pace) and some long time later we crossed the START line. The START line! I was tired already! Batch ZZZ. That’s when I started thinking fu-uck! and I’m afraid that thought didn’t really leave me all day. I knew my pace was slow by the people around me: None of the runners looked like young skinny blonde Wits students, nor like Russians – and if they did look African they looked larger and rounder than me. Also the few spectators about were saying Move Along! in a rather critical, nagging tone of voice, I thought. No ‘Well Dones!’ No ‘You’re looking goods!’
This was confirmed when I passed under a banner that said “HALFWAY – only 3km (plus a marathon) to go” and Springbok rugby captain Wynand Claassen shot off a gun which left gunpowder residue on my scarlet Westville Running Club shorts. Well, if that wasn’t a pointed ‘Move Your Arse’ hint! Who the hell did he think he was? He had never won the race, his father had.
So I shuffled and I shuffled and then my spirits rose at a sudden thought! I started to think maybe there had been a collective coming to their senses, as there were no other runners around nor any spectators. Maybe everyone had just gone home to a hot bath and a cold beer?
But no, the spectators returned (though they were all packing up their deckchairs) and the torture continued. Shuffle, shuffle. Suddenly a few cops jumped in front of me holding reflective tape as I shuffled under the N3 below 45th Cutting, just before the onramp (usually an offramp) onto the Berea Road section of the N3 into town. Go Home they said, We need this road for tomorrow’s traffic. You’ve had eleven hours, they said, and you’ve only done 82km, where have you BEEN?
So I went home to a hot bath and a cold beer. Look, about this heading: Actually, you can call me Comrade, I’d love that, but only in a liberation sense, not in a shuffling sense.
So now I’m guilty of this:
“How do you know if someone has run a marathon?
You don’t have to know – they’ll tell you.”