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What have I gotten myself into???

Now that the holidays are over, I have had time to settle down and focus a little more on what the new year will bring me– in particular, Comrades Marathon, my *big* race of the year!

I was first drawn to Comrades after running my first 50-miler last Spring. I had heard of it, and now that I had completed a similar distance, I wanted to do it. A top ultra-marathon located in South Africa. 56 miles. Coast to mountains. Uphill. A "must-do". Another bucket-list item.

So when I was looking for a new challenge after Ironman, Comrades is what I chose. The timing seemed to be perfect for a few reasons: (a) I had a running buddy to do it with me- Becky! (b) my mom volunteered/agreed to watch the kids while Ross and I traveled to South Africa and (c) let's face it, I don't think that my family was ready to support me through another Ironman so soon. :)

So, here I sit, 5 months out and time to really buckle down and start my research on exactly what I got myself into. I know it is going to be hard, but my other 50-miler was hard. Ironman was hard. I can do this, right?

Hmmm... things aren't looking so good when I get more into my research.
Here are a few things I find right away:
- Articles pop-up with titles like: "The Endless Run"
- Another subtitled: Fifty-five brutal miles. Five torturous climbs. A ruthless clock.
- More: Some races are humbling, this one stripped me bare.
- And yet more: The Alan Paton scenery is spectacular, but an ultra crushes your appreciation for aesthetics. It turns you inward, where a nagging voice says, "Put your head down. Focus. Get through this mile...then the next one."
- Adjectives I see over and over: hard, degrating, uphill, mountainous, relentless, fatigued, dreaded, infamous climbs, punishing descent, need I go on?

And these articles aren't written by average runners, like myself. No, they are written by seasoned ultra-runners-- one even by a Boston marathon winner. Great.

So, here I am sitting scared. Wondering what have I gotten myself into?
And I come across the Comrades ideology:
This spirit is not to be found among the champions, but among the many hundreds of ordinary people who run not to win, but just to complete, in the allotted time, one of the worlds toughest challenges.

And I ask myself again: What have I gotten myself into?
And this time, the answer is different.

- Competing in "the world's greatest race". As one writer put it, "I mean, it's 55 miles long-- the type of race that usually lures about, oh, 71 runners. Comrades has the magnetism to draw 12,000." (This year it will be 18,000.)

- A chance to honor the fallen comrades of my country, as well as the world.

- A race steeped in tradition and culture-- from the Zulu mining songs and rooster crow at the beginning to the symbolic medals to the dramatic course closure 12 hours later by the executioner.

- The opportunity to run alongside runners of all nationalities, drawn together for one common goal.

- A race a whole country stands behind (Can you say 12 hours of live. National. Television.)

- Unbelievable scenery as you run from the coast to the Drakensburg mountains.

- Cowies, Fields, Bothas, Inchanga and Polly Shorts.

- The greatest challenge of my life. I can do it.

So in exactly 5 months from today, I (again) will be facing one of the toughest, mind-boggling, body-pushing days of my life. Ready to enjoy every moment of it. Pain. Grit. And glory.

For more info, or if you just want to read some cool articles on Comrades:
The Famous Comrades Marathon
The Endless Run
Runner's World Archive on Comrades
Lots of Info on Comrades (logistics)