Finishing the Comrades 2018 Marathon and Finding Great Curry

Descending on Durban on 8 June 2018 filled many runners with hope, promise and it was one of the most fulfilling moments in our lives – as some of us took on this famous race for the first time. One of the countless rewards of the Comrades Marathon is the spirit of this race, the camaraderie that comes with being among the individuals taking on this challenge. It was to be a huge turning point in how I would later understand my body, mind and overcome pain.

Yes, some pain. I wish that last was “spirit” and it would have been all poetic from there with the breeze gently in my face, running in slow motion on a cloud, with a smile the whole way and feeling like it was much shorter than 90-kilometres. But no, there were many great moments, not all of them as poetic as all that.
Mongezi Mtati at the Comrades Marathon 2018
Every race before this point was preparation it seems, except the Loskop Marathon, Two Oceans Marathon and Om Die Dam, which are all amazing and can be grueling. Every other one was preparation, a way to get a sense of the difference between the toughest long effort and reaching the next small town after losing count of hours on the road.  Waking up just before 1am means I had to sleep just after 7pm, which is unnatural in itself by many imaginable standards.

The energy in Pietermaritzburg just before 5am when we arrived for the race was electric, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. People shared stories of their last Comrades as motivation for both peers and themselves, which helps to calm the nerves. Some were there for one sole reason; to finish the race before cut-off with no strict finishing goal time. We felt connected as a community that wishes every participant well.

There was a point after the halfway mark when the mind and body had left me to my devices, I was just wandering spirit at this point with no idea what to do next. This is where the training comes to play. You tell yourself to just keep going and the slump subsides, if only for a moment, and the energy around you helps to regain momentum. Along with the tough hills later in the day also comes the heat, which was not as bad as I expected.

After being on the road for over 70 kilometres, sometime after 8 hours from the start, my running shoes felt unbearably tight. It was as though I would lose the top of my foot if I kept going, so I loosened the shoe which now had too much play and the pain was ever more consistent. Of course, I thought this was my foot just acting up for no reason begging to be left on the side of the road. It later turned out to be a circulation cutting compression sock by 2XU, but luckily this didn’t take me off the road for too long.

As we progressed further into the Ultimate Human Race I began to see why it’s called that. We encountered peers with injuries and some who needed more serious medical assistance. The inspiration of being on the open road, seeing people push themselves past what looks like “a wall” encouraged me to push past my own boundaries.

Family and loved ones will always be encouraging, and after crossing the finish line, seeing the light in my fiancé’s face while attempting to walk through the Moses Mabhida Stadium, made it all worth it. The medal is the small part of the race now that it’s over, the journey is the biggest part. Knowing that I took my mind and body through 90-kilometres on foot and I now sit here able to tell write about parts of the tale is the ultimate achievement.

Mongezi Mtati at the Comrades Marathon Finish Line
She told me that she had met a lady whose husband was nearing the finish, that this was his fourth attempt and that he did not make it across the finish line on time the first three instances. They sat there talking about the stories of previous races and the wife’s hope that he finishes before cut-off and gets his medal. They were there with their kids, who were all very eager to see their dad soon. I was now rooting for this man whom I’d never met and everyone else who was still on their way.

Just a year ago I had no idea that I would take on this challenge, in fact, I thought it was crazy that anyone would put themselves through this sort of thing. Now. . . although I’m the first to point out my craziness, after many others have done so to much debate and denial, this is one of the least crazy things I have ever done. There is something about completing one long ultra-marathon after marathon in preparation for the Comrades that takes me past some of my own known – and unknown – hurdles to achieving more.

In search of a reward some days later, not cake this time I still owe myself that, I asked friends from Durban for a good place to have curry and one of the recommendations did not have the ambience. By chance, I then asked the Uber driver where he would suggest we go and he proposed Mali’s Restaurant in Morningside. Upon arrival at this house-turned-restaurant we welcomed by a friendly security guard who lets through the gate.

As you enter, it feels small enough to need to make a reservation and big enough to still be cosy. We were accommodated immediately by the host. Long story short, when the food arrived it was the most divine, mouth-watering – even as you eat it – thing I’ve ever tasted. I would definitely recommend the Lamb Rogan Ghosh any day, especially if you love tomato-based sauces that may have you licking your plate.

This was one of the most memorable and worthwhile weeks I’ve had, in June at least. It hit me for the first time when I saw a friend recently who said “you are the first person I know who finished the Comrades Marathon”, that’s when it occurred to me that all those people who finished, within the cut-off time and after, are heroes in their own right. That this is a special moment in any person’s life.

The road to the Comrades Ultra Marathon 2018: Registering on impulse

On one random Friday afternoon while having coffee I registered for the Ultimate Human Race, the 89km Comrades Ultra Marathon. If you are shaking your head, I’m with you, I would do the same thing. There must have been something in the WiFi that day and some of us got it bad. Over the next few months after December, I’ll increase my training to meet Comrades Marathon levels. Not that I want to, I’d rather be siting with a whole cake and bottomless cappuccinos.
Telling the family 
After delaying the announcement and expecting fireworks when I eventually told, my sister and mom just said ‘oh’ or something even more unceremonious. I know, I know what you’re thinking. There should have been a huge song and dance, applause and cheers everywhere. They missed the whole 89 kilometers at the end of my announcement.
Instead, it became less about me and more about the picnics the family will have in Durban along the stops.

After Marathon High Knee

“We can have a roadtrip two days prior, we should organise the picnic stuff” said my sister, to which mom nodded and added something about food to include.

 

At this point, I stopped hearing them over sensation of numb thighs at the thought of passing their victory picnic in the middle of the race.

14 October 2017, the evening before running the marathon to qualify for the daunting Comrades Ultra Marathon, wasn’t the quietest night with nerves at an all-time high. It was as though the taxing ultra-marathon was that Saturday, as though the challenge only became real that evening.

Seeing my relatively slow-ish time of 4 hours and 29 minutes was a relief, because even though I like this running thing, don’t get for a second think I never feel like giving away my running shoes. It’s the gift that keeps giving numb sore legs. And yet it’s sssoooo good. There is a beautiful sense of accomplishment that I don’t quite get from finishing my dessert. Okay……finishing dessert comes with sadness. But you know what I mean.
Friends were surprised and most, like friends and loved ones shouldn’t, keep telling me how I should definitely go. “It will change your life” they say. And I appreciate it. I’m still waiting for that string of massage vouchers and training partners among them. Except Brian, Brian says I’m crazy and offers a juicy piece of steak to cure me of this long distance running thing.

You know where I’m going when I return from Durban.

Now that the qualifier is done, I’ll go for seeding times and make improvements. Much like the seasoned Comrades runner, I now nod in conversations while saying things “when I qualified for my first Comrades” and exit quietly before they ask how many I’ve completed – and other incriminating questions.

For now, before the intense training kicks off with a marathon in January, we eat (a lot of desserts), drink and hopefully convince others to give up their desserts in preparation for the change that’s coming my way. You must also go enjoy all your delectable eats these holidays, that way none of us judge the absence of summer bodies in others.

Build Your Business Idea at Lean Startup Machine in Johannesburg

If you’ve spent a few weeks (months or years) around the block working towards building an idea into a business, you might have also heard many business buzzwords. If not, don’t bother with them. It’s not the buzzword vocabulary that builds startups, it’s the work. Afterall, small business challenges don’t care for how much you speak of scalability or anything else that was used at a seminar this week.

Look below for most of the buzzwords that you might have heard before and ignore them as you read on. Deal? Go!

Lean Startup Machine Johannesburg

Business Entrepreneurial Buzzwords

 

The truth of the matter is that it’s nimble, lean businesses that start well and thrive for longer. In the spirit of steering clear of the flavour of this week’s jargon, the simpler you keep your offering and the quicker you test – the easier it becomes to prove your model and go to market. Or to fail fast and hit the ground running. These are some of the lean startup principles which gained massive traction following the release of Eric Ries’s book The Lean Startup.

Since the book was published in 2011, the Lean Startup Machine built a community to put some of its principles through real-world testing and proof. Part of the iAfrikan team have joined forces with other local minds to bring those principles to Johannesburg. Now you can you can pitch your idea, test it in the real world, with real potential customers and collaborate with would-be team members.

You can also test new ideas for an existing business, or use these principles in your business to build a day-to-day lean startup culture. It focuses on what’s important now to test if the idea is viable and enables you to take it to market – with the least amount of unnecessary fuss in the process.

Companies Google, Facebook, Dropbox and other global organisations use the lean startup principles. It’s a way thinking and executing work in your business.

Does this sound like something you would want to learn and include into building your next idea?

Is it something you would like to cultivate as a way of thinking in both your life and business?
Lean Startup Machine, Johannesburg
If not, this is where you read on before sending this piece to that forward thinking friend. To you, forward-thinking friend, click here to register and share the love. Let’s say you know another two forward-thinking people and all three of you want to attend, you can use the promotional code ‘flashfree’ to get one free ticket.

What you are paying for

The Lean Startup Machine weekend is not a conference, it’s a whole weekend of both practical learning and testing some of the new concepts. It includes both keynote presentations and being matched with a team of people who either gravitate towards to your idea, or whose ideas appeal to you.

The team that implements the lean startup methodology the best stands to win an incubation deal.

You will:

–          Pitch your idea for feedback

–          Work on a high level plan test your idea

–          Go outside to speak to potential customers and find out if the idea would work.

–          Build webpage that would showcase the product, service or idea.

It will be an interesting weekend that promises to far surpass most (if not all) conferences you’ve been to.

Are you in? Register here: http://ctt.ec/fM8HF+

If you buy two tickets, you’ll get the third one free by using the promotional code ‘flashfree’.

Influence, Collaborate and Lead a Community: A TEDx talk

We are sold this idea that our story is not worth telling, that there is something more important than our personal accounts and experiences. When the TEDx Vanderbijlpark team called on me to share my story, that notion is precisely what dawned on me, that I haven’t lived or experienced enough to tell anyone about myself.

 

I know, I know, it could be flawed on many levels.

 

In this talk below, I share experiences of stories that changed me. Turning points that continue what the idea of self-organising and leading.

Thanks to Mpho Mojapelo, the rock-legend at Dungbeetle for designing my slides.

Cycling with Tutus in Johannesburg

It all started with chat at a bar with friends where “I said want to do series of activities in different costumes, for the fun of it” and a friend dared me to go cycling in a tutu. Now for the real story; I posted an update on Facebook about cycling in a tutu to which two friends, Jonathan Dicks and Steven Bakker – both cyclists – commented saying ‘if you pull it off and organise us tutus, we’ll join you’.

 

Jonathan Dicks cycling

Jonathan Dicks cycling

Jonathan Dicks is a regular at the Critical Mass cycling community which takes off on the corner of Juta and De Beer streets in Braamfontein – every last Friday of the month. Naturally, they suggested that we put on our costumes and ride with Critical Mass which is the easiest community to participate in.

 

Steven Bakker is more of a social cyclist who takes on the odd mountain (and by mountain I mean he once nearly into a river one Saturday morning) but he’s a rockstar of note. As you’ll see in picture below, he has already worn a tutu on stage before. He’s the second guy from your right.

Steve in a Tutu

Steven Bakker (second from right) in a tutu

I haven’t cycled in years and part of the deal is getting a bicycle from whoever collaborates with us. You will be mentioned in two blog posts thereafter and a small company banner of yours will be placed on the sidebar of this blog for two months.

 

Are you in?

 

The basic idea here, which I haven’t told Jonathan and Steven about, is to cycle a few times with various communities and support a few causes while doing it. My secret mission is get into shape and score a bike while raising funds to help a chosen cause. The guys have been asking about it for months and I think we can get more people to join us over time, but that would be a bonus.

 

So you, bicycle shop in Johannesburg and you costume hire store in Jozi, why don’t you collaborate with us to make this happen? This invitation is also open to anyone who wants to either support the mission or cycle with us, for both a good cause and well…..strutting your stuff on a public road in a costume.

 

To accept this mission, leave your comment below.

 

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Featured picture by: dickdavid on Flickr

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