To Be Brave !
Should he run the 2016 Down Comrades (so called because a greater part of the 89km road is downhill) or the 2017 Up-Comrades (so called because the greater part of the route is uphill ) ?
He felt he might not be ready as early as 2016 for he needed more time to train but was yet considering 2016 because 2017 was an Up Comrades and he said that he was very scared of the hills.
He felt he was better off attempting the race in 2016 although he wouldn't be totally prepared.
He felt he wasn't, in his words, 'Brave enough' to face the Up Hill Comrades.
I told him that I was scared of both the Down Comrades and the Up Comrades.
He thought that I was joking and I didn't try to convince him that I wasn't.
It's not easy to joke about Comrades. (Although it's very easy to joke about what happens to one during Comrades) .
I told him he must come to run Comrades only after preparing well and not prematurely. He said he would think about that and see if he can muster the courage and be brave enough to do the Up run in 2017.
I wished him luck and promised him any help which I was capable of extending.
'Brave' is such an awesome word. It can mean all sorts of different things to different people.
I tried to think of what it means to me.
One of the bravest men I knew was my father. My father never took part in a war or never really played any sport.
He didn't take part in any political revolution or any mass agitation.
He didn't climb mountains or swim across rivers. He didn't put his life on the line for an idea or a dare.
My Dad lost his father when he was 4 years old. He must have faced so many fears. He triumphed over them.
He simply worked his way out of poverty. As a young man, he travelled in the bus and the local train, put himself through business and law school. Along the way he married, started his own business and then put 4 children through higher education. He built himself a large prosperous business. He built himself a large house to live in and then spent the last two decades of his life doing social service in the field of education.
He was always there for me and I always slept peacefully knowing that my father had my back.
He must have faced so many fears but I never knew of them. He never let us see them.
He was the bravest man I knew.
To live a good honest life is bravery.
Perhaps Bravery or Courage isn't one single act carried out on one single day but perhaps it is the way one lives ones life.
Bravery in Running, for me, is much the same.
Is race day performance the only measure of our bravery ?
Is it the only measure of our courage?
Is running through pain and fatigue on race day the only definition of courage and bravery?
Is facing your demons on the Comrades Up or down run the only benchmark of Bravery ?
In a small measure perhaps but certainly not in its entirety.
I think Bravery is the commitment to wake up 6 days a week at unearthly hours to train for the race.
Bravery is the commitment to step up and run whether it's raining or humid or hot as hell.
Bravery is sometimes gritting your teeth and going through the pain of hill training and speed training and gym training and tempo running on days you really don't feel like getting out of bed.
Bravery is the self control to eat right, to sleep right, to REST right, and to take the million small steps you take every day for a good part of the year to prepare yourself for that one special day.
Our Bravery then isn't tested on just that one race day. Our bravery isn't tested on the comrades UP or Down Run or on the day of the half or full marathon.
We pass or fail the test of bravery on every single day during the long march towards race day.
Bravery is the desire to face our worst fears and stare them down.
I am afraid of Comrades, both the Up and the Down. I am afraid of the Marathon. I am afraid of the Half-Marathon.
Can I still be brave ?
I remember my favourite lines from "The Game of Thrones"
Bran asks his father "Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?"
His father replied, "That is the only time a man can be brave"
And so after two long months of rest, as I begin training for a new long season of running, I remind myself:
It is time to be brave !