Tuesday 17 May 2016

For Franz Kafka, the Comrades Marathon and a Cup of Soup

For Franz Kafka, the Comrades Marathon and a Cup of Soup !

The thing to do in these last couple of weeks before Comrades is to sit and meditate upon the Comrades day strategy.  

The thing to do would be to come up with plans A, B and C.  The 3 plans would signify the ideal, the acceptable and then the bare minimum.  

This is easier said than done.

This is easier said than done because by simply making a mistake in plan A, I could make attaining plan B and C close to impossible.

Comrades’ does not treat fools lightly.   I know.  I’ve been there.

It is possible that my plan A is just that marginally out of reach, say 1 minute too fast over the first 20km which would cause me to blow up so terribly at 70km that not only would plan A be out of reach but also compromise plan B and C.  

I like to break up Comrades route into different Compartments.  It’s like different rooms.  You enter each room through a gate, run through it and then enter another room through another gate.  

There are then, 5 rooms and 5 gates:
1)    0km to 18km (Start to Umlass)
2)    18km to 40km (Umlass to Inchanga)
3)    41km to 52km (Inchanga to Hillcrest)
4)    53km t0 70km (Hillcrest to Pinetown)
5)    71km to 89km (Pinetown to the Finish)

If I don’t enter the first gate at the right speed, I can’t make it to the second gate at the right speed.  If I don’t enter the 2nd gate at the right speed, I can’t make it to the third gate at the right speed and so on and so forth.

So if Plan A has to work, I need to start at the beginning.  I can’t decide to do my best only after reaching 71km.   And I'm not skilled enough to change gears like some people I know.
By 71km, I know that my goose is cooked.

I know that 95% of the people make the mistake of going out too fast.  I understand. By running just that 45 seconds/km too fast in the first half you blow up your race and suffer in the second half.
 I get it.  I understand the concept.

But how in the world can I know the exact speed which is ideal for me this year?  I don’t train on the Comrades route. My training is different from last years. I’ve grown wiser and more foolish because I’m a year older.

A thousand variables have changed such that I cannot with any degree of precision decide the exact extent of my ability.

I am too much of a novice to plan this with precision.

Should I enter the first gate with plan A in mind, knowing well that a badly planned plan A will cause me great grief?  
And if I start the race with Plan C, I’m completely done-in, because if things go wrong, there is no back-up.  I'm feel I'm not skilled enough to start with plan B and then adapt to plan A.

I am plagued with doubt.

I find myself in what I would call a Kafkaesque situation!

It is as, they say, a situation of nightmarish complexity. It is as they say, a situation which is bizarre and almost illogical.

“Before the Law” is a parable contained in a novel “The Trail” written by Franz Kafka.  

The parable goes like this :

“Before the Law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the Law.

But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment.

The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on.
“It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”

At the moment the gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside.

When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other. I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third.”

The man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the Law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside.

There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests.

The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet.

During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the Law.

After many years he no longer has much time to live. Before his death, he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question, which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper.

He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body.

The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things to the disadvantage of the man. “What do you still want to know, then?” asks the gatekeeper. “You are insatiable.”

“Everyone strives after the Law,” says the man, “so how is that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?”

The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.”

So on 29th May, as I stand on the starting gate.  I need to decide, if I have the courage to enter the gate as per Plan A or not.  
I cannot wait for another year, I cannot wait for a life-time.

I want the pleasure of finishing Comrades with the luxury of having more than a few minutes to spare.

I want the luxury of walking into the International tent and meeting my friends and sharing a cup of soup with them while a medal hangs around my neck.

I’ve finished 4 comrades and have never had the luxury of having that soup.  I just make it to the finish with a few minutes to spare.

I don’t want to grow old and weak and then be told by the gatekeeper, "Amit, you were once capable of running Comrades in time enough to enjoy your cup of soup,  and watching the final gun go-off.  
You were capable of running fast enough to not be in that life-and-death situation of making that final cut-off that you found yourself in each year.
You simply had to have the courage to enter the start gate at the right speed.
The gate was meant for you and now it is closed.”

I cannot but try.  This is the year.   This 2016 entrance gate is mine.

I’m going in.

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