In his heyday, I recall Bruce Fordyce declaring in his non-dilettantish almost boyish way that once the cosmos appeared, winter was nigh and it was time to peak for Comrades. His fragile figure belied his steely determination, his steadfast conviction and his obsessive focus on the minutia of winning the Comrades. Moreover with his urbane charm, he bewitched the South African public and seduced a nation with his self-deprecatory charm.
On the other hand, for me it was not the sudden emergence of this herbaceous perennial plant which made an impression but rather it was the annual RAC 10km run a week before Comrades. Almost like a cathartic release, it signalled the end of the Comrades taper but more importantly, a heightened awareness of the daunting task shortly at hand.
Main picture: Instead of the usual field of 3000 runners, it was a field in the hundreds which pitched courtesy of the inclement weather
While one’s jocular manner attempted to conceal one’s trepidation, one’s voice divulged its tenacious hold preventing negative thoughts from prevailing. At this race, one had to consciously restrain one’s body from over exertion. After the rapid taper from the Boksburg 32km, then the Randburg Harriers 21km race, one’s body felt as if it had been unleashed, rearing to go.
With its late start, the morning chill had always long since receded. The bright sun beat down with nary a cloud in the bright blue sky. A perfect day to run.
Only once did I foolishly attempt to race it. With Comrades a week away, a PB on this race of 47:23 was established in the early 1990’s.
How did this race compare to the past 25 years that I have run it? As usual the organisation was flawless. Only somebody churlish would nit-pick as regards any aspect of this race. The only difference was that instead of the officious Vreni Welch chiding and goading the helpers, it was a rather subdued Vreni now incapacitated, sitting on her chair. This is not to say that she was not in command. She still definitely is. Lest anybody cast any aspersions at Vreni, it is not pure co-incidence that all RAC races have been spectacularly organised during her tenure as Club Secretary.
On the Highveld, May is never a wet month. It might well be icy cold as the Boksburg 32km race can attest, but never wet. Never ever in my 25 years of running this race has there even been the trace of rain or even dampness. The air was always crisp with a slight chill but nothing more.
This year’s weather was unseasonal and totally unprecedented. With rain predicted for the weekend, for once the weather man was correct. During Saturday it bucketed down while Sunday morning awoke fresh after the previous day’s cleansing rain but it did not bode well. While it might not have been pouring, intermittent showers fell more to propel the non-seasoned runner indoors than a real deterrent to the motivated runner.
Arriving early, the field was paltry. Surprisingly certain wussies, such as my great friend, Arnold Paikin, were in attendance but few others. For Vreni it must have been disappointing. Such are the hazards of organisation when the vagaries of the weather cannot be predicted or relied upon.
By a wide margin, this must have been the smallest field ever apart from the early years in the 1970s.
The Braamfontein Spruit had clearly been in spate overnight. The high water mark was stained with the detritus of a messy careless people. All manner of discarded items detracted from the wonder of a raging stream.
All things considered, it was once again an extremely well organised race. As always, the company of a fellow runner, in this case Sue Darroll, made the journey even more memorable.
The ingredients for a marvellous race are simple: Excellent organisation, being in the open, doing some exercise, but more importantly, great company. Together they produce the finest, most pleasurable output.
That is why runners participate in these races week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.
Long may it last.
No longer being a Comrades runner or knowing anybody who would be running it this year, the RAC 10km race is no longer the harbinger of Comrades but more prosiacally a normal 10km jog without its association with Comrades.
All these wonderful pictures were taken by Margie Asprey on her Galaxy phone.
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