Monday, June 11, 2012

Comrades - Getting to the Starting point and a Prayer

Balaji and I had all figured out....

We knew exactly how we were going to reach Pietermaritzburg, the starting point for Comrades Marathon.  A friend of ours was going to deposit us with his friend near the starting point well ahead of time on Saturday.  His friend in turn would ensure that we got to the starting point at the right time.  This plan was going to give us ample rest and and few additional hours of sleep before the start of the run at 5:30 AM on Sunday, so we signed up for it.

But the entire plan fell on its face at about 2:00 PM on Saturday, June 2, 2012.  Balaji & I were sitting in a new 'self-catering' apartment in Umhlanga with no phone, car or connectivity and of course no drop.  The friend who was going to drop us at Pietermartizburg, dropped us.

We started thinking of plan B, C & D, all of which required some kind of a transport for which we needed a phone.  Then it stuck me why not try the neighbor who we were told is also a runner.  So went around and knocked at the door of this gentleman, who helped us.

Gideon, in the center runs a running store in Pretoria and finished Comrades @ 7:20+ which was slow for him... :-)  Look, both Balaji & I are wearing Auroville TShirts.. not planned.  
Here, I should talk about our accommodation.  Since Sita and kids were going to join us, I was looking for a place with a kitchen, somewhat akin to service apartments of India.  In Durban, they have a concept called 'Self-Catering Accommodations' which is basically a furnished apartment rented out by individuals.    Thanks to Arul Ganapathi (brother of our own Chennai Runner, Venkatesh Ganapthi), he helped us find this great apartment for RND 680 per day in one of the most desirable neighborhoods of Durban.  Our place rented out by an old lady who had also rented out another portion to a runner.  Now back to the main story..

Unsure of what to expect, I went on knocked the door of neighbor and put our dilemma to him and sought his help. Upon introduction, we learnt that he runs a running store in Pretoria called running in and is a passionate runner himself.  While he runs 'only' marathons, his partner runs 'only' triathlons.  We had interesting conversation with him after the run and it was very revealing.  He candidly talked about race relations in the post apartheid South Africa, which according to him has miles to go.. lot of miles to go.  scars are healing but still evident in many facets of the society.  sorry.. back to the main story again..

He was more than helpful.  He understood our daisy situation and first assured us that everything is going to be ok and then ensured that it was indeed OK.  He made a few calls, exchanged a few chips in favor of couple of seats for Balaji & I in a bust that was leaving to the starting point from close by.

And then, the next day morning he took us to Gateway mall from where the bus was leaving and ensured that we got in to the bus before hurrying to catch his lift from elsewhere.  When Balaji asked about the fare, Gideon simply said 'We are all runners.. one family... I help you today.. you help somebody else at some other time..'.  Thank you Gideon for your help and kindness.  You showed us kindness flows from the heart and not from the color of the skin.

Once inside the bus, we were warmly greeted by a bunch of runners from the South Africa Post Office.  We joined them in a short prayer before the bus started for Pietermartizburg.  Here is a short snippet from the zulu prayer.



I didn't quite understand the prayer, but it was very pleasing and soothing to hear... Thus began our journey to Pietermartizburg.