Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 160 August 2023 | Page 33

A friendship born through a mutual love of running the Road ’ WhatsApp group allowed me the opportunity to meet Meghan ’ s family and other support crew that were to be stationed in Hillcrest and Cowies Hill . Phones were turned off and handed to me for safekeeping until after the race , and off we went to get ready for the ultimate running adventure .
Images : Catherine Dixon , Lauren Ward , Karen McKenzie , Tony Calitz & courtesy Meghan King
Part of Meghan ’ s planning involved a Sunday morning drive along the route to the various checkpoints , starting at Cato Ridge Electrical , following all the roads I would need to take through to Kloof . Pins were dropped and we were good to go . We also did a formal driving of the route the weekend before the race , to allow both Meghan and Shaun the opportunity to envision the path they would be taking on race day .
More to the Job
I learnt early on that seconding is so much more than simply popping up on the road at the right time with the right nutrition . It ’ s about hyping up the runner on the preceding training days when they may be feeling unmotivated , reminding them of the spectacular job they are doing tackling this mammoth task , and probably most importantly , helping to settle those nerves that bubble up unexpectedly . Which is exactly what happened with seven days to go , at the Regents Chelsea Bun Run .
Meghan had been dealing with a “ stiff ankle ” for about a week , and whilst it wasn ’ t getting any worse , it wasn ’ t getting any better either . She had decided to forgo the run and rest it , but invited me along to keep her company while her husband did the run . We grabbed a coffee and were chatting about race day and how she was feeling when the walls surrounding her anxiety about her ankle started to come down , and I was able to see where her headspace truly was at .
There are times you need someone to hype you up , and there are times you need encouragement . This was neither , and the only real way to settle this situation was to draw up a gameplan and give her some structure to focus on , instead of fixating on the anxiety . We got in touch with a physio and made an appointment for first thing the next morning . Immediately her energy shifted , and I could feel Meghan starting to work through the anxiety . Whew , first task as a second officially checked off .
The Big Day Arrives
Race week came and went in a haze of pasta parties , Comrades Expo visits and last-minute prep for runners , seconds , clubs and supporters alike . Suddenly , it was the day before and it was all looking good to go as I made my way to collect their seconding packs before their departure for Pietermaritzburg . The ‘ Kings of
Meghan , Shaun and friend David Holliday ready to make their way to Maritzburg the day before Comrades
Full disclosure , I am a massive overthinker , so the stress of letting the side down was a real concern for me . I had dreams where I had abandoned Meghan halfway through the race to start seconding another friend of ours , Janine Nortje – it became a bit of an inside joke between the three of us , but it resulted in me planning to get to the locations as early as possible , and rather wait a while than risk missing Meghan and Shaun .
With all that in mind , I made the decision to get to the first checkpoint at 6am , which seemed crazy , considering they were only due there shortly before 9am , but I am so glad I did . A key factor in our race day strategy was parking , as we knew it would be sheer chaos and that parking would be limited , but because we expected it , we were prepared , and with a bit of magic we planned secure , decent parking only a few hundred meters away . Fortunately , I got one of the last parking spots available at Cato Ridge Electrical , as did my partner for the first portion of the morning , Lauren Ward .
It was early , it was dark , and it was freezing , but Comrades was in the air , there was no doubt about that . The deep orange on the horizon started peeking over the mountains and there was already a buzz along the side of the road as others were setting up their viewing points . Excited chatter filled the air as we all routinely checked the Comrades App , following the leaders as well as our runners that we had flagged for tracking .
Meghan , Shaun and David shortly before the start