Redemption – Trust your dream – part 8

At this point, gentle reader – if you have been following my quest you will realise something is wrong. If I was to run a marathon on each continent, one is missing…Antarctica. That terrible cold wasteland lay beyond my imagination and trRedemption-10uthfully, beyond my pocket.

Cheerfully, jokingly I dismissed the whole idea as way beyond my reach. I even argued Antarctica was not even a real continent anyway. To qualify you have to enjoy either civil commotion, a war or corruption. Antarctica fell outside this proper definition. I achieved what I set out to achieve and was at peace with my personal journey. So…no Antarctica. Well until the phone rang a three years later.

“We were inspired by your book,” Charles patiently explained. “Three of us decided to follow in your footsteps, but we wanted to do this a bit differently. In the first instance, we ran one marathon a year on a different continent – not all in one year. That, Tom, is frankly madness. In the second instance, we plan on going to Antarctica.” Charles hesitated. “And that is the reason for my call.”

It turns out that one of these valiant musketeers had a cycling accident and broke his collarbone. He was advised not to run and had to give up his position. The organisers were reluctant to refund the money, but were open to a replacement runner. As Fate would have it, there was a spare berth in the upcoming Antarctica Marathon.

“All you have to do is pay for the return flight to Buenos Aires, all the rest is paid for. Would you like to join us?”

When your heart is open and your dreams are generously expansive, if you follow them fearlessly the Universe will find a place for you. I did run the Antarctica Marathon and the details can be found here. More importantly I found the whole exercise – now with seven continents visited, life affirming. Personal redemption does require you to pitch up at the start line with your dreams. We don’t know if we are going to finish this long and difficult race, all we can do is trust in ourselves and in the Universe. Therein lies our personal freedom.

More to follow….
Go back to the beginning

Posted in Redemption | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Redemption – Trust your dream – part 7

When I turned 50 I ran a marathon on each continent in celebration. The sixth was in North America. 

I hated country music. Until I ran the Nashville Country Music Marathon. In typical American style, this race was a huge commercial venture. The good news about such blatant and outright monetary intent is an outstanding level of organisation. Right from the time I entered, a regular stream of emails Redemption-9enticed me to buy all sorts of memorabilia. Then there was the well-appointed Expo, held in a huge downtown convention centre. Outside of the London Marathon, this was the biggest event I had run on my whole pilgrimage.

Before the race, Kay and I visited the Nashville Museum of Country Music. Running in country music’s heartland, you either have to yield to its melody, or be swamped forever in the ample bosom of Dolly Parton. As we walked around on the “audio” tour, the history of the music unfolded. I am ashamed to admit it, but I came away with a new appreciation for country music, and even bought some CDs. The best exhibit in the whole museum was a gold car owned by Elvis Presley. In all of Nashville, that had to be the clincher.

On a drizzly, unseasonably cool spring morning, the 16 000 throng was out to have a party. It was a race of festive proportions. The music belted out, the upbeat man on the mic at the start knew how to whip up the crowd’s enthusiasm. I was in an expansive mood to enjoy my ride down Marathon Avenue in the king’s limo. Oh Yeah.

For large parts of the initial stages, the running was an out-and-back affair. The effect was running against a steady stream of competitors coming the other way. Pumped by the incessant beat that filled every corner of the race, I ran close to the centre of the road and stuck out my hand. The oncoming traffic was quick to catch on, and in no time, I had many a good mile of new friends and well-wishers. High fives and “howdys”. “Good job” was the slogan, good job indeed. The insular, aloof runner that was New York was transformed into an exuberant and friendly citizen of Tennessee.

The energy emanating from those thousands was electrifying. The opening magical miles carried me well into the “dead zone” of the race. When I got into the dreaded place of fatigue and pain, there was yet another band pumping out volumes of energetic music, yet another crowd dancing and singing in the streets. Nashville has vast tracts of parkland and country estates, so this race was more than just an action-packed country music concert; it was beautiful as well. The support at the side of the road was enthusiastic, sometimes even hysterical.

The stadium and the finish line was a good distance yet, but in all of this excitement, I gradually became mindful that my long journey was coming to an end. This would be the culmination of almost two years of planning and training. Take your time, live the moment. “Be here now,” is what I told myself.

This, in all likelihood, was going to be my last marathon. Ever. After 20 years of distance running, with well over 100 marathons run and five Comrades Marathon medals, it was time for pause and thought.

The last mile. There it was. The last mile of the last marathon. Accomplishment. This was a long run. I had come a long way since the first steps taken after turning 50. Kay had already finished the race and she jogged back to meet me. We ran together to the point where only finishing athletes were allowed.

“Well done, see you on the flip-side.”

The music had been belting almost the whole way.

“And here comes Tom Cottrell, all the way from South Africa.” Obviously picked up my details from my race number.

As I turned the last corner a sea of South African flags in the finish corridor greeted me. The Nashville Alive Hospice team was out in full force. And they gave me a real “Southern Comfort” welcome. I hugged them, kissed them and spent a while at the side of the race just breathing in the atmosphere. There had been many moments of utter bliss on this pilgrimage. This was just such a moment. I felt truly alive.

With only a few hundred metres to go, I charged off to the finish, fuellNorth2ed by adrenalin, love, country music and a sense of madness. Ahead of me was a runner sprinting for the finish. I drew level and pulled back a little. I gave him a side-ways glance. He thought I was trying to out-kick him to the finish. He sprinted – I matched him. I grabbed his hand and smiled.

“Oh, now I got ya man, good job.”

We finished together holding hands aloft. That day I finished a hero in 5:23:17. Good job.

The Five Hour Pilgrim was at the end of his quest….Well, for now.

More to follow…
Go back to the beginning

Posted in Redemption, Running | Tagged , | 2 Comments