06 Jul

The Comrades' Marathon is a long and grueling race, which is run over 12 hours. It is certainly not a sprint, and except for the chosen few, the majority finish after 11 long hours. Thousands of runners start the race before sunrise and finish after sunset. If that is not loooong, I do not know what is. Spending the whole day running, walking, climbing, braving the icy cold of winter mornings and the scorching heat during the day is not easy. And only one who has set his/her face like flint, with determination, is able to hang in there. 

The duration is felt not just by the runners themselves but by their families as well, who have to wake up on the race day at 2:00AM to prepare for the day ahead and get their runner at the starting point early enough. Then there is the day’s journey of driving and stopping and walking to the route, scanning the crowds for that one face, and then cheering them on and running back to the car to drive to the next point. I can promise you that at the end of the day, these people have covered kilometers on the road, and if one is unfit, the next day they might be as sore as those who ran the actual race. 

The runners have rightly said the Comrades' Marathon is a race against yourself - your body and your mind. That is why it should not be entered carelessly. When one decides to run participate in it, they must know that this is the one race that ‘takes all of you.’ And unless one chooses to participate voluntarily, and the decision is made in sobriety, it can be tempting to exit once the ‘going gets tough’, as it is bound to. The same applies to marriage. This is a major decision that has potential to make or break you. One writer puts it this way. “The young who are of a marriageable age should make haste slowly in the choice of a companion.” (E.G. White, Review and Herald, February 2, 1886). 

While it may appear as if marriage is an attainment of perfect bliss, in reality if this step is taken unwisely, it is one of the most effective means of ruining the usefulness of men and women. There are times when one has to dig very deep within to remind themselves why they got married to their spouse in the first place. Commitment, the mantra, ‘No turning back- Asijiki’, will keep one going, and the belief that ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength’ will usually give strength to the weary and revive hope where one feels despondent. 

When the runners set on their journey, the goal is to cross the finish line, and that is what keeps them going through the hills and valleys. Similarly, in marriage, the goal is 'till death us do part. Seeing as marriage is something that will influence and affect one’s life both in this world and in the world to come, surely it makes sense that one should do all in their power, or at least play their part, to ensure that their marriage works. And this is where intentionality and consciousness play a role. And of course, the hard work that must accompany any intended success. 

My husband tells me that the most exciting part about the comrades, from a runner’s perspective, is the start and the finish. If you have ever been there at the start of the race, listening to the runners bellow Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, sway to the rhythm of Shosholoza, jump to the sound of Nkalakatha, and experienced the hushness of the crowd when Chariots of Fire begins to play, you can attest to the electrifying excitement in the air. And who has not felt goosebumps as the pianist sings Here Comes the Bride, and that beauty dressed in all white waltzing in, to the beaming face of the groom, spurred on by the ululating crowd? Weddings are beautiful. It’s a promise of something great, fueling expectation of a beautiful journey. But the journey itself can be different altogether from what was envisaged. 

So, when hardships hit the couple, it helps to go back to the memory of how the journey began, why it began, the promises and vows made, and somehow, one finds the reason they need to continue, to have and to hold, to love and cherish, until the last mile of the road. And the group All4One captures these beautifully in their song, I swear.
I swear by the moon and stars in the sky, I'll be there.
I swear like the shadow that's by your side, I'll be there.
For better or worse, 'tl death do us part, I'll love you with every beat of my heart.
I swear. 

The journey continues.

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