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A coffee with…

Gavin Hard

Together We Triumph

By Carryn Hills


It has been a longstanding goal of my husband’s to run the Comrades ultramarathon.  All South Africans and most runners will be able to tell you about this particular run being the oldest (having first been run in 1921), one of the largest in entries (now capped at 25,000 people) and most famous ultramarathon on the running calendar in the world.  At 87km, it is considered the ultimate human race.

When Mark started training, he was joined casually by our very own Gavin Hard.  What started off as a bit of company and support on the long runs soon turned into a bug that had bitten Gav too.  Standing on the sidelines and watching them train, I can attest the theme that together they triumphed.  I am not sure if either would have achieved the goal of running the gruelling 87km had they not been there to help each other along but together they achieved it. 

They say that this race humbles you. As I stood on the finish line watching hundreds of runners still running, walking and limping through as the 12-hour bell loomed ever closer I was blown away – the humanity was striking.  People put aside their own desires to help each other cross the finish line, no person was left behind.  Helping one another and drawing on each other’s strengths.   There is an African proverb that says: If you want to go fast, you go alone.  If you want to go far, you go together. This is evident in the entire race.

I wondered to myself – what makes some of us choose to follow such a big aspiration?

I took the opportunity to have a coffee with Gav…

How did it change you?

Things that you would have thought that you could never achieve before suddenly become achievable.  Nothing is off the table.  If you had asked me a year ago if I would run an ultramarathon, I would have laughed and said, "no way", as I had never run further than 15km.  It completely changed my mindset and commitment to things.

How did you stay motivated?

I love a challenge, and this was a great challenge.  It was overseas, in a place I had never been to and there were so many unknowns which added to the challenge.  But above it all I had someone to do it with which kept us both accountable.

What was your approach?

  • We had to break it down into small chunks.  I really took small bites so that you almost didn’t even think of the full size of it.  Even now looking back it’s hard to conceptualise.
  • We started with what we could do and slowly built on that. 
  • Sometimes things wouldn’t go right but we would just keep trying.
  • I pushed myself every time.

On the day itself there comes a point where you are just exhausted, and you want to stop but you need to keep the end goal in mind and keep pushing – don’t give in.  It was totally a mental game.

What is your next big dream?

While I would do this again, if travel and timing worked, I would just like to concentrate on improving my marathon time.  I feel I can always strive for better.  (Also, there are just so many countries to run in!)

What is your take home?

The support on the day was huge.  Having strangers call you by name to help you along was such an inspiration to keep going.  Having a strong support network really does help.  We carried each other through the process.

I have learnt the power of the mind and to always keep the end picture firm in my mind.

I know to work through the setbacks and to keep enjoying what I am doing – I have the mental strength to push through and know I can achieve more than I think I can.  Because I have achieved this, I now have the confidence to keep trying.

I am now sitting at the start of the training program for Mark to compete in his second Comrades.  We recently watched the introduction to the 2020 Comrades with the release of this year’s theme and the message was strong.

“They say that dreams that grow to become cherished aspirations, ambitions or ideas have the power to change lives.  One of the greatest challenges in life is to turn our dreams into reality.  It requires dedication, determination, sheer effort, training, planning and great sacrifice.  There are two types of people in the world – those that dream of success and those that get up every morning and make it happen.

Have the licence to dream and if you are going to dream – dream big, reach high and do it all with the belief that you will have the power and courage within you to achieve it and work towards it.  A big dream is an expression of one’s soul and an outlet to express your determination, discipline, passion, patience and perseverance.  The pursuit of a big dream is a journey of self-belief and self-discovery and the fruition thereof has the power to change the direction of your entire life and enrich it in ways you cannot imagine forever.

Dare to dream - “Iphupho Lami”

I challenge you to make this year 2020, the year of big dreams.

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