Thursday, December 18, 2014

24 hours (by Rob Cloete)

Guest Post: Rob Cloete

Rob is made of that stuff that doesn't break. The stuff that can push through. And he does it all with a smile and a glint in his eye. When you hear that Rob is doing a charity drive where he is running on a track, the concept of per lap sponsorship takes on a whole new level of meaning. He told me he kept an informal style in his post, but as an accountant and stickler for structure, you will notice the appropriate laps. This is certainly a friend I will be calling on as I progress along my running journey. Rob, you are a machine.


24 hours
by Rob Cloete

I am heartened. I awake without the searing back spasms that have beset me over the past few weeks, causing my demeanour at times to resemble one of John Cleese's sillier walks. The many sessions of acupuncture have alleviated my "change-of-use" injury, a consequence of repeatedly lifting my newborn son at awkward angles out of his bed and bath. The absence of injury assumes added importance as I carefully hoist a laden backpack over my shoulders and cradle a foldable table under my arm. Soon I will run for 24 hours around a track.

I am hopeful. I have little right to be. My training has fallen far short of my ambitions. Following a bus ride and protracted walk (for my chosen sport is more honest than glamorous, more dogged than diva), I find myself in a clearing, in the forest, with my wife and four-month-old baby. We pray. For my safety and that of my fellow competitors. For the children on whose behalf I will persevere despite nagging reservations and a sense that the extensive waiting list reflects would-be competitors more deserving of a starting number than me.

I am humbled. I am one of forty five competitors (deliberately limited, permitting each runner to have a "base" next to the 400 metre track). The organisers have produced a book containing short form CVs for each athlete. I am one of the youngest and least experienced in the field. I have not engaged in mental visualisation. I painstakingly prepared my clothing, equipment and nutrition. I feel it was the least I could do. Inevitably, the enormity of this undertaking starts to sink in. For the first time in my life, I see my name on a leaderboard.

I am haste-less. After four hours, I'm few from last. Three hours earlier, a hareful hopeful took selfies next to his name atop the leaderboard, enjoying his fleeting status while it lasted. Within five hours, a bell rings loudly, prompting loud cheers and applause from all present. Geoff Oliver has broken the 30 kilometre world record for over-80s. Clichés aside, an achievement just to make it to the starting line. Horst Preisler is here. He's 78 years old and has run more marathons than anyone who's ever lived: over 1,700. He was 39 after his first.

I am halfway. Midnight approaches and precipitates one of the race's more exciting interludes: another four hour milestone, meaning another change of direction. A lap race comes with the benefits of a flat course and undemanding navigation. The compromise is monotony. Fellow competitors, enthusiastic volunteers and a personal human lapcounter and cheerleader do much to dispel this. Alternating between running clockwise and counterclockwise around the track is a welcome change of perspective and timely reminder of progress.

I am hurting. My progress has been measured and my pacing painstaking. I have eaten regularly, imbibed caffeine regularly, changed clothes and shoes regularly and, well, been regular. I hear the bellowing crescendo of hoarse heaving befalling a runner who's been less fortunate than I have. I admire his tenacity: he's been afflicted almost since the start. Horst is shuffling but progressing. Geoff shatters another age record. None of us sleep and none of us will until this is over. Our decision is made easier by the rising sun. I smilingly grimace.

I am hobbling. My running style, if not my pace, is reminiscent of the great Czech runner, Emil Zátopek, who, when asked about his awkward running style and tortured expression, remarked, "Well, it's not gymnastics or ice-skating, you know". My left elbow is jammed into my ribs (a side strain from waving to my lap counter) reminiscent of Haile Gebrselassie, who cradled his books running to and from school in his formative years. My gait is further enhanced by extensive, excruciating chafe. Rudely, wryly, a Johnny Cash song comes to mind.

I am happy. I reach my 100 mile goal and complete almost 32 further laps. My generous sponsors, particularly those paying on a per-lap basis (and especially those paying ever more per lap following each key milestone) are getting more than they bargained for. The two children's charities, the beneficiaries of my efforts will receive more money than I realistically anticipated they might. Geoff has broken seven world records. Horst has run more than fifty miles. The thunderous chunderer, too, has persevered where a dozen others haven't.

The literal back spasms have gone. Figurative twinges of ambition replace them. I come eleventh. I am hungry.


In writing a blog about several topics in which I admit to being a complete beginner, I am going to have to rely heavily on the people I am writing for who cumulatively know most of what I am likely to learn already. I would love it if some of you found the time to write a guest post on the subject of happiness or learning. The framework I use for thinking about these things is what I call the '5 + 2 points' which includes proper (1) exercise, (2) breathing, (3) diet, (4) relaxation, (5) positive thinking & meditation, (+1) relationships, (+2) flow. Naturally if you would like to write about something that you think I have missed, I would love to include that too. If you are up to doing something more practical, it would be awesome if you did a 100 hour project and I am happy to do the writing based on our chats if that is how you roll. Email me at

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