“My father runs the Comrades Marathon. My mom says that he started to run 2 days after I was born. And then she stares at me kind of funny; a look that says funny coincidence; like it was my fault…

I was born in October 2003. The firstborn. It turned my mother’s life upside down because my father started to run so soon after my birth. Up to that point in his life he was a nerdy, laid back guy, a little barrel shaped, my mom tells me. And then she gives me that sad stare.

My father started to train for his first Comrades Marathon in June 2004. He made it to the 36.2km mark when the paramedics rescued him and took him to a field hospital on a stretcher.

In June 2005 he made it to 67km, before the stretcher. In 2006 he made it to 85km, before the vultures, as the rescue buses are known, took him as he ran out of time.

In 2007 my sister was due around June, and my dad says that my mom threatened to sever some limbs with blunt kitchen tools if he dared to run Comrades. My Granny said that he sat glued to the television set silently, for the whole Comrades broadcast, not eating or drinking anything, with an almost visible lump in his throat.

In June 2008 he finished his first Comrades with 1 minute and 29 seconds before the cut-off gun was fired. The television cameras got him on tape and he was broadcast all over South Africa for 3.3 seconds. He collapsed over the finish line and was on the stretcher again.

In 2010 my father announced that he was the fittest that he had ever been in his life.  He was sure to break his own record and very sure that his days of being airlifted by stretcher were over.

20 days and 3hours before the great day, he developed whooping cough, bronchitis and pneumonia. And the worst kind of denial my mom said that she had ever witnessed. Our whole family merrily flew to Durban. On the evening before the Comrades, it took three doctors to bring him to reality and announce that he was in no condition to run.

My mom took my sister and I to the other side of our rented flat to give my dad a little space. I couldn’t stop asking why daddy was crying so much.

After The Great Plague of the previous year, my mother converted in 2011 to a shameless drug dealer during the month of May every year. Our house had barrels of zinc, magnesium, oxygen tablets and vitamin C tablets. In addition to vitamin B injections weekly and a cocktail called the Bomb given intravenously by our doctor.

The Plague never struck again, but our fear of the Plague striking in June never left us. My Dad finally received his Comrades Marathon Green Number last year. A big green badge with gold embroidery. He was now part of the elite Comrades who had completed 10 races.

Our whole family was at the finish line, and cried tears of joy with my super ultramarathon athlete father. We were only allowed to touch the badge a week later.

My dad wore only green clothes for a whole month after the event; until our domestic helper in collaboration with my mother, started to hide all green clothes. When I grow up, I want to be just like my father!

(Written by my son with the help of his mother.)

This month’s winner of the Arnica Ice hamper is Henk Janse van Rensburg #54754.