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La Lucia resident to go from seconder to Comrades Marathon debut

Michael Cairns will be doing his first Comrades Marathon while his wife, Hayley, who has completed two Comrades, will be seconding him this year.

IN recent years, you’d find La Lucia resident Michael Cairns playing the bagpipes for Comrades Marathon runners on various points of the route.

His renditions of the national anthem and the Chariots of Fire have brought smiles to the faces of runners and his wife, Hayley, whom he has seconded on two occasions.

This year, however, Cairns, is swapping his bagpipes for his running shoes as he attempts to complete his debut Comrades.

“I’ve grown up on the sidelines, both as a spectator and an entertainer as a member of the Durban Caledonian Society pipe band. We would often perform at the halfway point on the route, and we’d be there from around 04:00 in the morning to set up. My earliest memory, though, is of supporting my grandfather, who ran his first Comrades Marathon at the age of 60.

Related article: Comrades runner – now seconder – shares tips ahead of this year’s marathon

“Last year, though, supporting Hayley was my first itch to want to actually run the Comrades. All the hype from last year supporting her and when SuperSport aired the Down documentary on the marathon, I was so moved that I thought I have to do this. Hayley and I spoke, and we decided to swap roles this year with her seconding me and me doing my first,” he said.

The DHS Old Boys’ Athletics Club member said his goal for this year’s marathon is to just finish.

“I’ve been getting a lot of advice from seasoned Comrades Marathon runners, and one of the more consistent lines has been not to push myself in the first half of the marathon. I just need to conserve my energy for the back end of the race and keep mentally strong. I know I have yet to complete my first, but a big drawcard for me is to get my back-to-back medal which is doing an Up and Down Run (in either order) successively. In terms of medal placements or times, I just want to finish – that’s my goal,” he said.

Cairns, who qualified for this year’s race at the Two Oceans Marathon, explained how two DHS Old Boys helped cheer him on and helped him complete the race.

“I ran my last Two Oceans Marathon eight years ago in 2016, and for this year’s race, which acts a qualifier for the Comrades Marathon, I was mentally broken as we crested Chapman’s Peak. I remember the bus I was following had left me, and I felt dejected. A bus is a group of runners that are led by a ‘bus driver’ who is a seasoned runner who helps other runners finish at a certain time or within a cut-off time.

Also read: uMhlanga Comrades runner trains the pain away

“It just so happened that two DHS Old Boys runners came by me and asked what’s wrong. I remember saying, ‘The bus has left me’, and they both replied, ‘That bus is going way too fast – you can still finish in time’. They were right, and they helped me change my mental state, and true to their words, I finished with more than 10 minutes to spare. I think that is something you see on the Comrades route as well is the support shown by other runners is unrivalled. Even the support of the crowd is something you can’t experience anywhere else,” he said.

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