What is better than a giant, roasted pork knuckle covered in crackling? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. This is a mantra I repeat to myself round about this time every year. But to understand my bizarre devotion to a giant piece of pork, we need to go back a few years.
I had just crossed the finish line of the 2011 Comrades marathon. It took forever but I did it. All I wanted to do was head to my guesthouse and have a shower and a meal. Do you have any idea how bad you smell after 12 hours of running? And the chafing? I had raw skin on parts of my body I’d forgotten about. Food and a shower was all I needed. Nothing fancy.
We sat in traffic for two hours. I am genuinely my surprised that my now-fiancé decided to stay with me because I doubt my sweat-soaked running shirt smelled more pleasant over time. Hunger kicked in and was barely satiated by a cold boerewors roll on a stale bun.
The long and arduous drive came to an end and I don’t think I have ever been more relieved to get out of a car. I hobbled to my room and went straight to the shower. A cold shower. The geyser opted to go on strike when I least wanted it to. I showered, shivered and went to bed disappointed, cold and hungry.
The tradition begins …
I didn’t realise it the next morning, but I was about to start a Comrades tradition of my own. Our guesthouse was in Balgowan and we took a leisurely drive through the area. The previous day’s pain was mostly forgotten among the towering trees and hilly countryside. We stopped at Nottingham Road and went to a German restaurant called Bierfassl.
It was there that I had an eisbein and beer from the nearby Notties brewery. We snapped a photo and headed back to Johannesburg. I know I am probably romanticising the meal and that many eateries serve tasty German cuisine, but it was a fitting end to an incredible journey.
I found myself back at Bierfassl the following year. Once again, I was in pain and sunburned. In fact, I even had to use a hotel room chair as a Zimmer frame. That’s how little my legs wanted to comply with my demands. But eventually I managed to convince them to drag me to the car so that we could head to Nottingham Road.
It’s difficult to put into words how runners bargain with themselves at the 50km mark of the Comrades. It might seem strange to outsiders, but we’ll say or promise anything to ourselves to keep going and cross the line.
We’ll say things like, “OK, this is the last one I am EVER going to run. Let’s just finish this last one”. I’ve heard of people who have promised themselves everything from a carton of cigarettes to a new car. For me, the proverbial carrot on the end of the stick is an eisbein and a beer.