Tanya Zarin

‘My goal became to finish’

Surrey’s Tanya Zarin runs 89 kilometres in under 11 hours in South African ultra marathon.

Following an exhausting Thursday at the office, early on the morning of Friday, June 3, Tanya Zarin’s head was fuzzy waking up from a wild dream.

In it, she had flown across the Atlantic, all alone, and ran almost 90 kilometres in the South African heat.

Odd thoughts swirled around in her head. Pietermaritzburg to Durban. The quest for salt. People collapsing around her. Shoes soaked in power gel. The Indian Ocean.

As she became fully conscious, reality kicked in.

It wasn’t a dream. These events indeed took place the previous Sunday, May 29.

The 47-year-old single mother of two  from Surrey took part in the Comrades Marathon, the oldest and largest ultra marathon in the world, placing 7,632th overall (out of 16,807 at the start line) and 1,180th out of 3,559 female entrants.

Zarin ran 89.7 kilometres in 10 hours, 44 minutes.

When she signed up, the veteran marathoner had hoped for a nine-hour run, but the she injured a leg six weeks before the race. Some days, she could barely run across the street.

Zarin watched the previous Comrades races on YouTube and was worried.

“At 12 hours (the race cut-off time), this guy with his back to the finish line shoots a gun,” Zarin explains. “They’ve got all these people there to barricade. You’re not allowed to cross, you’re not allowed to touch, you do not finish, you do not get a time, you do not get a medal. So you’ve now run 12 hours…”

Up at 3 a.m., Zarin had barely made it to the start line at 5:30 a.m. – her bus was late.

She ran two kilometres just to make it in time for the start of the race.

She stood there, unsure of what was about to happen.

No team, no supporters, a questionable left leg and two sleepless nights behind her.

Normally confident and fiercely competitive, she describes her mental state at that moment as “a different place.

“My goal became to finish.”

 

Training for a decade

 

Rolling back the clock, Zarin began running in May 2006 when she had some spare time and was looking for exercise.

A former figure skater and coach, her competitive spirit made her bored with walking.

Before long, friends invited her to a 5K fundraiser on the Vancouver seawall.

“I thought five kilometres was gonna kill me – it almost did,” Zarin recalls.

Two months later, she was invited to a 10K race.

“They gave me the ugliest long-sleeved cotton T-shirt you could ever imagine, but when they handed me that shirt, something… dinged for me.”

She got home and immediately registered for a half-marathon.

At that event, she found herself tearing up at the finish line.

In May 2007, one year after she started running, Zarin ran her first marathon in Vancouver (four hours, one minute).

Before long, she was already registered for the following race before the next immediate race began.

Left: Tanya Zarin at home. Photo by Boaz Joseph

In 10 years, Zarin has run 39 marathons and “lots” of half-marathons.

She ran the Boston Marathon seven times in a row, from 2009 to 2015.

“I qualified (for Boston) this year, but wanted to do something different,” she says.

Enter Google. By coincidence, the Comrades Marathon – mis-named, as it’s more than twice the length of a regular marathon – is located in the second-furthest city in the world from Surrey, according to furthestcity.com

Needless to say, Zarin trained like never before, increasing from 60 kilometres per week to 120 or 130.

“Don’t look at my toes,” she chortles.” Some of them are black and some of them have black nail polish.”

Every kilometre was logged.

During one training run, while waiting at a crosswalk, a bus stopped and blocked her way.

To her surprise, the driver opened the door.

He yelled out: “How far do you run? I see you all over Surrey!”

 

Alone in South Africa

 

Zarin was already melting in long sleeves at the nine-degree Celsius start.

Before long, she handed her throw-away gloves and shirt to an old lady and girl on the side of the road.

Running day peaked at 29 degrees C.

“From 50 to 60K, the clock stopped. It killed me (running) through that section. But I expected that. I knew there was going to be a section like that and that was the one for me.”

Using a service for club-less international runners, she had three drop-bags of supplies to pick up at stations at 21, 42 and 63 kilometres. By the second station, she was sick of gels and began to get hungry. And she craved something she normally despises: Salt.

She found someone holding a box of boiled nugget potatoes swimming in salt – and sucked on the salt before eating the potatoes.

“I was laughing at myself. I though if anybody who knows me saw me right now, they’d be killing themselves laughing.”

The heat was taking its toll on everyone.

One man fell flat on his face on the concrete beside her. She remembers the sound.

“I decided I’m not going to let that happen to me this far away from home by myself. I need to be smart here.”

Later, she learned that 2,374 runners had dropped out during the race.

Her drop-bag at the third station at 63 kilometres had one extra item to pull her through: A note-to-self saying “no regrets.”

Sleepy and hungry, she soldiered on.

During one long climb, she recalls, a valley on her right looked like the Coquihalla Highway.

While she ran the uphills, downslopes were harder on her hamstrings.

Zarin is now frustrated that she doesn’t remember much from the near-end of her race.

Her thoughts were just “I’m hungry and I’m tired and I just want to get to the end.”

At their destination – extra torture – runners were forced to run around the inside of a stadium before they crossed the finish line.

“There are all these people screaming and you just, like, wow. It’s so overwhelming, so humbling. All the things that go through your head.”

The next day, walking like a penguin, Zarin dipped her feet in the Indian Ocean (photo above).

Three days later, she was back at work at the Corporation of Delta.

“When I look at some of the finish pictures – coming to the finish line – at Comrades, I still cry. I get goose bumps.”

 

Full event video below

 

Just Posted

Surrey woman with autism has scooter stolen from SkyTrain station

Kayla Polege purchased scooter after ‘shutdowns’ on transit

Phase three of ‘King George Hub’ development moves forward

Coast Capital Savings headquarters next to King George SkyTrain was phase one of the project

HOCKEY: Olympic dreams for Surrey teen now with Canada’s U18 team

Cloverdale’s Jenn Gardiner a third-year star with Comets of B.C. Female Major Midget League

OUR VIEW: Memories of the ‘strip’ still fresh

Can’t blame Surrey residents for being wary after the human tragedy of 135A Street

‘Quite a coup’ in rail-safety funding: South Surrey-White Rock MP

Relocation study not included in money for infrastructure improvements along waterfront train route

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

Off Nova Scotia, a bid to ‘unravel the mystery’ of great white sharks

The question: Is Nova Scotia the second mating site for Atlantic white sharks, something scientists say could be key to protecting the endangered species.

Man arrested after carjacking, collision, pepper spray attacks in Vancouver

Vancouver police say one man is in custody after a chaotic scene of events in the downtown core

Canadian investigator says World Anti-Doping Agency got a bad deal from Russia

A Canadian lawyer says the World Anti-Doping Agency rushed into accepting a bad deal by reinstating the country’s drug-testing program.

Fashion Fridays: Rock some animal print

Kim XO, lets you in on the latest fall fashion trends on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

New evacuations ordered because of Florence flooding

Emergency managers on Friday ordered about 500 people to flee homes along the Lynches River

B.C. doctor weighs in on the kid ‘screen time’ debate

A Maple Ridge mother opens up about her children’s use of tablets, smartphones and television

Volunteer-based safety team gets city funding to continue work in Vancouver

Good Night Out is a non-profit society that works to keep people safe at night on Granville Strip

Most Read