“GO FORWARD OVER THOSE MOUNTAINS LIKE A SOUTH AFRICAN RUNAWAY TRAIN”

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Comrades Marathon 2018, the 93rd edition of The Ultimate Human Race, a down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

COMRADES 2018 “I AM IN”

So where does one start? I guess at the beginning. Oh, not talking about the race but referring to my experience of this iconic race.

I certainly won’t go back to the beginning of time, though I need to shed some light onto the build up to race day which takes me to the day I decided that I will indeed do the race. The truth is, when I committed to line up for this year’s marathon, I was very aware of two things; it was going to be a tough day on the road and a finish or a tough day on the road and a fail.  It was my intention to opt for the finish, but the DNF (Did Not Finish) was as real as the first year, and this year, even more than ever before.

My training for this year’s race was the worst ever.  I previously had never done so few kilometers for Comrades before, not even when I was injured in 2015, so I was painfully aware the odds were stacked up against me.  I had so many setbacks over the past few months that the probability of failing was ten to one bigger than that of finishing.  When one faces personal challenges, a relationship breaking up after 16 years, relocating to a new home a few months later followed by urgent surgery due to some serious medical issues, you are humanly derailed and led to a place in your life where you don’t want to be.  The reality was, I was in that dark place and getting back on track was my responsibility and mine alone.

I looked at the down run profile of the Comrades marathon and recognized landmarks and names; Polly Shortts, Little Pollys, Lion Park, Umlaas Road, Cato Ridge, Inchanga, Botha’s Hill, Hilcrest, Kloof, Fields Hill, Cowies Hill, Westville, 45th Cutting, Tolgate.  All these have a significant and special meaning for athletes attempting this iconic race. I cannot help but think how they also symbolise the landmarks and special places in our lives where we are challenged with the harsh and very real realities of life, and yet, with all the odds stacked up against us, we push on and find a way to manage these odds.  We find a way of dealing with it and through whatever it is, we then find our wisdom & strength.  We somehow manage to beat the odds, maybe not always, but most of the time.

AGAINST ALL ODDS

This year’s Comrades to me was one of those races where the odds were stacked so high against me that I could not even see the other race day challenges of the Comrades so called “Big Five” before me ( Polly Shortts, Inchanga, Botha’s Hill, Fields Hill and Cowies Hill ).

RACE DAY

On the 10th of June 2018, I stood at the start of Comrades and I remember not having the slightest feeling of fear for what was lying ahead. In hindsight, I think this was because I knew that it was going to be a tough day anyway and adding fear and uncertainty would just be two more odds to have to fight later that day.

I remember singing “Shosholoza” with the other twenty thousand runners and thought about the translated English words of this song, wondering how many runners actually knows it. Roughly translated it means, Go forward, go forward on those mountains, train from South Africa. Go forward go forward, you are running away, you are running away, on those mountains, train from South Africa This song is an Ndebele folk song that originated in our neighbouring country Zimbabwe that later became popular in South Africa. I knew, all I had to do was trust myself, trust my own pacing, my will to finish and then do as the song says, “Go forward over those mountains like a South African runaway train.” One step at a time, left, right, left, right, and repeat to the end. A grueling 90.184 kilometers of torture was lying ahead and the plan for the day remained, “Just finish”.

On the back of this there was also the #Comrades4Bibles charity drive which I planned to do for the third consecutive year supporting the Bible Society of South Africa. This is another leg of my own charity “Run for Bible Rands” and money raised through #Comrades4Bibles goes towards the grand total for this charity at the end of the year.  I also decided to dedicate this year’s Comrades to all those runners who were unable to run because they were sick, injured and/or because of other personal reasons and for those who were themselves were dealing with personal issues, challenges and hardships in various areas of their lives.  I wrote down all these names and placed it in an envelope that was pinned to the back of my race number, so I knew, although this was my Comrades, my 5th attempt to finish the Ultimate Human Race, it was also for Bibles and it was in solidarity with those who faced tough times.  For one day I was going to carry their names with me and symbolically carry their burdens as well on that day. Some may think this is silly and even corny, but that was fine, I knew this was what I wanted to do, and I did.

From the start, I reminded myself of how extremely important it was to break the race up into ‘bite-sized chunks’ and that is what I did.  The terrain changes during the course of the day and the various stages of the race need different approaches and should be run differently.  This is a golden rule that many athletes forget, sometimes even those who have been on this route far more times than I have.  If you have a good day it does not mean you can just go out and be reckless. Comrades coach Lindsey Parry says this, “It is vital that your Comrades Marathon pacing strategy is well thought out before you start. Too fast and the Comrades route will slow you down later.”

I ran my first half of Comrades conservatively and felt great when I met up with our support team just before the half way mark.  I have to say the severe drop into Drummond is always a personal  highlight of the down run because I know just ahead,  our amazing support team is waiting for us to give us that well deserved injection of positivity and encouragement.

NO AVOIDING THAT SO CALLED “SOLID BRICK WALL”

At around 80 km, a few steps into Cowies Hill, was the point where I hit my solid brick wall this year. I pulled off to the side of the road and leaned against a rail, just to take a break and refocus. This is where I my hand reached back to the envelope pinned to my race number with the names of people I was running for, saying, “God, I need your help, this is not just for me, this is for all these people fighting their own battles AND this is for the Bibles…” I was tired. I was sore. Field Hill already did its damage. My legs were heavy and hammered and I knew on the other side of Cowies the pain would get even more intense and real as we drop down towards Westville. I knew this was where the mental bashing would start.  This was where Comrades became real.  This is where Comrades gets real for most of us, because it is now no longer about the eighty odd kilometers we have already completed… it is about the next ten we still have to do.  Runners often say your legs will get you to around eighty kilometers, your mind will then take you to the end.  So true.

I got back on the road, struggled through the next thee kilometers and then the worst part of the race started, the last seven kilometers.  I had no idea how far we were from the finish because the distance signs counting off the final kilometers were nowhere to be found.  Apparently they were blown over by the wind earlier in the day and no one thought it was important to put them back up so we were literally running blind.  I asked a few runners around me for their distance (on their watches) and everyone gave me a different figure so I knew the distance was not accurate.  The route was in fact further, well according to our watches anyway.  The only thing I could count on at that point was the actual time of the day so I switched my watch to that setting because I knew at 17.30 I needed to be at that finish line. It is horrible to run blind like this, not knowing what’s ahead. It was also a new finish venue meaning a new route to the end, so one could not even draw knowledge from any previous memories or experiences.  Horrible.

THE FINISH IS NEAR, YET SO FAR

My first glimpse of the Moses Mabhida Stadium left me with even less hope that I was going to finish in time. It was already getting dark and that beacon seemed so far away. At that point, I just focused on slowing down my pace slightly, but keep running.  I knew from my planning that an average pace of 07:55 min/km was going to be a close call, leaving little space for error, so I decided to make 07:40 min/km my aimed average pace.  I ran at 07:39 min/km so in fact, I was according to my planning, still safe for a finish but the inaccurate distance info I got from everyone made me nip a bit. Was this going to be enough? Well, I decided to trust my own instinct, stick to my plan and hope it will be enough.  Basically, I ran the last seven kilometers with the odd brisk walks at the water points, but no stopping, every step forward towards the finish. This was where the true meaning of “Asijiki” became a reality, “No turning back”.

I was overcome with relieve when I spotted the beginning of the TOYOTA red mile. I actually remember thinking to myself that there is just about 1.6km to go and then I am home. Entering the well-lit Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban stirred up a whirlwind of emotions in me and I was filled with pure relieve when I saw the first clock.  I was safe!  My race plan paid off, my pacing was spot on and I was going to bag that medal and I did.  Again, I reminded myself of Lindsey Parry’s words, “It is vital that your Comrades Marathon pacing strategy is well thought out before you start.”

I crossed the finish line at 11:57:31. Mission accomplished. Fifth consecutive Comrades Marathon done.

THE TRUTH FOR ME ABOUT COMRADES 2018

Honestly, this was my most difficult Comrades Marathon ever. This race challenged me on so many levels, leaving me vulnerable to whatever race day was going to throw at me. Lining up at the start with a mere 534km on your legs was ten to one the silliest thing I could do, but I was determined to get to that finish in, in time, and I did it. Obviously I would not recommend such little training to anyone, ever.  Comrades Marathon is more a mental thing than anything else, I can now vouch for that. You have to be fierce, strong willed and focused otherwise you will not survive This Ultimate Human Race.

LIFE HAPPENS

Friends, in our lives we will encounter our very own Polly Shortts, Little Pollys, Lion Parks, Umlaas Roads, Cato Ridges, Inchangas, Botha’s Hills, Hilcrests, Kloosf, Fields Hills, Cowies Hills, Westvilles, 45th Cuttings and Tolgates, but know that how we approach these, how we see them as part of the bigger picture, that will determine if we will make it to the end. Sometimes life gets tough and you are faced with real life obstacles, challenges, and have to make life changing decisions that will forever change the course of your being.  Just do it and focus on that beacon that is looming in a distance.  Fight and push forward towards that goal so you can ultimately conquer and taste the victory. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t let anyone else define your destiny.

One of my all-time favourite quotes is from Nelson Mandela who said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” The seemingly impossible is something you can accomplish. Maybe you’ve tried it before, maybe not, but it’s important to remember it can be done, and that very thoughts should drive you.

RUNNING FOR A CAUSE

I also once again realized the difference it makes in your motivation levels when you run for a cause. It makes you more stubborn (yes I said it) and also more focused, because it is no longer just about you, it’s about others, in my case, those who so generously gave towards #Comrades4Bibles and those names in that envelope pinned to the back of my race number. This elevates your wanting to get at that finish and all the doubt, the pain and suffering and even moments of self-pity, and let’s be real, even the thoughts of taking the easy way out and quit, disappears into thin air as you refocus and remind yourself why you are actually doing this.

In closing, again the words of Shosholoza”, Go forward, go forward on those mountains, train from South Africa. Go forward go forward, you are running away, you are running away, on those mountains, train from South Africa

THANK YOU

I want to thank my family, friends and even strangers who have so faithfully supported me over the past few months but more so during the last few weeks, days before and on race day. It was you believing in me when I didn’t and I guess even the unuttered thoughts and moments of doubt, that made me push myself to limits that I did not even know existed. To God, all the glory, all the honour, all the praise and my deepest gratitude for allowing me to continue on this 2018 Comrades journey, for using it as a tool to not only make a difference in people’s lives through Run for Bible Rands and #Comrades4Bibes projects, but for using it also as a tool in my own life to bring healing and a better understanding of who I am as a person with God compared to who I am without Him. Today, more than ever before, as I sit here typing this document, I cannot imagine my life without Him.

Comrades foor Bibles Final Amount

Final amount raised for Bibles during 2018 #Comrades4Bibles charity drive. Thank you.

MESSAGE TO FELLOW ATHLETES

Last but not least, to every single athlete who have conquered Comrades Marathon 2018, The Ultimate Human Race, congratulations and well done. Whether it was just a finish, like me, a personal best or personal achievement like a green number or even double green, way to go, you’ve done it. To those who did not finish or maybe not achieved their planned goal, for whatever reason, it does not matter. Congrats to you for making it to the start and for pushing yourself to places you’ve never been before. If it was a tough day on the road, and it certainly was for me, then that is what Comrades brought to your day.  Please remember though, whatever it was that prevented you from not achieving your goal or not making it to that finish line does not define you. What defines you is the fact that you stayed true to yourself and you had the mere guts to line up for this iconic race. It was Colin Powel l who said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure”. Ten to one, not reaching your race day goal or not finishing, had nothing to do with you not preparing and or not putting in the hard work.  The fact is and remains, race day is always unique in every possible way. Learn from this experience and do it different in 2019.

Editorial support : Karen Clouter, Madoc, ON, Canada

– the end –

OTHER

You can still use this link https://form.myjotform.com/81141565181553 if you want so send me a personal message, or if you supported the #Comrades4Bibles cause then please tell me why you did. Get in touch, I love to hear from you guys.

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Run for Bible Rands continues and we as athletes, runners, walkers and Park Runners, will continue to make our miles and moment count for more than just a medal as we donate R1 for each kilometer we do in official races every month to the Bible Society of South Africa.  So far we have raised R 9, 076.10 though this charity and this will make available a total of 153 FREE Bibles to those who needs it most. You can join us in making a difference. Just follow the link above and sign up.

 

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Comrades4Bibles2018 – Let’s Go !

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QUICK LINKS: [ PLEDGE HERE ] [ DONATE HERE ] [ MESSAGES OF SUPPORT ]

It is official. Comrades4Bibles2018 is happening!

Even the most fortunate of us can face setbacks every now and again. I am no different than anyone else. Since July 2017, I have been dealing with major disappointments, dissolving a 16 year relationship and the pain and heartbreak that came with it.  In November, some health issues resulting in a serious operation stopped me in my tracks as far as running and training was concerned. Starting over has challenged my limits and beyond on so many levels.

Often, when struggling, we can feel overwhelmed or powerless.  I did.  It’s true, there are many things in life we can’t control, including big challenges such as redundancy, broken relationships or bereavement. Taking small, positive steps in any area of our life can have a ripple effect, increasing our sense of self-efficacy and eventually enabling us to move forward, and that is what I did. I took what I had and channeled my energy towards the one thing I still could control, my running. Bouncing back after so much time off was not easy, but I knew I had to do what I could with what I had if I wanted to make this work. Baby steps indeed, but they were all forward, towards my goal, #Comrades4Bibles2018

I stayed away from doing too much too soon because if I didn’t, the risk of injury was almost guaranteed.  I knew I’d benefit from paying more conscious attention to what was going right. It was about making an honest and balanced perspective.  I knew the best way of distracting myself from what was going on was to keep on training because any kind of exercise has a physical impact on our brain, helping us to think more clearly and to focus with intent.

So far this year, I have literally done three official races, Monster 32km, Om die Dam 50km and last weekend, Loskop 50km. Obviously, this is not all the training I’ve done.  I did what I could on the road and in the gym to get myself up to par again. This was, and still is no easy journey, but was never promised to be. Every road to Comrades is different and has its own challenges.  This one is no exception. So, I have been tested emotionally, spiritually, mentally and definitely physically as well. In the end, it’s up to me and me alone.

Friday morning, 27th of April, after my 24 km solo run, I made the decision. I’m happy with my progress and I am going to Comrades 2018. This year will definitely not be a run for a time, but a finish and making sure each step embodies the slogan for Comrades 2018 : ASIJIKI – No turning back.

Comrades4Bibles2018 is an extension of my charity drive #Run4BibleRands and that is why, as in past years, all proceeds from this years Comrades run will also go to the Bible Society of South Africa. My web page for this year’s Comrades4Bibles2018 is now live at the link below.

www.run4biblerands.co.za/comrades – Visit my page and please donate !

QUICK LINKS: [ PLEDGE HERE ] [ DONATE HERE ] [ MESSAGES OF SUPPORT ]
Progress - 21 June 2017Last year’s final amount received as donations
Final Editing : Karen Clouter ( Thank you )

Comrades is something of the past, what now…?

So Comrades 2017 is something of the past. Some runners started training again, others are still lying low and taking it easy.

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I have learned during my years of running that recovering from a marathon or ultra-marathon is a critical component of a perfect training plan that runners often neglect. Unfortunately, if you don’t properly recover from your long run, you’ll increase you injury risk and limit your long-term potential. Simple as that.

For those who have done a marathon or two before will know that these events are really tough on our bodies. From muscles and tendons to hormones and cells – almost every system in your body is pushed to the max and undergoes extreme physical exertion during these runs. It therefore makes perfect sense that we should do everything you we to help your body recover once the long run is over.

I am not going to tell people what to do and what not to do, there are a lot of resources out there that can help with that, all I can say is do not be in a hurry to get into the full swing of things too soon. Give your body a chance to recover and especially, like before your marathon or ultra-marathon, avoid being around sick people. Remember putting your body through the paces at these endurance events gives your body’s immune system a massive knock. Athletes who participate in endurance events like marathons and ultra-marathons, are therefore at an increased risk of picking up minor illnesses or infections – most commonly upper respiratory tract infections.

I personally know a lot of runners who fell ill after Comrades, some serious and others not so serious, but it just underlines the fact that it is a reality.

You can try to limit this risk by avoiding deficiencies and ensure adequate intake of carbohydrates, proteins, fluids and micronutrients like iron, zinc, Vitamin B6, B12, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Also make sure you stay hydrated.

For the past week I’ve been dealing with an ankle injury, yes nothing to do with hydration or stacking up on the vitamins, but it is simply because I did what I decided not to do, and did a half-marathon as my first post-comrades race. Stupid ! So now I am taking it easy, making sure I get rid of this injury so I can start with my proper training at the beginning of August. I am already back in gym for about four weeks now, but beginning of August the focused training starts so I can be ready for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon on the 17th of September 2017 and hopefully this will be my Comrades 2018 qualifier race.

Well friends, time to sign off. I hope all of you are doing well and are still on track with your training plans and busy doing what you have to to make those dreams come true.

Happy weekend everyone !

OMTOM2017 Success !

IMG_7702Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra-Marathon is without doubt one of my favorite event on the running calendar. I just love this race, not only because it is definitely the most beautiful marathon in the world, not only because it is in Cape Town, not only because it is well organized, not only because it was my first ultra-marathon and not only because it gives us a chance to take a short break, but also because of the unique challenge of this race.

This year I arrived here in Cape Town with one goal for OMTOM2017, to just run my race and decided that I will be happy with a comfortable sub 6, but most importantly I wanted finish without issues, without injury and feeling good. Race day offered me that and more. My unofficial plan was to try and get a PB in the bag, with a possible 05:47 (previous personal best was 05:50 in 2014 ).

As race day unfolded along this amazing breathtaking OMTOM route, I realized that I was on track to make it happen. At 17 km I had to stop because of severe nausea, but once I’ve taken care of that, it was back to the road pushing towards the finish line. When I got to the bottom of Chapmans Peak I was still on track and felt great. I maneuvered my way up ‘Chappies’ with caution, worked in three proper stops, with about three minutes of walking and then made up some time down the other side. I knew ‘fly now pay later’ will soon be a reality if I was not cautious. Getting into Hout Bay I felt great. I passed the 42km mark and almost fell over when I noticed it was 04:11 into the race. This where I got little positive booster, realizing the plan for the day was busy playing out really well. I planned ahead for Constantia Nek and I once again wondered, can one really be prepared for Constantia? Anyway, I continued and knew every step was a step closer to the finish.

The plan changed slightly when I caught up with Melinda Smal and Esti Kemp from Magnolia about 7 km from the end. Drill Sergeant Smal was not interested in excuses whatsoever so Esti and I just had latch on and run. There was no mercy whatsoever. But it was all good, at this stage I knew the PB was in the bag it was just a matter of what time it was going to be. Turning into the UCT grounds is always a joy, this time round, even more so.

I crossed the finish line with Melinda and Esti at 05:42:54.

#OMTOM2017 mission accomplished !

18057001_10150802279204946_8391414820810149647_nIt is in moments like this that one can appreciate the progress made, when you see the results of hard work and commitment, many early mornings, endless kilometers in the road and hours in the gym. It all comes together on days like this. Hard work pays off, that is for sure. Fact is, good runs like this don’t just happen, you train for it, you work hard for it, but the reward is great when you reach your goals and that is when you move those boundaries a little further.

I want to thank everyone who supported me, all the messages, following me on the app and the calls, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

It is now a short week of taking it easy and then this coming weekend we will take on the Loskop 50km Ultra Marathon, now that is going to be interesting, to say the least. But we will be there and take it as it comes.

[ …more photos here ]

Comrades 2017 for Bibles – and more…

We are less than 80 days away from the running of Comrades marathon 2017. This race over the past four years became an integrate part of my life. After I managed to shake off 53kg I found myself on the road, became a runner and in 2014 lined up with thousands of runners to take on my first “Ultimate Human Race”

Over the ninety something years Comrades became part of a South African tradition and over years became one of those items on any runner’s bucket list, one of those must try items. Comrades Marathon definitely is, without doubt, an ultimate human race, the ultimate test of one’s character, challenging the human spirit, which explains why complete strangers from local and abroad and from totally different backgrounds help each other to conquer this hilly course.

This year’s theme is ZINIKELE, It takes all of you.

It does.

My Comrades journey, the decision to do it, started with a t-shirt I bought at the 2014 expo in Durban and the words, “Don’t promise, commit” sort of snookered me. I was a supporter that year, but when I left the expo in Durban I told my friends that I will run the down run in 2015 and the rest is history. Conquering that first Comrades, I remember coming into that stadium in Durban overwhelmed with a mix of emotions and with tears in my eyes and that indescribable feeling of achievement. That year I hang on to a favourite quote by Madiba, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Since then I’ve gone back for more and this year I will run my fourth Comrades Marathon. The first one was special but really tough, so much so that I was one of those who said, “Never again” just to find myself back at the start line in 2015 to try to secure my back to back medal, and I did.

To me Comrades never comes easy. Getting to the start line takes all of you, hours of training, endless early mornings, races, places, dealing with injuries, fighting off the flu, sometimes more than one attempt to get qualified and get your seeding right. Preparing for this iconic race requires hard work and ultimate commitment, just to get to the start. On race day, before you can experience and enjoy the moment you cross that finish line before the 12 hours cut-off, the long road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg is often lined with pain, discomfort, desperation, confusion, questions without answers, uncertainty, fear, self-doubt. But it is not all doom and gloom, there are also moments of sharing, solidarity, encouragement, comrade and even humor and laughter as runners navigate their way towards the finish line. It is the encouraging words from fellow runners and total strangers that push you forward towards the end.

The fourth of June is going to be another tough day on the road. It is again an up-run and this is a real challenge for me. I prefer the down run, but this is part of the magic I guess of Comrades, to always challenge you on some level. For us, the so called “normal” and non-elite athletes, this is not a race, and if it is, it is only a race against time, a race against that clock that “seize to work” at twelve hours, when the final cut off gun with sound and determine whether you made it or not. I have learned over the years that a Comrades runner can only claim success when success is achieved.

During every run so far I met my runner’s wall between 60 and 65 kilometer. This is where I go into mental overdrive where it becomes all about mind over matter, the will to carry on and finish what you’ve started arguing against your body that wants to stop. Fact is, the battle now becomes more with your head than your body because your head refuses to believe that you can make it. This “battle” also drains you mentally, emotionally and saps your body of what is left so I try to get this battle over as quickly as possible so I can carry on with the business of the day, getting to that finish line, in time.

In 2016 I started to run for charity when I joined hands with the Bible Society of South Africa and ran my first Comrades for Bibles. I read a lot about people supporting charities through their sport and I decided to give it a go, and this was without doubt the best move I could ever make. That runner’s wall again came at around 60 kilometers, but the battle was short lived. When the going got tough, I reminded myself why I was doing this, so someone somewhere can get a free Bible and then suddenly the tough got going again and I had my best Comrades ever. I really think this is a tradition we as runners need to make part of your running journeys, running for something more than just a medal or personal achievement, but to also support a local charity and bring change to people’s lives.

This year I will again run Comrades for Bibles – run the 87 kilometers raising funds for Bibles – sowing my support for Bibles, one kilometer at a time.

However, there will be an added challenge. I have committed to run Comrades 2017 with a friend to try and ensure that his Comrades dream becomes a reality. Christo Lourens will be by my side on race day. The special challenge here is that Christo has a hearing impairment and has a cochlear implant. For fear of damaging the sensitive and expensive transmitter unit, Christo chooses to compete in his runs without it. When he runs, he is thus literally deaf and totally cut off from the outside world. The main challenge for hearing-impaired runners is always safety. Deaf runners have to be aware of their surroundings constantly. This includes not only motor vehicles but pedestrians and other runners as well. It all revolves around safety. For this very reason I have committed myself to assist Christo and be alongside him – hopefully all the way. Although Christo and I will be taking on Comrades together and hopefully navigate our way to the end together, both of us will run our own race and we as individuals we will have to get to that finish line at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg. [ …read more ]

People say what I do is very noble, but to me this is all about Ubunto, meaning, “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Running for a cause and this year, also for a friend, is a real blessing to me and means so much to me that it is not just about me, it is not just about my medal, my personal goal, dream or challenge, but it extends over boundaries and horizons much further than that.

My Comrades for Bibles charity drive is now open and you can show your support by donating to this cause. Every R50 donation will make available one FREE Bible to someone who really needs it most and goes to the poorest of the poor.  It was Paul who said, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” ( 1 Corinthians 3 :16 ) Each Bible we can place in the hands of the Bible Society of South Africa and ultimately in the hands of a stranger somewhere will not only bring a single person, but potentially a whole family, one step closer to a living relationship with God.

Today I am so glad that I am not forced to support one of the official and accredited charities associated with Comrades, so I decided to dedicate my kilometers to the Bible Society of South Africa. I have a dedicated web page for my Comrades for Bibles charity drive and I invite you to visit this page to learn how you can support this cause. I tried to make the process a little easier and hopefully we can top last year’s R14,323.40 ( 311 free Bibles ).

Thank you for your support and for being part of my journey to Comrades 2017 !

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The balance between training runs and weekend races

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TeamVitality at Garbie 32km Race

To me there are basically three important races if you are training for Comrades Marathon, your weekend races, then your qualifier and then the biggy, Comrades. Those three, in that order.

I get really nervous when I hear people talk about their personal bests, week in and week out. Your Comrades training runs and weekend races are not to set up personal bests.

It involves a huge commitment when you decide to take on the iconic ultra of all ultras, “The Ultimate Human Race”, Comrades.

We usually meet up with running buddies and get so caught up in the hype of Comrades and before you know it you are onto it, convinced that you have to go all out on every run and run one PB after the other. Not so. Not necessary. In fact, you will gain less by doing that.

Races are an important part of Comrades, but they are not there to see how fast you can go or how many PBs you can run, they are then to keep you focused, they are there to bring that balance between a casual training run and a little more effort and to test your progress.

In my training runs, over the past three years of doing Comrades, I have always believed in a good mix up of runs. During my training runs I do speed work, hill training, some gym work ( although I have to admit, I am lazy with this ) and also do some slow runs and finish off the bouquet with some nice pace runs. PB’s do not make you fast, focusing on specifics during training do. Most Comrades runners will tell you that the only thing you will get from going all out at every single run is probably a good dose of fatigue and burnout and if you are one of the unlucky one, you can and often will end up with some injuries too.

Your training runs during the week should be the more relaxed ones where you get your needed kilometers on your legs and where you can test all your supplements, new running gear, your drinking habits etc. Your weekend races, because it is organised and more structured, will be more intense and ideal to focus on a little more pacing and rhythm and also help you to see how you manage the crowds at the start and on the route off course. It is important to finish your races feeling comfortable and more on the fresh side; not strained and definitely not sore. In fact, when you’re done, you should be able to turn around and do an easy four of five kilometers recovery run.

The weekend races form a really important part of your training and preparation for Comrades and should not be neglected. The training load you get from them is in general higher than what you get from your training runs during the week. Oh and it is a great opportunity to meet up with your team mates and friend and enjoy the time out on the road.

Know this, if you apply variety to your training program, your times will actually come down by themselves as you approach Comrades.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin

So, to recap, train hard, focus on your speed and stamina and then get your qualifier out of the way. A good qualifier will not only set you up for a Comrades start with a little more peace of mind, but it will also give you a good idea of where you are in terms of training. After that it is a good healthy balance between variety, quality and quantity. I am not going to get into details of how many kilos you should do a week, there are a variety of training guides out there for that and they also vary depending on what kind of runner you are. I do not think there a generic and single plan for all, in fact I know a few people who tried those and got into trouble at Comrades. Use these as guidelines.

Whatever you do, learn to apply self-discipline, be focused and do what is needed to get you first to the start line and then to the finish. And last but not least, do not underestimate Comrades. It is not called “The Ultimate Human Race” for nothing.

Happy training everyone.

Unexpected detour on the #Road2Comrades2017

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Sunday morning I lined up at Johnson Crane Marathon for my Comrades qualifier race, but I was alone. My running buddy Christo had to withdraw from the race because he was sick during the week and I advised him not to run the marathon, but to do the 10km and he did.

On the #Road2Comrades there will be some detours. Fact is, in the moment, we don’t understand this, and we don’t know why this has to happen. We most likely won’t know how valuable such detours will prove to be, but I have learned that life has a way of revealing the hidden magic in these moments down the road at the appropriate time. There has to be a reason why we face these challenges.

This is the #Road2Comrades2017 and detours are inevitable.

I knew this was going to be a solo run for me and I focused on the task at hand, I had to better my Comrades seeding. I qualified at Cape Town Marathon last year already, but I wanted to secure a F seeding for Comrades, and I did. I took some renewed focus and hard running to maintain my sub 6 min per km pace. I kept most of my run at around 5:50 min per km but settled into my planned 6:06 per km as I got closer to the finish. My planning was to not dip below 6:08 min per kilometer, this was to keep me safe from that 04:19:59 qualifying time. I crossed the finish line at 04:16:09. Mission accomplished !

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Thanks for the support guys.

This unexpected detour, Christo not being able to run with me, is something we will deal with in due time. For now he will focus on strength training, getting stronger and faster to get himself to a place where he will be able to also secure his F seeding for Comrades. That is the plan and I know he will work hard to achieve this. It is important for us to be in the same starting block at Comrades because of the unique nature of our running partnership.

A last thought. If Christo decided to attempt the marathon on Sunday and tried to keep up with me (and I had a tough day) I am almost 100% sure it was going to be a bad day at the running office for him. It is tough, I know, but it is better to deal with the decisions we make rather than succumbing to the unexpected curve balls and be disappointed in that way.

The #Road2Comrades2017 continues. Watch this space !

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