Consideration vs Toleration

I saw a recent post by Runner’s Wold Magazine SA on their Facebook page asking this question, “What’s the one thing that annoys you most about running races?

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I started to read through the posts and I was shocked to see how some people responded, in a way looking down on those who are maybe not as advanced or talented at running, in fact a lot of comments were directed to “walkers” and the frustration and irritation they seemingly cause to so many people. I also reacted to the question. I must add, I was not totally surprised about this angle because I have seen it a million times on social media, the battle between runners and walkers.

To me, when reading these comments, one word came to mind and that word was “consideration” or lack thereof. People must just be more considerate and the other half, more tolerant.

We must remember that every person has a story to tell and we all have our own reason why we do what we do. If you take some time to pause for a moment and listen to why people are walking, running or Park Running, everyone has a story and everyone started somewhere. You might find that most started off by in the gym, later added the odd walk around the block, maybe challenged themselves later at doing Park Runs. Some might stop there, others might go on and be tempted to do short distances at races like 5 km and 10 km races and maybe go on building up to longer runs like doing half marathons. Others will get really hooked and decided to push those boundaries a little further and take on marathons, ultras and yes, the “crazy” ones, like me, will take on “The Ultimate Human Race”, Comrades Marathon. Fact is, we all started somewhere.

My running came only two years after I started to loose weight and ultimately allowed me to join the Bible Society of South Africa ( BSSA ), running for Bibles, but ultimately lead to the birth of my own charity, Run4BibleRands ( www.run4biblerands.co.za ) and this is now my motivation to inspire other runners to join me to make their miles and moments count for something more than just a medal or sore legs, but concerting race kilometers to rands and donating that to the BSSA. To date, since I started in 2015, we have made it possible for the BSSA to give away for FREE 1564 Bibles to those who need it most. This year only so far we have donated R 37 963.82 to the Bible Society, making available 643 FREE Bibles. All this made possible because for others it is about running for a cause, running for more than just themselves.

I must be honest, I am admittedly also one of those who also never understand why non competitive runners & walkers always have to push their way to the front knowing that they will not be under the top ten or so. You will always find those who will have total disregard for the requests to fill up from the back, they will always be late and always push and shove to get to the front but ironically you will never see them on the podium. There must be some reason why people do that, but that is their problem and prerogative, but yes in the process, and according to many posts in response to the question asked by Runner’s World Magazine, without doubt, these individuals are causing a great deal of irritation to many.

For me personally the races just became too large and this for me started to create a negative overall experience. Because I am happy that people are going out and doing their part to get fit and enjoy a morning out, I must say I now prefer running on my own, or go out with a friend and do a buddy run. I enjoy it more and it leaves me with a better overall experience. Maybe the effort is not as intense as one will get at races, but that is fine too. On the other hand it has a great deal to do with self discipline when you do the runs on your own and not in race format. This however has nothing to do with others. If races are your thing I say, enter, get up early and go do your race and build a better you. Kudos to you and everyone else.

There is a down side to doing your own thing. I miss a lot of familiar faces and times of fellowship at races, but I guess everything in life has it pros and cons but this is what works for me now. I am doing a few hand picked events I like throughout the year and the rest of the time I am doing a combination of gym and road work.

There were also other comments, but I am not even going to comment on littering, ridiculous increase in the cost of races and things like that because this is something I can’t do anything about. Ultimately it comes down to accept the things you cannot change, have courage to change the things you can and have the wisdom to know the difference.

Breaking other people down and being all negative about everything has no positive outcome anyway so no need to go there. To those who like to “race” – enjoy. Those who don’t, enjoy what you do too. Whatever you do, do not stop doing what you love because that is all that counts. Work towards a better you, no matter what it is.

Happy running everyone.

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“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.

 

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 )

20 days to go !

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Today we have twenty days to go to Comrades 2017, and by this time in three weeks it is all over. Can you guys believe it ? It feels like yesterday when we started the count down with 100 days to go and here we are, three weeks out.

In three weeks I will line up for the forth Comrades. Even that sounds unreal…

Five months of really hard work, commitment and preparation will play out on the 4th of June when around 20,000 athletes will line up in Durban for the 2017 Comrades Ultra Marathon. This year it is an up run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, for me personally this is more of a challenge than the down run.

My preparation went well and I am happy with where I am and I know that I have the potential to maybe have my best Comrades Marathon ever. My training went well, my times are on point, actually better than I expected, and I am determined and mentally strong and focused.

The best part still is that I am again able to do this to support the Bible Society of South Africa, to support their Run4Bibles charity assisting in Bible distribution. When the going gets tough, that is when I focus on the cause and the reason why I am doing this and then things become manageable again. This year I am joined by Thérèse Doman and together we will run #Comrades4Bibles.

Remember, there is still time for you to support this amazing cause. Every R50 we raise will enable the Bible Society of South Africa to make available a FREE Bible to someone who really needs it most. This way we can change not only a single single life but potentially a whole family. You can find more details about this charity on my web page at www.myownjourney.co.za/comrades – this is where you will get more info about the charity itself and also the details on how to make your donation.

I want to take this opportunity also to wish all my friends the very very best for their Comrades marathon. I really hope that this Ultimate Human Race will give you all an ultimate experience and leave you with the ultimate feeling of achievement. Go out and do your best and remember to be awesome.

 

 

 

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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One Step Closer

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I guess good things come to those who wait. I am so happy to report that Christo qualified this morning for Comrades at the Sarens Marathon in Edenvale. He finished in a time of 04:37 which brings him one step closer to Comrades 2017.

He was supposed to run the Johnson Crane Marathon with me earlier this year but got ill and was unable to train and was not well enough on race day to attempt that qualifier marathon with me. So he had to move his focus to a later race, and this was the one. His dad is here visiting from the Western Cape and farther and son did this run together this morning.

His finishing time this morning secured him a spot in starting batch “G” at Comrades but he hopes to improve on his time at another race to get him into the “F” block where I am seeded. This will mean that we can start together, after all that is the whole idea of doing Comrades “together”. This will also ease the tension on race day for both of us because starting in separate blocks will mean that he will have to first play catch up to get to me and then the added pressure of finding me in that massive line up at Comrades. It is also dark when we start and most of us will be wearing something warm also over our club kit which will just make finding one another even more difficult. This is something we will deal with later. For now it is happy days with that one hurdle, qualifying, out of the way.

Our #Road2Comrades2017 continues and you will see us on the road at many more races before the big day in June. You can find a list of our planned races [ HERE ]

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.