Archive for May 28, 2009

Comrades Marathon Lessons

The things I learned doing the 2009 Comrades Marathon:

  • This race doesn’t care how many training kilometres you have done, you either have a good day or a bad one – all you can do is make sure you get over that finish line.
  • You have to (and I’m not joking here guys) HAVE TO eat at every single table!!  Keeping yourself from falling below that critical blood sugar level is an ongoing process (I had bouts of nausea all the time) which will last the entire race and which you need to address as they occur.
  • The human spirit is stronger than muscle and bone and any kind of mental preparation.  If someone can finish the Comrades Marathon with a broken foot, a prosthetic limb, as a blind runner or someone suffering from a chronic diseases like Cerebral Palsy or Muscular Dystrophy – you can be assured that as a healthy, fit runner no matter how much pain you are in, there is something stronger at work that if you allow it, will carry you through to the end.
  • Physical fitness makes up 40% of this race, mental fitness makes up 40%, pure determination makes up 10% and a sense of humour 10% – Don’t fool yourself into thinking that being fit is the answer; you will fail if you do…

Comrades Marathon Race Dissection…

Standing in Pietermaritzburg at the start, I was feeling very calm and rather Zen like while the energy from the 12 825 runners around me was crackling with anticipation.  I was a little concerned that I was carrying more equipment than what I had planned on (3 skin temperature sensors which were stuck on with plaster, the 800g computer which was going to record my skin and core temperature throughout the race, a GPS and a heart rate monitor with accompanying watch), looking like a bit of a lab experiment.

As the gun went off and the crowd surged forward I remember distinctly thinking – I just want to make the most of today – and for the most part, I think I did.

The first 20km of the race was fine, I was running with a long-time friend Craig who was doing it for the first time and whose mom was running too (Lynda is 60 and was running with a broken foot, how is that for crazy).  I was a little concerned when 10 minutes into the race we could just not keep up with our mothers who surged off and left us to find our own pace with which to run.  Luckily we were caught by the sub-eleven hour bus because I had no idea about pace or the actual route.

Half-way came and so did Lynda suffering from very sore feet and not really loving the race.  Half-way also saw the first man crossing the finish line (in 5:23) which doesn’t do much for the confidence levels…

30km outside of Durban I felt a tap on my shoulder and found Ryan, my running charity partner just behind me, he’d decided to join the bus too, much to my delight because I didn’t actually think I’d see him until the end.

As we reached the lip of the notorious Fields Hill, 69km into the race with such a steep downhill and horrid camber that many runners have seen the end of their race at the bottom, you could hear a collective sigh come up from the group – Craig let out an audible moan since he’d been cramping on every downhill from around the half-way mark.  Stuart the pace-setter (or bus driver) gave us a very stern talking to as we started down – “Pass me here and you will not finish this race” he promised, luckily I had no intention of going solo at this stage, I’d already confessed to Craig that I would be sticking with this bus to the end and would propose marriage to Stuart when we finished…

With 10km to go, knowing that it would be the longest 10km ever, I had news from a fellow club runner that my mom had been throwing up and had fallen behind us.  Feeling pangs of guilt for not seeing her on the side of the road I resigned myself to the fact that my mom was a machine and would be ok with or without me going back for her, so I kept on going because really in a race like this, the most important thing you need to tell yourself is – “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will eventually get there!”

Hitting Durban city centre and a flat road to the end, Craig re-assumed his position next to me with Ryan just off to one side, as we made our way through the screaming spectators who were lining the streets.  Entering Kingsmead to a crowd that was going crazy as our sub-eleven hour bus was brought in 9 minutes ahead of schedule, Craig and I ran hand in hand over the finish line, with grins from ear to ear.

Craig and I at the first stop with my dad

Craig and I at the first stop with my dad


Re-fuelling at about 15km to go

Comrades Marathon Race Summary

3:34am – my alarm goes off although I’m already awake, not nervous just awake and ready for my day on the road.

4:30am – we head off to the start which is a 10 minute walk from where we spent the night.  I have to find the guys from the study I am part of so that they can fit me with the equipment I have to carry for the race, to measure my core and skin temperature.

5:15am – finally all the equipment is fitted (a few more gadgets that what I’d planned for but I didn’t care), we head to our seeding gate only to find them closed and being pointed to the back of the 12 000 strong crowd, luckily someone had forced a gap in the gate which allowed my mom and I to sneak into the space between E and F seeding (I was meant to be in F anyway).

5:20am – Chariots of Fire gets played over the crowd, everyone is silent waiting for traditional rooster crow which is followed directly by the start gun

5:30am – we are off, it takes 6 minutes to run over the start line and timing mat

10 hours and 52 minutes later, I am running through Kingsmead stadium hand in hand with my friend Craig (an old friend who was doing the Comrades for the first time and who ran with me all the way) with the biggest smile on my face and goose bumps all over my body…

This is just a quick summary, I will go into more detail tomorrow I just wanted to let everyone know that I finished – it was gruelling for sure, 89km is never NOT going to be hard but I had a great day and came off lightly with no blisters (not like last year) although there was some chafing from all the equipment I carried (just a small price to pay considering that some people are still limping 2 days later).



20 Hours and 58 Minutes…

Ok everyone so we are within a day of the Comrades Marathon and I’m about to head off to Durban.  If you want to keep track of me you can find out here.

I (ok not me, but someone who I’ve asked) will be updating my Twitter and Facebook status with my progress.  I’m not sure how much time I’m going to have this afternoon so if I don’t manage to get online – See you at the end!!!

How many kids??!!

So in my post about Running Charity partnerships,  I told you about my friend Ryan over in Canada joining forces with me in raising money to send some kids to school.  Today I got the final amount he was able to raise  – CAD 1,155 which is around R8,400 which translates to almost 13 kids, YES that is 13 children who will now be able to go to school because of Ryan, which brings the total to about 19 children in our efforts so far!!!

Thanks everyone who has donated up until now and for those of you still contemplating it, here is some motivation…

Yip, looks different from this angle...

Yip, looks different from this angle...




Comrades Marathon Stats

A friend of mine sent me the media pack for the race on Sunday and it was packed with little titbits of information which I want to share, and of course comment on.

Total runners for this Comrades Marathon:
12 826

Gender breakdown:
Male – 10 539
Female – 2 287
Insights:  Before 1975, woman weren’t allowed to participate. That is only 17.8% of the field are woman, still not really adequate I feel – come on girls man up!

The average age:
Men – 41 years
Women – 40 years
Insights:  Seems I have a long running career ahead of me 🙂

The oldest male runner is 78 (Please Lord let me at least be ahead of him)
The oldest female runner is 68 (I will probably be behind her)

There is a runner running his 44th comrades this year and another running his 41st
Insights:  Just bloody crazy

There are 52 Physio’s, 199 Doctors and 57 Clergymen running – lets hope I need none of them on Sunday!

There will be 48 water tables along the way providing bananas, cooked potatoes, chocolates, oranges and biscuits – most of which has all been hovered up by the time I come chugging past.

There will be 150 jars of Vaseline used (my dad will have should I need it, I’m not so keen on dipping into a shared jar of vaseline) and 5.4 tons of bananas (WTF I never saw any primates last year, they must have been ahead of me)

Jokes aside – I have 2 days, 16 hours and 35 minutes until the start of the race and we are sending 17 kids to school so far!!!!

Insights: Woo Hooo



Keeping in Touch…

For those of you who would like to keep in touch with my progress on race day, the Comrades Association has this rad thing where you can sms my race number to them, and every time I go over a timing mat (I think there are about 6 throughout the race) you will get a message with my location and time.  This is unfortunately only open to South African residents and costs R10 per sms (which goes to charity), so be warned….

My Race number:  43099

SMS: 38132

Alternatively (this is for those of you who want to keep track from of me from other patches of this world) I will hopefully have someone receiving these sms’ and posting them onto Facebook and Twitter, how’s that for a free alternative 🙂 (the R10 you saved on the sms can get donated to my “Let’s send some kids to school” campaign…)

OR, I know the options just keep coming – you can go to the Comrades website where you will be able to see the finish line live on the day (if you can’t actually be in front of the TV).

I’d like to say that those who were crazy enough to sit in front of the TV the entire day last year, were rewarded with a whole 3 second shot of me right at the end (you know who you are) and NO there was no flashing or anything of the sort going on, I had just been running for 11 hours and about 10 minutes at that stage so if you plan on making a date with the TV for Sunday, don’t get your hopes up 🙂


Running Paranoia…

Paranoia seems to be setting in…  Everyone in my office is sick and so far all I’ve gotten is a runny nose but with the Comrades on Sunday, I’d be devastated if I got the flu and was unable to run…

I even considered coming in to work with a surgical mask on, or asking my operations manager (who is also running so is as nervous as what I am) if I could work from home this week.

I hate this feeling…


Running Charity Partnerships…

For the past couple of months I’ve been in email contact with Ryan, a South African living abroad, who is running the Comrades Marathon for the first time this year.  It’s been great chatting to someone who is going through exactly the same things I went through last year (what am I talking about, I’m going through the same stuff THIS year)…

Anyway last week Ryan informed me that he is also raising funds for running the Comrades and instead of trying to find a charity at this short notice, he has decided to join me on my mission to send children in the Red Hill informal settlement, to school!!

I am so excited for this joint venture!!  Let’s see how much we can raise…

For updates on all the donations and pledges, go to my Facebook Group – Let’s send some kids to school…

Help send him to school

8 Things you can do with your race medals

  1. Re-gift: It is a recession after all… Just remember that the karmic wheel is small, what goes around comes around…
  2. Diving weights: they even come with a handy ribbon to go around your neck, or just stuff into pockets for the desired effect.
  3. Ornamental Display: This can be used as a conversation starter, although you have to take note of who you bore to death with your running tales, or expect a sharp decline in friends!
  4. Use as a weapon: If you take the biggest medal (I have a pretty big and heavy one, complete with the profile of table mountain on it) and keep it in a handy place, when an intruder strikes, swing said medal above the head until desired momentum is achieved (you may yell here like the Highlanders used to) and aim for the head. Beware; this could lead to imprints of whatever medal you have used, so try not to do it as a joke…
  5. Table Stabilizers: When you have a table that rocks because it is on an uneven surface, use a medal – not as cheap looking as a piece of cardboard and can double up as #3
  6. Tooth Mouse/Fairy gifts: Again in keeping with #1, the alternative to money is sitting right there in front of you. Note: you might have to explain to Junior why he can’t put it in his piggy bank for the iPod he’s been saving up for.
  7. Pocket Money: Times are tough and you put in many hours and hard work for that medal, it is as valuable as money (in your mind anyway).
  8. Accessorise: My medals come in all shapes and sizes, you could start a new trend and pare a medal up with an outfit – see how the people in the office react. Note: again could be coupled with #3, especially if there were people at work who didn’t even know about that run where you got a cramp 30 minutes into the race and then needed a number 2 after 45 minutes…
My Medals

My Medals