Archive for October 29, 2009

Comrades Marathon Provisions

Yesterday I wrote about the food that can be expected during the Comrades Marathon, so today I’m giving you a list of the non-food items, baring in mind that these things were based on last year and the year before, I am still waiting on what will be available for 2010, however I don’t think the list will change dramatically.

There are extensive medical and emergency stations along the route and at the end.  At about 21km into my first Comrades I was getting blisters so had to stop.  The people manning the station I stopped at were very helpful and had me patched up in about 2 minutes flat.  They are very well prepared and if you want, they will do a blood test right there and then to see if there are any serious sugar problems after which they treat you so you can carry on or lie there until you feel better.

At the end of the race they have an entire Marquis set up with rows of stretcher beds and drips, these guys certainly prepare for any eventuality.  My mom has landed herself in this tent before and she even got a free ride in on a stretcher from the finish line:)  Once they have hooked you up to a drip and sorted out any other problems you usually start feeling better pretty soon.

There are 8 dedicated physiotherapy stations. These stations are manned by what seems like hoards of physios armed with vats of deep heat and Vaseline.  I pulled into one on my first Comrades when my shoulders were aching, 3 ladies launched into working my rock hard shoulder and neck muscles into submission.  I know some people who stop at every single station just for the leg massages…  yes Brucie, that’s you!!

A fleet of ambulances and emergency vehicles as well as a dedicated emergency helicopter are stationed along the route.

Loads of porta-loos /porta-pottys or whatever you want to call them can be found along the way.  As you can imagine the state of these facilities can become questionable after thousands of people have passed through them ahead of  you, although its quite acceptable to just duck into the bushes or behind a car if you don’t suffer from stage fright…

My feet with medical attention along the way, imagine what they would have looked like without...

My feet with medical attention along the way, imagine what they would have looked like without...

Comrades Entry Newsflash!

As of yesterday – if you were procrastinating with regards to your entry to the Comrades (as a previous participant), it is too late!!  The limit of 15,000 was reached yesterday, 4 days before the cut-off which makes me feel nervous for my Novice friends who will need to enter from November 1st.

Another little update on Novice entries – they open at 9am South African time on Sunday, so wherever you are in the world, make sure you make allowances for the time difference – South African Standard Time is 2 hours ahead of the Coordinated Universal Time  (UTC +2).

My 2 Year Running Anniversary

Last week I wrote about really wanting to do the Constantia VOB Grape Run and the fact that I didn’t have a race entry…  Well if you aren’t friends of mine on Facebook then you wouldn’t know that I got an entry from Russell (not just one but 2) – so I confirm my theory, if you don’t ask you don’t get!!

With entry in hand both Nicola (who also missed the cut-off for registration) and I lined up on Constantia Main road along with the 1,500 other entrants on Sunday morning, neither of us having run a half marathon in over 3 months.  I’d also like to remind people who may not have read my race report from last year, that this race isn’t exactly easy, firstly it is off road for most of the way and secondly the first 7km of the race are basically straight up the side of a mountain – BUT the views as you go up are more than enough to make up for the screaming quads and the lungs which come dangerously close to popping out your mouth – and of course the wine tasting table right at the top of one of the hills does wonders for the energy levels 🙂

Winding through a couple of wine farms and then through Tokai forest and back into Constantia I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the course and at how lucky I was to wangle an entry.   I also had vivid memories of being dragged through said course by my mother just 2 years ago, NOT in the same frame of mind!

Now, I didn’t race because I was unable to substitute the entry into my name (and besides Russ, there is no way I would have managed a sub-2 hr race) so I was using it as a benchmark to see how unfit I was – turns out not very unfit because I came in at 2:12 feeling surprisingly fresh!  Let’s hope this spells great things for the months to come…

Grape Run

Food Along the Comrades Route

This is a list of the food which was available at the refreshment tables for the Comrades Marathon last year – I have yet to hear back from the Comrades Association confirming any additions to this list, however I’m pretty sure it will stay more or less the same.

48 Refreshment tables,  roughly 2- 3km apart are stocked with the following:

  • Water sachets
  • Powerade sachets (non-carbonated energy drink)
  • Coke and Cream Soda (green, sweet carbonated drink) poured into plastic bottles
  • Bananas cut into chunks – they leave the skin on so I usually grab an end piece and just squish it into my mouth without fiddling with the skin.
  • Oranges cut into segments – also still with the skin on but I usually just suck the juice out and ditch the rest
  • Energy sachets (I never get to see these because I’m too far at the back 🙂
  • Chocolates – Bar One which is a South African brand of chocolate
  • Baby Potatoes – boiled and sprinkled with salt, only available at every second table from the half-way mark
  • Biscuits – these are the equivalent to cookies in the USA

There are also spectators who stand on the side of the road handing out food which they have prepared.  Salt is readily available, just make sure that if you hold out your hand for some, you have enough water to wash it down with, I saw a guy try and dry swallow a handful of salt and felt so sorry for him based on his facial expression that I donated the extra water I had taken, to him…

What my mom and I have done in the past is have our trusty second (better known as my dad) meet us at strategic spots along the route with food which we like to have on a long run.  I usually stock him with GU’s (this is my energy gel stuff of choice), jelly babies and cooked sweet potato with butter.  My mom likes cooked chicken and some people give my dad sandwiches and even eggs.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to eat at EVERY opportunity!!  I try and get something down my throat at each table I get to.  If you start feeling nauseas it is almost too late and the only way to stave it off is to eat – so be very aware of what your body is telling you.  If you start feeling sick then force something down your throat, jelly babies do very well because they are small and palatable.   Just water or energy drinks are not enough!!

There are other things available along the route too which I’ll write about in my next post…

Me and my lunch box :)

Me and my lunch box 🙂

Comrades Sign-Up

I know I’ve said this before and you guys probably have November 1st highlighted in your diaries (yes Sally that’s you and Michelle and Team Flash) but I can’t stress enough how quick you are going to have to be off the mark.  The Comrades talk I went to last week, of the group that was there (they had to bring in more chairs to accommodate us all) roughly half were novices, that was just one talk at one club…

5,000 Novices is the limit (unless the 15,000 isn’t reached for previous runners) which isn’t much considering this is an international event – so here are the ways you can enter:

  • Online at
  • Any Mr Price store – this is advised if you can’t access the website
  • Hand it in at Comrades House in Pietermaritzburg
  • Pay at any Nedbank branch and then mail the payment confirmation and entry form
  • By mail

Obviously for those of you who are not South African your options are limited, I wish I had alternatives for you because there is nothing more annoying than trying to get onto a website which is struggling to handle the traffic, although I’m sure the Comrades Association has made provision for this.  Also to you guys NOT in our time zone, if entries open at 12am South African time, then remember to make allowances for whichever time zone you are in.  I use this time converter thingy…


Totally Bummed

This weekend the VOB Grape Run marks the anniversary of the start of my running career – it was the first 21.1km I ever did (I didn’t first run a 5km and then a 10km and so on, I just went big from the start 🙂 ) which was almost exactly 7 months before my first Comrades.   But,  huge disappointment when I went to sign up all the entries were gone…  They only allow 1,500 entries since you run through some of the most magnificent wine farms in the Cape.

Now I understand the reasoning behind restricting entries but when I emailed to find out if there were any substitutions for people not running (there is a huge wine festival the day before the race so guaranteed there will be at least 1 person of the 1,500 not making it on the day), they said no…

If there is anyone out there who has an entry and isn’t going to run please let me know and I’ll go to VOB and try again, if not I’ll see you out there running the 5km with one of the new running converts Vanessa (I can’t claim her conversion, that belongs to someone else unfortunately).

Comrades Talk

On Wednesday last week I went to one of the Comrades Road Show talks – I went to one before the first Comrades I did and I found it quite interesting.  If you have one in your area then I’d urge you to attend, even if it is just for some motivation, if not then here are a few interesting facts they parted with:

  • The 2010 Comrades medal is 20mm bigger than the regular one (which still makes it the smallest medal I have) – if you aren’t sure what to do with another medal then make sure you read this.
  • The Guinness World Records guys will be out to see if we set a new one for ‘The Most People Running an Ultra Marathon’ – so you will be part of that record, what a great bragging opportunity!
  • Women traditionally only make up 18% of the field – so come on ladies, you know you can do it you grow human beings for heavens sake!!
  • 17% of the field won’t finish – so make sure you train your body with running and train your mind by reading Reluctant Runner 🙂
  • The average age in 2008 was 41 for Males and 40 for females – where are all the younger generations??  There are no excuses, I’m 28 and have a full-time job and I’m in a relationship (no kids but there are dogs, 2 of them) so get your bums into gear!!
  • Wally Hayward was 80 years and 10 months old when he completed his last Comrades Marathon – again, there are no excuses!!
  • If you fancy winning an entry  the Comrades association is giving away 10 free entries – all you have to do is sms 2010 to 38275, you can do this now before Novice entries open on November 1st.  Oh and sms’s cost R10 just to warn you.
The Comrades one is on the bottom left in the corner.

The Comrades Medal is on the bottom left in the corner.

Calling all Comrades Novices

Novices, Noobs, Newbies, First-timers – whatever you want to call yourselves, I’m speaking to YOU!!

Over the past few weeks I’ve had some correspondence from people who are planning on making Comrades 2010 their first attenmpt at the Ultimate Human Race and to tell you the truth I’m flattered that there are some of you who are looking for any advice or just want to muffle those little voices which are saying “You’re crazy, you can’t do this”  – by reading my musings…

In light of this I’ve decided to create another section here on Reluctant Runner for those of you who are planning on doing the Comrades for the first time in 2010 – it will be called First-Timers (I know, so totally original), where I will be writing posts dedicated to the first-time runners of this amazing race.

So, if you have anything you’d like to contribue, questions about the race or if you just want a place to vent or if you need some motivation then feel free to do so here!!!

Never Again!!!

This is what I said when I practically dragged myself out of the water after the swim on Saturday, and then I said it again and again after I finished the race…

So as I’m sure you can figure out I didn’t drown although I came pretty close to it.  I had the whole day to work myself up into a bit of a froth because the event only started at 15:00 which was just enough time for the wind to pick up and create waves, complete with white horses on the Clanwilliam dam which is where we were doing the swim – and damn did the buoys we have to swim around look far away!!

At the start I stood back and allowed the faster, more professional looking people to go ahead.  About 100 metres from shore I took in a lungful of water and then went into a flat panic because I couldn’t breathe, I was being swum over by other participants, swamped by waves and I couldn’t see the support boat.  So after bobbing around trying to get my breath back and fighting back the tears I managed to calm myself and carry on heading in the direction which was nowhere near shore.  Luckily I struck up a conversation with 2 other swimmers who were just behind me who had had a similar experience – apparently most first timers “almost drown” – not so sure about that but there you go…

I came in nowhere near the front and absolutely exhausted after swimming breaststroke the whole way because I was too scared to put my face back into the water.  I managed to redeem myself by passing a few people on the bike and run legs although when I crossed the finish line I wasn’t feeling fabulous and was a bit zoned out for the rest of the evening.

Today, as I write this I’m making plans to collect a swimming schedule to follow on my own now that my swimming lessons are done.  I’m not sure if I want to compete in any more triathlons because I was seriously shaken on Saturday – which probably means that the Half Ironman will have to go on the back burner, but I’m going to keep trying with this swimming thing to get over that fear of whatever it is that seems to want to consume me when I think about open water swimming!

Preparing at the start

Preparing at the start

‘Helpful’ advice…

I’m a little bundle of nerves waiting in anticipation for tomorrow when I take part in my first triathlon – I really can’t believe I’m so nervous for the 800 metre swim, I mean I run 89km for heavens sake!!!

Anyway I’ve been receiving very ‘helpful’ tips from family and friends and I’d like to share some of them with you – my mom suggested I wear a brightly coloured shower cap so that people can see when and where I go under as I drown, this of course was after her suggestion of arm bands hidden in my wetsuit because of course they can’t see those…

My friend Vanessa offered to erect a stepladder on the shore of the dam to watch me through her binocs with a whistle at the ready to alert the safety personnel when my tired, limp body sinks below the surface…

Pollyotters and life-jackets were other options of course both redundant because the rules say “No flotation devices”.  I am in the process of trying to persuade my partner to hire/borrow/steal a rowing-boat so that he can follow me and make sure my worries of impending death by drowning do not come true…

The race only starts at 15:00 tomorrow afternoon so I’d appreciate a little prayer around that time as I make my way into the water with everyone else.


Looks about my size...