It’s such a pity that South Africa’s two premier ultramarathons are run just a few weeks apart. It’s like those poor people whose birthdays fall on Christmas day or New Year. It’s simply too much excitement in too short a time. Comrades Marathon runners are compelled to choose. One of the events must take precedence. If their goal is to run a successful Comrades they must make Two Oceans the supporting act for Comrades. Two Oceans ambitions must be cast aside, and the focus must be the Comrades marathon. For Two Oceans fans it means discarding the Comrades. It’s a little like choosing the Rolling Stones as the supporting act for The Beatles. Neither should be the supporting act for the other, It’s Interesting that many Cape based runners call closed season after they’ve earned their Two Oceans medals. For many of them the Comrades is a bridge too far.
As you read this, over 11000 Two Oceans runners will have battled up the Mighty Chapman’s Peak, the race leaders are probably already long finished.
The dilemma for many of those running today is that in an ideal world it should be possible to race both famous races. But unfortunately, it can’t, or shouldn’t be attempted (Of course the double has been successfully achieved by Gerda Steyn, Caroline Cherry, Frith Van der Merwe, and Derek Preiss to mention a few exceptions) but the double isn’t wise. Apart from these talented running gods (some of those who chose their parents very cleverly) the cost of RACING both is too excessive. After the mountainous and arduous 56 kilometres of the Two Oceans most runners’ legs are too battered and their bodies too exhausted to successfully tackle another, even tougher ultramarathon. Chat to today’s finishers. I doubt if many of them will be in the mood for another intense contest.
The old running textbooks and coaches recommended a day’s recovery for every mile raced. (Experience has taught me those old textbooks were not far wrong) The Two Oceans is an old fashioned 35 miler.
After 35 days of recovery that would leave just three weeks to train hard again for Comrades. It doesn’t sound possible or wise.
And yet the double is so tempting. The two races are two of the World’s most famous and iconic marathons. It’s heart-breaking to miss either event.
If I can stick to earlier’ my musical analogy
The Two Oceans is pure Rock n Roll. It is famed for its beauty and for its fun,and its sense of humour. This is summed up by some of those who have brought their brand of quirkiness to the race. (The Pub of Eternal Despair, and the giant 6 runner Shongololo are two ridiculous characters that spring to mind.) Noel Stamper’s mid race swim in the sea at Hout Bay another.
Comrades is serious classical music. There is little to laugh about. The morning after Two Oceans a runner, sporting a couple of blisters, might limp onto a wine farm. The morning after Comrades a runner might wake up in Addington hospital. No one considers running Comrades as a giant centipede or pantomime horse. Nor are any Comrades runners keen to “do a Noel Stamper’ and nip off for a quick dip in Inanda Dam. It’s just too serious a challenge to risk catastrophe. Even the respective finisher’s medals emphasise the differences between the two races The Two Oceans medal is an exciting new design every year. It is always flashy, and slightly boastful, The Comrades medal is small understated and simple.
Heloooo! Two Oceans stages a half marathon. Comrades doesn’t have easier options.
Even the starting rituals speak loudly of the differences between the two races. Comrades starts with Shosholoza, the stirring Chariots of Fire and the famous cockerel Crow. Two Oceans runners are sent on their way with popular music and the almost Pythonesque dirge of the Fish Horn.
But here is the good news it is not necessary to sacrifice one for the other. It is possible to run them both. It is indeed possible to have your cake and eat it. It’s just that one must be a training run and the other a race. Over the years many runners have chosen to run Two Oceans as an exciting training run for Comrades. I always made Two Oceans my Rock n Roll fun run. It is the perfect long training run. I enjoyed using it as part of my Comrades training build-up. That’s what I hope Comrades runners have run today!
This blog is published by kind permission of The Citizen Newspaper.
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