Perhaps the most astonishing revelation of the glorious and superhuman Springbok rugby world cup triumph a couple of weeks ago was that they were able to win three massive, and exhausting games in a row. (Albeit each by one agonising point.)
Eben Etzebeth is purported to have said “Why win by two points or more? It will look like we tried too hard.”(more…)
I’m not a superstitious person. I’ll walk under a ladder, and I’ll stroke a black cat that crosses my path. I hardly notice Friday 13th and I would happily sit in seat in seat 13 on a plane if there was one. I eat the chicken on a wishbone, and I always forget to make a wish.
But I would never dare forget to greet Arthur Newton as I run past Arthur’s seat in the Comrades marathon.(more…)
“Jissie dis ver” (Jeez it’s far) Zola Budd muttered under her breath as we ran shoulder to shoulder down the Berea. We were grinding our way through the last few kilometres of the 2012 Comrades marathon and both of us were hanging on desperately and counting down the last few kilometres to the finish at Kingsmead stadium.
“Vasbyt Zola” I replied, “ons is amper daar.” (Hang on Zola, we’re nearly there)(more…)
I can still hear the late Don Oliver’s calming words delivered in his charming cockney accent.
“Don’t you worry Comrades novices you’re going to be alright. You’ve got Don Oliver’s pacing chart and his wise words to guide you home.”
How I miss him. For nearly 40 years Don, and fellow Rocky Road Runners coach Dennis “tombstones” Tabakin advised novices at monthly training panel discussions. I was often an invited guest speaker at these evening talks, and I was privileged to watch these two experts help hundreds of novices take their first tentative steps on their Comrades journeys. Then months later Don and Dennis would help them complete those journeys. The Rocky Novice panel talks were so popular that every talk was jam-packed, and even experienced runners and Comrades veterans attended.(more…)
“The reason you beat me in the 'Comrades Marathon', Bruce”, Hoseah Tjale once remarked, “Is that I start cramping with 10 kilometres to go in the race and you start cramping with 5 kilometres to go. While I’m fighting cramps in those critical few kilometres, you run away from me.”(more…)
Glued into one of my old scrapbooks are some faded dog-eared newspaper articles of the 1978 Comrades marathon. That year I ran my second Comrades Marathon and my first down run. To be honest I kept these articles because my 14th place finish meant my name appeared in those newspapers that published the first 20 finishers. Fame at last! One photograph in that scrapbook, however, always catches my eye. It’s a faded black and white photo of Alan Robb’s head poking out from above a shower door. Clearly, he is enjoying a shower in Durban’s famous Kingsmead stadium. Alan’s running vest is also captured in the photo. It dangles from a towel rack with Alan’s Comrades number, 1704 still pinned to it.(more…)
Last Sunday’s epic 42nd running of the London Marathon reminded me that I once ran the London Marathon with Gordon Ramsay. Yes “Hell’s kitchens/Kitchen Nightmares/The F word” Gordon Ramsay.
For any astonished non-believing sceptics reading this article who doubt Ramsay’s ability to run a marathon, allow me to startle you further. Gordon Ramsay has completed 3 Comrades marathons between the years 2000 and 2004. His best time is 10:31 (up). For good measure he is also an Iron Man medallist. In language spiced with profanities he rated the Comrades as the toughest @#$& race he has ever run.(more…)
In 1972 a team of English runners from the famous athletics club, Tipton Harriers, in Staffordshire, arrived in Durban intent on sweeping all before them in that year’s Comrades marathon. They immediately caused a sensation when it was learnt that they were relying on a new revolutionary new carbohydrate loading regime called the Saltin diet to boost their chances, and that they had held striptease shows back at home to help raise funds for their trip. Back then in conservative “verkramp” South Africa this was scandalous behaviour.(more…)
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.(more…)
Casting my mind back over nearly half a century of running I realise that I have very few regrets, very few moments where I think “if only”
Yes “if only I had run a little faster and been a little bolder in the 1980 Comrades marathon, I might have won the race”
But Alan Robb deserved to win that year, and I was a very young runner, and was delighted with my second-place finish that morning. And, besides, a year later I won.(more…)
There are few moments in one’s life, where a day or experience will stay with you forever. You could count them on two hands, and this was one of those times.
Everyone is familiar with the famous Aesop’s tale of the tortoise and the hare, and how the two animals raced each other one day, and despite all the odds stacked against him, the tortoise plodded his way to victory.(more…)
How to tackle the down Comrades marathon, particularly for novices.
No one sleeps well the night before the Comrades marathon. And tonight, Saturday night the 27th August will be no exception, as thousands of Comrades runners try counting sheep while their nerves are jangling, and the butterflies in their stomach are more like angry swarms of bees. It won’t help that they will be sleeping in strange beds, with different pillows, while being continually disturbed by runners in the neighbouring rooms who keep flushing the loo and switching their lights on and off as they prepare their running gear for race morning.(more…)
Through the bedlam and chaos, the screaming spectators, the over- enthusiastic pats on the back and the thick acrid braai smoke I could see the Caltex garage to my left, and ahead, not too far away, the summit of 45th Cutting.
My legs were heavy wooden planks and it seemed sharp knives were stabbing at my quadriceps muscles, but I was running strongly and purposefully and nothing was going to force me stop.(more…)
It was the morning before the Comrades marathon in 2019 and I was gazing out of the 15th floor window of my room in a Durban beach front hotel when I witnessed an astonishing sight.
No, it wasn’t the brightly billowing spinnakers of 100 international racing yachts nor was it the conning tower of a nuclear submarine surfacing off the bluff.(more…)
Chondromalacia patella, Iliotibial- band friction syndrome, stress fracture, upper respiratory tract infection.
This horrendous list of chronic conditions sums up the traps and mine-fields that await runners as they train intensely through this critical phase of their Comrades Marathon preparation.(more…)
Perched on a tall wooden scaffold near the summit of Cowie’s Hill on August 28th, an eagle-eyed camera will be filming the progress of thousands of Comrades marathon runners as they battle their way towards the finish of the race in Durban. It’s a particularly sadistic location for a camera because it will catch the runners at their weakest moments. They will have run over 70 kilometres of hills as they struggle up “Cowies”, including the bone jarring descents of Botha’s Hill, and Field’s Hill, and then they will have toiled through the sweaty humidity of Pinetown. Most will have boasted to loved ones, friends and family that they (more…)
Every weekend, while training for the Comrades marathon, the Comrades King, the late, great Wally Hayward, would leave his house in Germiston very early in the morning and run all the way to Pretoria’s Fountains Valley.
After what Wally described as “a refreshing dip and a wash in the fountains” He would run all the way back to his home in Germiston. The round trip was in excess of 100 kilometres. In Wally’s opinion this weekly long run was an essential part of his Comrades training programme.
“But I’m sure that nowadays you youngsters run much further than that on your long runs.” He enquired when we chatted about how training had evolved over the years. (more…)
As we started the quadriceps pummeling descent of Field’s Hill in the 2012 “down” Comrades marathon. Zola Budd-Pieterse turned to me and muttered “ Jissie dis ver”. “How much further do we still have to run?”
Zola and I had been running together for the at least an hour. Earlier in the day I had been about to pass her, when in a rare moment of genius, it dawned on me (more…)
The niggle in my lower left leg began to irritate me two or three days before the Two Oceans half marathon that I was hoping to run on Easter Saturday. At first, I chose to ignore it, but the pain persisted and when I attempted a gentle three kilometre jog the day before the race the pain became sharper and more intense.
At that point my sensible, wise running angel sat on my shoulder and (more…)
Photo credit Tim Graham/Getty ImagesAs Comrades runners start the hard winter training grind culminating on race day on August 28th many of them are still wrestling with exactly what type of training they should be doing on a daily and weekly basis. Should they be running hills? Should they include speed sessions? How many long runs should they complete? and how many kilometres should they run each week and, each month? At this critical time of the Comrades marathon preparation, I am asked these questions on an almost daily basis. These questions are not as simple to answer as they might appear to be. The problem is that rather like running shoes there is no “one size suits all” answer. So much depends on what each race runner’s goal is. Is he or she hoping for a top 10 finish, a silver medal or 12 hours, Vic Clapham medal? It also depends on how much time they have at their disposal to train. How much time can they steal from work and family and social commitments. Finally, and most importantly it depends on how wisely they selected their parents! In other words what type of genetic advantage or disadvantage they bring to the task. (more…)
Coaches Bruce, Iain and Frank with athletes Jeannie (recently won Gauteng 21km championship gold Vet women) and Wayne.Back in the 1970s when I started running, I had not heard of the concept of a running coach for anyone other than for a handful of elite Olympic athletes. In fact, when I first decided to lace up some running shoe (priced at R4.50 a pair) I think the word “coach” was more familiar to me as a rather posh word for a bus or railway carriage. I’m sure my running companions of that era felt the same. I joke, of course, but the two best known coaches at that time were already from a bygone era. (more…)
Now that the dust has settled and Comrades runners all over the World are coming to terms with the idea of an August/early spring date for our beloved race let’s look at how some things are going to change, how much about Comrades will never quite be the same again and how some aspects of Comrades will always remain the same.
The most exciting news of course, is that we are going to have a Comrades marathon in which to participate, to enjoy watching, and to savour. After two years in the lockdown wilderness our beloved Comrades is back. I have a feeling that the 2022 Comrades marathon (more…)
A lesson from SpaceIt was May 5th 1961, and astronaut Alan Shephard had been sitting in his capsule Freedom 7 on top of a Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket for 4 hours. His mission was to become the first American in space and only the second astronaut to make this hazardous flight. (Russia’s Yuri Gagarin had beaten him to the “first man in space” honour a few weeks before.) Shephard’s mission in space was only supposed to have lasted a little over 15 minutes but several delays had led to him waiting a few hours for lift-off and also to his becoming increasingly frustrated. Several morning cups of coffee and orange juice had already resulted in Shephard having to urinate inside his spacesuit. Shephard was impatient to fly. He was the one in danger and he was ready. He took little comfort in the knowledge that every piece of his spacecraft had “been built by the lowest bidder “Nevertheless, he was prepared to fly. Several small irritating problems had led to mission control repeatedly delaying the launch. He knew mission control was ready. He was ready, and so he finally demanded “c’mon, let’s light this candle.” (more…)
“I don’t really train at all, Bruce,“ she replied. “The distances I race are so ridiculous, the best approach is not to train at all. The best way to prepare for an ultra is to be really well rested.”Eleanor Robinson was a major force in ultra-mega running back in the 1980s. She retired with a persistent foot injury 15 years ago, but there is still great wisdom in what Eleanor had to say back then. When an epic journey lies ahead of us, it's best to be well rested before we embark on that journey. And, in 3 weeks’ time, an epic journey lies ahead for 18,000 Comrades Marathon runners. I know Comrades runners are obsessed with completing their last long runs. (Several groups and clubs ran 60 km training runs this weekend). I also know there will be many who are stressing over lost training and interrupted schedules. However, the intense training time for Comrades is almost at an end. Lost training cannot be recovered, and runners should remind themselves that even the elite Comrades gold medallists suffer from training schedule hiccups. I believe there is perhaps one more week of hard work ahead, and then it is time for Comrades runners to start the great, steep training glide down to race day. Remember, at this stage, there is very little runners can do to get fitter. But there is so much they can do to over-egg the pudding. I would suggest a last 20 to 25 kilometre run next weekend as a last long run and a short distance race or time trial, just to check fitness and readiness to race, on the 4th. Looking back at my old training diaries I see that after the first week or 10 days of May 1983 I slashed my weekly training mileage drastically, dropping from 180 kilometres a week to 120 kilometres, then 80 kilometres and, finally, a few easy runs in the week before the race. Obviously this is the training schedule of someone hoping to win the race, but the principle remains the same for every runner at Comrades; tapering for race day is an essential ingredient in preparing for the Comrades. This is my last training week for May 1983, a pattern that varied little for over a decade;
- Sunday - steady 15 - 20 km
- Monday - easy 8 km
- Tuesday - easy 5 km
- Thursday - no run
- Friday - no run (took a very good look at the route instead)
- Saturday - no run
- Sunday - Comrades marathon 1st in 5:30:12