Updated: Mar 13, 2019

Not many people are aware that Gordon Ramsay is a seasoned marathon runner. Yes, that’s Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen fame, the legendary chef decorated with 17 Michelin star awards, and famous for his extremely colourful language.

I met Gordon properly at the starting line of the London marathon a few years ago and we ran side by side for a few kilometres in the early stages. Of course, he is a fascinating running companion and in a wonderful conversation, about cooking, chefs, and marathons I was delighted to learn that his favourite race is the Comrades Marathon.

Yes, once again surprise, surprise, Gordon Ramsay has run the Comrades marathon. In fact, Gordon has started 5 Comrades and finished 3 and he is justifiably proud of his best time of 10.31. I’m not sure that even the Comrades Marathon Association are aware that one of the World’s most famous chefs has run two down Comrades marathons and one up run.

I would imagine his language was littered with expletives when he first caught sight of Polly Shortts.

I met Gordon Ramsay for the first, very briefly at the Comrades marathon expo in 2000 when he very kindly thrust a signed copy of a book of his favourite recipes into my hand and slipped off to collect his race numbers.

Recently while paging through Gordon Ramsay’s book and remembering our shared kilometres in London I was reminded of his culinary advice; “The secret lies in the recipe, the ingredients and the preparation, Bruce. It’s all about the work you put in before you start cooking” Or indeed, running I should have added. The rule applies to both cooking and running. The more intense the thought that goes into the preparation the better the result.

As we approach the critical and most important stage of Comrades marathon training it is important to realise that the key to training properly with training is to prepare and deliver the perfect outcome for each runner. The goal is for runner is to be at their best, fittest, strongest and perfectly primed to run their best possible race on the 9th June. Many runners just “train as hard as they can for as long as they can” and hope for the best. It’s very much a hit and miss approach supported by the belief that success goes to those who train harder than anyone else. Increasingly we have come to understand that success is achieved by those who train cleverly, and wisely, blending together all the training ingredients to create the perfect run. (We call it peaking for race day) Those who believe that peaking is very much a hit-and-miss dream and really depends on bio-rhythms, luck and the alignment of your star signs need only to look at the career of the great Finnish distance runner Lasse Viren. Viren was so skilled at the science of peaking that he was invincible for just one week 4 years apart. The result of his meticulous planning and preparation were 4 Olympic gold medals at 10000 and 5000 metres 4 years apart.

And the vital ingredients for the successful Comrades marathon recipe include;

  1. Timing- Knowing when to start the hard work is half the secret. As far as I am concerned that time is almost upon us. The weekend of Friday 1st of March is an auspicious date. The grind of hard training will include the months of March, April (the critical month) and the first two weeks of May.

  2. Bulk mileage- This is the meat and potatoes and substance of a Comrades training build up. So, from the first weekend of March runners need to start grinding out training kilometres on the road. The leading runners will be training twice a day, every day of the week. Those with less lofty ambitions still need to be running at least 5 or 6 days a week. Consistency is the key to building great endurance and strength.

  3. Quality running – The icing on top of a successful training programme. I’m a die- hard Lydiard fan and so after several weeks of endurance and strength training, I believe runners should cut -back on the bulk training and sharpen up and hone their fitness with a month or so of quality running. This can include hill sessions, track work, short distance races and time trials. ( Arthur Lydiard was a famous New Zealand coach whose revolutionary approach to training produced a number of legendary New Zealand runners whose exploits gave rise to the book, “Kiwis can Fly”) Perhaps his most famous runner was Peter Snell who won Olympic gold medals at 800 metres and 1500 metres but who under Lydiard’s guidance still ran 100 mile ( 160 km. weeks) as part of his training build up)

  4. Rest and recovery- A long cooling off recovery taper of about 3 weeks to race day. This taper delivers a runner to the Comrades starting line fresh, strong and keen to run.

If those essential ingredients are blended correctly and in the correct order on race morning at 5.30 am outside the Durban City hall they will serve up perfect Comrades marathon runners, strong, light, sharp and raring to go. They may not receive Michelin stars for their efforts but they will receive something equally as important; that coveted Comrades medal.

#comradesmarathon #gordonramsay #comradestraining #comrades2019

With thanks to The Citizen newspaper, South Africa.

Photograph by Craig Dutton

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