Tag Archives: Comrades Marathon

Hello Running!

My first attempt at putting in a bit of running after my six week check up – shoulder felt fine, legs felt a little shocked! This was on a dirt road loop so perhaps a slightly better pace may be found on tar. I’m in no rush though – if I play my cards right I still have another 20 years on the road! If I don’t play my cards right, you can scatter my ashes on the Comrades route where I will shuffle my way up and down for all eternity! No, let me get that right – where I will run like a Kenyan gazelle for all eternity!




The Complete Balance Comrades Project is so exciting. A pilot group has signed up to test run this concept and, being September already, we are ready to rock and roll. Our attack on the Big C is a three-pronged one – proper nutrition throughout, strength work and mental focus. This is of course in addition to the normal training programme.

Our group will be guided by a successful seven-times Comrades runner and registered dietician with a Masters in Dietetics and a qualified and experienced biokineticist.

Each person will work with the dietician who will help them to reach their healthy racing weight and, more importantly, to find and practise optimal race day nutrition. Every week the bio will work with the group on strengthening exercises to help withstand the pain of a down run.

The third prong of the attack is mental focus – and this needs to come from the runner. I love the image above. It’s worth printing, laminating and sticking on one’s mirror, or treadmill for that matter.

But what is focus? Focus involves many things, mental and physical, but here are a few I have thought of with Comrades in mind:

  1.   Focus is saying no to too much alcohol, fast foods and sugary treats. It’s fine to have a glass or two of wine now and then or a slice of cake on a special birthday but if you make a habit of it, it will impact on your recovery between workouts. These things cause huge inflammation in the body which an athlete (or anyone for that matter) does not need.
  2. Focus is running easy when your program asks for easy. It’s this easy running (heart rate below aerobic threshold) that increases your ability to go further and be strong while you’re about it. We are all terribly ego-driven and running easy is something that not a lot of people get right. Don’t race too often – you need to get to that start line strong and injury-free.
  3. Focus is making sure that we organise our lives around getting plenty of sleep. Adequate sleep leads to good recovery. Good recovery leads to solid training.
  4. Focus is committing to four runs per week, come hell or high water. Bad weather is not an excuse. If you are not fully recovered from the last workout, run easy but RUN!! Or WALK! Or CRAWL!! But get out there!

Never Quit

Winston Churchill was such a wise old goat. He inspired so many and he still inspires me today.

My Comrades history must look pretty shocking to those runners that cruise the distance every year in under 12 hours – four DNF and four DNS. DNS means failure to qualify and DNF means failure to finish in time. I’ve been close – 80km on my two down runs, 60km on my first up run where I panicked and quit. Plain stupidity and inexperience. 75km on my second up run because I knew that it was physically impossible to make the timing mat at the top of Pollys at 79km.

But I ain’t bovvered and I just keep on keeping on, my eye always on that insignificantly sized medal, and my mind full of quotes from that whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking hero.

What made me think of this is my Banting group. They inspire me as much as I want to inspire them. Some of them have been extremely successful but it has been a long road. Others still need to travel that long road to reclaim their good health. There is always some stumbling along the way and there are obstacles big and small. It reminds me of my running, especially my Comrades journey.

37 years ago I was so asthmatic that I could not walk 100 metres, let alone run. I started with walking and I walked and walked and walked. My chest got so much better so I started a bit of running. In my thirties I thought a 5 kay run was incredibly far. In my forties I eventually worked up to the half marathon. I was 50 when I did my first full marathon. Imagine if I can celebrate my 60th birthday with my first Comrades medal next year!

So my message to my Banting peeps is this – never, never, never give up! You may stumble or you may fall but you WILL get to where you are going.


Last LSD for the OG before the Big C!


Apart from slightly sore ribs from his run in with a cow, Ysterbok is looking strong one week out from his first crack at the Big C. He turned 60 last weekend so even being ready to toe that start line is no mean feat.

We ran a chilled 16 kilometres this morning in the most beautiful weather EG has to offer – crisp and clear. We trundled along to the sound of bird chatter and snorting cows – the bitches are probably snorting because they haven’t managed to completely crush the Old Goat yet!

So now it’s just a matter of ticking over for a week, keeping healthy and making endless lists – what to pack in the car, what to pack in the fuel belt, what to pack in the bag that goes to the start in Durban, what to pack in the bag that goes to the end in Pietermaritzburg. Me? I’ll be packing a hip flask of the best dry red I can find and my sense of humour!

Fast and Furious

It’s so very hard not to be jealous of all the Comrades runners as they count down the days to the Big C. Yes, I even get jealous of their taper madness. The way they cringe when someone coughs near them. The way they furiously rub their weary legs with weird smelling stuff. The way they imagine they are coming down with the Black Plague or some sort of muscle paralysis.

So when I managed this run on Sunday – “fastest long run” according to TomTom – I was really, really chuffed. Maybe by this time next year I can join in the madness!

Day four….

It’s now day four of Blogging 101 and the assignment is to picture my audience (a person or group) and write specifically for them. I usually write with runners in mind. After all, this blog originated as my musings on a long slow journey to a Comrades finish.

I’m a country runner though, as opposed to a town runner. You may wonder what the difference is. We do have roads out here, albeit dirt roads, but there are lots of other differences.

We don’t run with a club and therefore there are no time trials. No problem. What we do have is the occasional bull squeezing through a fence, making a menacing noise with his nostrils, clearly intent on showing me who’s boss. The resulting sprint would have impressed Usain Bolt. I have also had to flee from an enormous pig with an anger problem, UP A HILL! So there is no lack of encouragement to go faster.

We don’t have garages for handy pit stops either. We have to make cunning use of ditches and long grass, all the while checking for malevolent wildlife. This is excellent training for those long ultras where there is never a handy porta-loo when you want one. The townies are at a definite disadvantage here.

We also have the most fabulous scenery, unmarred by buildings or traffic. I would love to run with my camera and share a picture from every run but I really need to concentrate on getting faster and that ain’t gonna help. My current focus is “don’t walk unless death is imminent” so stopping to take pictures may detract from that!

Please indulge me while I share a few pics from country runs taken before the “don’t walk” era: