Bossing the Big One


Last year, Charne Bosman shone in her debut Comrades Marathon, placing fifth and also the first SA woman home. She chats to Modern Athlete about eyeing a podium spot this year, and running in memory of her late father.

In 2013, Charne’s move up to the big ultras fell perfectly into place: Having won the SA Marathon title early in 2012 and then finished second later that year in the Bonitas City to City 50km, she ran a sparkling 3:40 in her debut Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, placing third in the women’s race. This was later changed to second following the disqualification of winner Natalia Volgina for a doping infringement. Then she followed that up with a 6:53 in her first Comrades Marathon to take fifth place, and was also the first local woman over the line. “After Comrades, people saw me as a proper athlete. I had no idea how huge it was! If anything, it’s South Africa’s own Olympics,” says Charne. “I’ve put the race on this pedestal, so it was always going to be my main focus this year.”


However, Charne’s build-up to this year’s ‘Down Run’ has been far from easy. Shortly after her stellar showing in last year’s Comrades, her father passed away in July, and for Charne, who says he was her biggest supporter, it was a life-changing moment. “He was always at races with my mom. He went with me to medicals and travelled to see me compete. I think the positive thing I can take out of it, was that he knew I was running well at that stage, and this year’s run will be for him.” She says she will pin a small photo of her dad onto her kit at Comrades and he will be her inspiration in the race. “If I want to give up, I will just remind myself that I’m running with him. He will be there with me through every kilometre.”

On top of her huge loss, Charne’s health also took strain this past year. Last November, she noticed her heart rate going off the charts during a training run, and was subsequently diagnosed with an overactive thyroid. After receiving medication, Charne hit the road again, but it seized up a week before this year’s Old Mutual Om Die Dam 50km. “I felt tired and lost a lot of weight, and I remember struggling on race day from the 34km mark. Eventually, the doctors and I found out that taking my kelp supplements only makes it worse!” After cutting the kelp out, Charne got back to training feeling positive again. “I was scared the 2014 Comrades would be out of reach, but I did a few long runs in March and felt strong again. Despite everything that’s happened, I knew I’d get through all of this. I’ve always believed that you won’t get tests in life you can’t survive. Running has also helped me through it all.”


Even after her incredible ‘Big C’ debut, she’s determined to correct a few mistakes from 2013. “I think I over-trained last year, and I was struggling with a knee niggle, so I was distracted by that, too,” she says. “Then I didn’t eat on the route and was sent to the medical tent for drips at the finish. This time, it’s about arriving at the start healthy, and I’ve been introducing bananas and potatoes in my training runs as well.” Her husband of eight years, Carel, will also be a constant support on the route, once again riding on his motorcycle from water point to water point. “He was there to give me drinks throughout and keep me going. He’s a cyclist, so he knows the kind of lifestyle I live.”

Now it’s all about getting the small stuff right for Charne. The introduction of strength work into her training has helped her quads and the Nedbank running club’s training camp in hilly Graskop was the perfect mimic of the Comrades route. “I just want to enjoy the moment. I have a plan, so I must concentrate on keeping my head, not going too hard at Field’s Hill, and then getting onto that podium. It’s time for South Africans to shine again!”

Follow Charne on Twitter: @charnebosman