Fresh from completing my third Comrades – well, as fresh as one can be after running 89.2km – like many of the thousands of men and women who took part in the Ultimate Human Race, I am thinking about how I got to this point, and the future. Will I be running on 4 June 2017? – BY CAREL NOLTE
One of the reasons the Comrades is so special – and there are many – is the fascinating story around each entrant. I don’t think anyone just gets up and decides to do this race, it takes some planning and commitment. So, my Comrades story started in March 2012 when I ran my first race, the Nike 10km night run. I had weighed over 120kg just a short while before – I still weigh around 95kg, so I am no fitness mag front page model – and running 10km was very daunting! Fast-forward to 2016 and I have four Comrades medals, including my Back to Back. How did that happen?
Much has been written about training for the Comrades, and there are many, many resources. I devour magazines like Modern Athlete, read blogs by Sean Falconer, listen to podcasts by OldMutualLive and @bigbradbrown, and make use of the resources offered by my running club, Born2Run. (PS: So proud of my club: We won the women’s team award at this year’s Comrades with three runners in the top 10 plus lucky number 13!). Anyway, getting back to resources… these are tools that all aspiring Comrades runners should make use of, but I also think I have a few secret weapons that have enabled me to enjoy and successfully complete the journey between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Here are a few of them:
As the top fundraiser in both 2015 and 2016 for Comrades Charities (this year I raised R175 000), the privilege of being able to raise money and to contribute has meant that I have gotten far more in return. Not only does my chosen charity PinkDrive provide goody bags and support pre-race day, on the day they have a magnificent water point which is pure pink energy vibe – last year it carried me up Pollyshorts and this year it welcomed me home with 7km to go and I need a last push with only 35 minutes left on the clock!
As a charity fundraiser you book a spot in the C seeding – meaning you are right by the action on the town hall balcony when it all starts and you gain a few minutes since you can start running immediately (the elites, A and B batch speed off!) Plus your queue at pickup is very short as you have a dedicated area. All in all, a no brainer to contribute!
2 Have fun!
I remind myself often that I choose to do this race, something many people can’t do because of illness or circumstance, and so I must enjoy it. I stay relaxed – getting stressed uses energy I need for the hills! And I laugh, a lot! My running partner Allan and seconder Kurt provide great humour, and on the day I try and smile at people along the road, sing when I hear lekker music, and soak up the glorious celebration of something so uniquely South African. Life has many ups and downs – like the Comrades – and it is during the tough times that one must remind oneself that there is a lot to be grateful for and to enjoy. So laugh, especially at yourself, have fun, and expect the best from others!
3 Mix up training and have it fit your lifestyle
Clearly one must put in some running pre race day. Apart from running a qualifying marathon in under five hours, additional, constant running is needed. This year I ran very little, around 500km, and most of that was in the gym in 5km to 10km sessions. I did one marathon and a couple of halves. I definitely had a base from the previous two years, where I ran around 1100km and 850km respectively in the year preceding Comrades, but in 2016 I had very limited time and many other commitments. Of course, I could have used that as an excuse and not entered, but I stuck to my gym short runs and used my lifestyle to train. One example was an overseas ski trip I did for work in April. (Yep, it’s a tough life, I know!)
I was very worried about injuring myself, because I am no ski pro, and I was concerned about losing out on gym for 10 days and not being able to train. Well, Club Med Val Thorens Sensations in France changed my mind – and I am convinced, added hugely to my Comrades finish. Not only did I have a memory-making time, but my Comrades training actually improved, not lessened! (Rumours that the outdoor jacuzzi helped are true – sitting in steaming hot water with snow around you does wonders for tired leg muscles.)
Skiing uses leg muscles and core strength – well, unless you want to end up flat on your face the whole time – and so my week of skiing was perfect training. My legs got a couple of hours of tough, intense training every day, in different parts of my legs, all of which being useful come Comrades, when you are on your feet for 12 hours. (By the way, this is the first year I lost no toenails and my legs were not stiff and sore – fully recovered by the Wednesday post race day.) In addition, my ski instructor, provided free by Club Med as part of my all-inclusive package, helped me develop my core even more. We purposefully focused on a strong core to make my skiing better, and to assist with Comrades preparation. Again, this year my body was far less sore and I attribute a lot of that to my skiing holiday.
Spending a week at Club Med Val Thorens, I was also concerned about diet. Apart from not over-indulging in the ‘bad foods,’ I needed loads of protein and variety to keep me on track for Comrades. Again I need not have fret, because the buffets were delicious, healthy, full of variety and some of the best food I have ever had.
Secrets to Success
So, there you have it, my ways of not letting a busy lifestyle become an excuse not to prepare for Comrades. Find clever ways to spice up your training and have Comrades compliment, not dominate, your life! Oh, and of course, don’t forget to pick the best running partner and seconding team – the people who want only the very best for you and are prepared to slog out 12 hours in tough conditions with you, for you. See you in 2017, maybe…