As one of the funniest guys of running in South Africa, Rory Petzer is almost always laughing (in between eating)… except in the 2022 Comrades. He reckons he had nothing to smile about that day! Happily, the 2023 race went much, much better, and now he’s ready to take on the running world. As long as it doesn’t keep him away from his dogs too long, and he can be left in peace to think of his next jokes. Let’s just say there’s a lot going on in this comedian’s head! – By Sean Falconer
Being entrusted with the job of keeping two novice Comrades runners hydrated and motivated resulted in an epic day and a chance to experience the race in a completely different way. – By Catherine Dixon (with Janine Nortje)
We know that many of our readers are Comrades runners, and we’re keen to get your viewpoint on some of the concerning issues that have come out of the 2023 Comrades Marathon, so please take our poll and let us know your thoughts.
On Sunday 11 June, the Comrades Marathon will once again take to the roads between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, for the 96th edition of the Ultimate Human Race. As the thousands of runners tackle the 87.7km route, many will look to the guidance of the official Comrades Marathon Pacesetters to help them reach the finish within their target time, by hopping on to a pacing ‘bus’ led by these pacesetters.
The Comrades Pacesetters are all volunteers who regularly pace in races all over South Africa, under the auspices of one or more of the provincial pacesetting organisations. Being selected as a Comrades Pacesetter is considered a prestigious honour amongst the pacesetting community, and all the selected athletes have proven their pacing ability, fitness and reliability in the months leading up to Comrades. All of the Comrades Pacesetters have run the race a number of times before, and many have paced at Comrades before as well, so they bring a collective wealth of experience to the job.
While unofficial pacing has been part of the Comrades for many years, official pacing busses were first introduced to the race in 2003, with nine-time winner Bruce Fordyce (sub-9 Hours) amongst those first seven pacesetters, who led sub-9, sub-11 and sub-12 buses. Since then the pacing buses have become a big part of the Comrades Marathon, with the sub-12 buses in particular proving hugely popular as runners desperately try to beat the final cut-off, and many bus drivers are known for their singing, chanting and joking, which helps the runners get through the hard kilometres.
As per strict rules introduced at the beginning of 2019 by Athletics South Africa (ASA), there is a clear difference between ‘pacing,’ which benefits contenders for prizes, versus ‘pacesetting,’ which is aimed at slower, non-contenders. Pacing is only allowed when officially sanctioned by athletics officials (national or provincial), while pacesetting is allowed as long as the race organiser has approved it. In this case, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has once again given permission for the official Comrades Pacesetters to carry flags in the Ultimate Human Race, and runners should take note that these are the only official pacesetters in the race.
Each bus driver will carry a distinctive flag denoting their target time, ranging in 30-minute intervals from sub-9 to sub-12, so that runners can easily spot them, hop on the bus of their choice, and rely on the Pacesetter to guide them home on time. This year, for the first time, the CMA has agreed to produce the flags that the bus drivers will carry, and Mr Price has come on board as well to kit the Pacesetters out for the Comrades Expo. (They will still run the race in their club colours.) Modern Athlete magazine is an official media partner of the Official Comrades Pacesetters, and will thus feature the Pacesetters in the mag before and after the race.
Tried and Trusted Pacers
The list of 2023 Comrades Pacesetters once again includes some well-known and highly experienced stalwarts of previous years, as well as a few new faces. Several important factors were taken into consideration in the selection process, including previous Comrades record, knowledge and experience of the route and distance, as well as historical pacesetting record, consistency and ability to lead a group home.
In the list below, they are arranged according to the target time they will be aiming for, and the list includes their name, home province, number of Comrades medals (for completing the race), and the number of times they have officially paced before in the Comrades. (Please note that where it says the runner is making their pacing debut, that pertains specifically to the Comrades. All are highly experienced Pacesetters, with many pacing races under their belts.)
SUB-9:00 (Bill Rowan medal)
Joe Faber (KwaZulu-Natal) – 24 Comrades (3 as Pacesetter)
Lizo Siko (Gauteng) – 3 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
SUB-9:30 (Safe Robert Mtshali medal)
Johan van Tonder (Gauteng) – 20 Comrades (11 as Pacesetter)
Nkosinathi Singonzo (Free State) – 3 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
SUB-10:00 (Robert Mtshali medal)
Maropeng George Mojela (Limpopo) – 12 Comrades (5 as Pacesetter)
Sbusiso Mlangeni (Gauteng) – 5 Comrades (2 as Pacesetter)
Wendy Mangena (Gauteng) – 11 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
SUB-10:30 (Safe Bronze medal)
James Nkosi (KwaZulu-Natal) – 14 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Tankiso ‘Moss’ Seabo (Free State) – 5 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Youssef Kanouni (Western Province) – 9 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
SUB -11:00 (Bronze medal)
Jeff Ramokoka (Gauteng) – 22 Comrades (8 as Pacesetter)
Tumo Mokhatla (Free State) – 6 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Ashraf Orrie (Western Province) – 7 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
SUB-11:30 (Safe Vic Clapham medal)
Rahuma Lucas Seleka (Limpopo) – 14 Comrades (4 as Pacesetter)
Shaunie Maregele (Western Province) – 16 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
Frans Ramoshaba (Mpumalanga) – 1 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
SUB-12:00 (Vic Clapham medal)
Shahieda Thungo (Gauteng) – 5 Comrades (4 as Pacesetter)
Lazarus Malebana (Gauteng) – 12 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Sibusiso Mthembu (Gauteng) – 4 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
Where to Find the Pacesetters
The Pacesetters for each bus will aim to run the whole race together, and runners looking to join a bus early in the race will find them in the following seeding pens at the race start in Pietermaritzburg:
SUB-9:00 – Front of C Batch
SUB-9:30 – Back of C Batch
SUB-10:00 – Front of D Batch
SUB-10:30 – Back of D Batch
SUB-11:00 – F Batch
SUB-11:30 – G Batch
SUB-12:00 – H Batch
Please note: Given the nature of the challenge of the Comrades Marathon, runners can fall ill or pick up an injury near to race-day, and should there be any changes in the line-up of Pacesetters, Modern Athlete will post updated info on social media, and the provincial pacesetting organisations will also publicise any updates on their platforms.
For more info…
For more info on the official 2023 Comrades Pacesetters, please make contact with Joe Faber, Chief co-ordinator of the 2023 Comrades Pacesetting team, on 072 180 3769 or email@example.com.
If you would like to know more about becoming a pacesetter, you can contact one of the pacesetting organisations via their Facebook groups:
- Gauteng Pace Setters (GPS) – facebook.com/Gauteng-Pace-Setters-GPS-1205368806168863
- Western Province Pace Setters (WPPS) – facebook.com/groups/314436651950192
- Kwazulu Natal Pace Setters (KZNPS) – facebook.com/Kwazulu-Natal-Pace-Setters-KZNPS-225009847902692
This media release was compiled by Sean Falconer, Editor of Modern Athlete magazine. He can be contacted on 083 273 6289 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo by Tobias Ginsberg.
In 1959, the late Roy Kirkness tackled the Comrades Marathon to try win a bet, with minimal training. The question is, are today’s runners as tough as the runners in those early days? – By Karien Jonckheere
If it were not for the two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, this year’s Comrades Marathon would have been my Green Number 10 th … as
a supporter! – By René Kalmer
Dylan Rogers is a sports journalist with Johannesburg radio station HOT 102.7FM and part of the Big Joburg Drive Show, which you can catch 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday on either 102.7FM or streaming on hot1027.co.za. He’ll be running his first Comrades Marathon in August, after accepting a dare from a friend, who has pledged to donate R500 to charity for every kilometre of Comrades that Dylan is able to complete. This is a special podcast where Dylan chats to his Dad ahead of his first Comrades Marathon.
On 28 August, the Comrades Marathon will once again take to the roads of KZN, and the official Comrades Marathon Pacesetters will once again be there to help runners hit their target times. – By Sean Falconer
Dylan Rogers is a sports journalist with Johannesburg radio station HOT 102.7FM and part of the Big Joburg Drive Show, which you can catch 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday on either 102.7FM or streaming on hot1027.co.za. He’ll be running his first Comrades Marathon in August, after accepting a dare from a friend, who has pledged to donate R500 to charity for every kilometre of Comrades that Dylan is able to complete. This is Dylan’s blog of his journey to the Comrades.
A pretty good week or so, with a couple of milestones. Firstly, it doesn’t matter how old you are, getting new shoes is always a little exciting and brings out the child in every one of us. I’m no different, even at the age of 47! Fortunately, some of my running mates told me that I shouldn’t go anywhere but Randburg Runner in Linden, and they were right. Nick at the store clearly ‘knows his onions,’ and I walked away with this pair of Brooks that I hope will get me to the finish line in Durban. More importantly, Nick gave me the sense of comfort that they will.
The next thing, of course, was putting them to the test. I happened to have an eight-kilometre time trial on my programme the following morning, and since I hadn’t done one in a while, I was curious to see what I could produce – with the new shoes, of course, as well. Anyway, I was pretty chuffed with breaking 25 minutes (24:40) for the 5k and 40 minutes (39:18) for the 8k for the first time, so the speed is looking good – it’s just the strength and endurance that needs constant attention between now and the start line.
Speaking of that, I followed that time trial up with a session at iMude Sport and Wellness in Parkmore, where Riaan has been panel-beating me over the past few months and getting my over-rotated pelvis into line, so the legs were a little stiff the day after. I shook that out with an easy run the day after and then a bit of mileage over the weekend – 19km (two hours) on Saturday and 30km (3:20) on Sunday.
There’s no doubt that this Comrades training thing is a big commitment, and not just from the runner’s perspective. My wife has had to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility with the kids whilst I’ve been out on the weekends, clocking up the hours and miles, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Still, I’ve tried to fit in the weekend runs around my family, so there I was, running to the Country Club to meet them on the Saturday, and then running to my in-laws’ place at Blair Atholl, just past Lanseria Airport, on the Sunday – the latter requiring my wife dropping me at the bottom of Peter Place in Bryanston and seeing me nearly three-and-a-half hours later, once I’d navigated William Nicol, Fourways, Malibongwe etc!
The Epsom Salts bath after that was a bit of a treat. Was also good to do a couple of ‘warm’ runs, as this winter training thing largely sees me out early, in the Jo’burg cold, which is not how I’m going to be spending my 28 August. I suspect it’ll be a bit warmer than that! Anyway, more mileage again this week, before the big RAC Long Run on 24 July. Eek!
Dylan Rogers is a sports journalist with Johannesburg radio station HOT 102.7FM and part of the Big Joburg Drive Show, which you can catch 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday on either 102.7FM or streaming on hot1027.co.za. He’ll be running his first Comrades Marathon in August, after accepting a dare from a friend, who has pledged to donate R500 to charity for every kilometre of Comrades that Dylan is able to complete. This is Dylan’s blog of his journey to the Comrades
So, marathon number two under the belt – Run Zone’s Autumn Chase Marathon in Jo’burg – and a bit of a relief that it was a more enjoyable experience than number one. Enjoyable, definitely, because I was stronger and went a bit harder (and survived!), but make no mistake, marathons are hard!
This time I just hit the wall at a later stage, which, I guess, is encouraging. At Midvaal a month ago, I started taking serious gas at 28km, but this time round I lasted until about 38km, after which it was a bit of a struggle, but that was also because I was trying to break 4:30 for the first time, having done 4:42 at Midvaal.
Needless to say, I had to produce a bit of a burst of ‘speed’ towards the finish line to come in at 4:29:33, but the satisfaction thereafter, with the realisation that I’d achieved my race goal, was pretty special. I just needed to hang onto a nearby piece of boarding, to avoid passing out!
Having grabbed the first energy drink I could find, and somehow dipped my head to have the obligatory medal put round my neck, I looked around for any familiar faces. Even though I was a bit woozy, I found the ‘Charging Fanta Bottle’ – running ‘partner’ Byron Hardy – lazing on the grass, and informed him that I didn’t mind him heading off early in the race, because this was something I needed to do myself, and I didn’t want to hold him back.
Points to Ponder
So, what about some of my other race reflections? Well, I definitely went out slightly harder, trying to aim for a running pace of around 6min/km, but then making sure I walked just about all the water stations and the odd hill, which I obviously did more of in the second half of the race. I was pretty happy to go through halfway in 2:10:36, as I thought that probably left me enough time to get in under 4:30, but I’m still working towards a 2:05 half marathon, as per my Lindsey Parry Comrades Bronze Medal Programme. I’ll get there.
I think the other major take-away was how I’m definitely getting more comfortable running on sore, tired legs. That really is something you’ve got to get your head round, as it’s counter-intuitive. Your body – and your mind – can’t understand why you’re putting yourself through this, but I guess that’s part of the challenge, and this Comrades journey is all about the challenge for me.
Anyway, the legs seem to have recovered well, and after a nice three days’ rest, I was back out on Thursday morning with an easy hour on the road, to be followed by 90 minutes on Saturday and two hours on Sunday. Onward and upward we go, with just less than eight weeks to Comrades!