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Zola after Comrades Silver

Zola Budd

Zola Budd

The legendary Zola Budd will be part of a field of nearly 20000 athletes to take to the road for the 2013 Comrades Marathon on Sunday, 2 June.

Budd completed her first ever ultra-marathon last year alongside good friend and Comrades veteran Bruce Fordyce who finished his thirtieth race.  The pair ran the last 25 kilometres of the race side by side to finish in a time of 8 hours 6 minutes and 9 seconds, which secured bronze medals for both.

Running again this year in the colours of The Unlimited Running Club, Budd has now set her sights on a silver medal and is aiming to finish the gruelling 87km uphill race between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in under seven and a half hours.

Budd ran her qualifying race for Comrades in Florida (USA) in December and finished the Jacksonville Marathon in a time of 2 hours and 55 minutes.  At 47, Zola says that she is in better shape than last year and is confident that a silver medal finish is realistic due to the combination of her experience from the 2012 Comrades and her current level of training.

“Doing Comrades last year has definitely influenced my training and race schedules for this year’s event.  I’ve changed my training programme and have upped my mileage significantly as I’m much stronger now.  As it is an up run this year, I’ve added very tedious hill sessions on the tread mill and have also included some serious track workouts,” said Budd, who does most of her training in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the United States, where she and her family have been living for the past five years.

According to Budd, her training during the all-critical month of April has been far more consistent than last year. Judging from the excellent time of 79 minutes and 58 seconds she ran to win the North Myrtle Beach Divas half marathon, Budd’s stage is set for a great Comrades Marathon.

Looking back at her first Comrades, Budd said that it was the hardest race she’d ever run in her life.  The furthest she’d ever run before the event was 56km in the 2012 Two Oceans, which according to Zola is a world away from Comrades – especially for someone who battles with low blood sugar as she does.

“I ran both the Two Oceans Ultra and Loskop within a month last year.  In hind sight, I think I just asked too much of my body.  I decided to be more conservative in terms of racing this year and therefore opted for the half-marathon at Two Oceans, which I thoroughly enjoyed alongside 16000 other runners,” said Budd, who finished in a time of 1 hour 24 minutes and 49 seconds to be the second veteran lady to cross the finish line in this event earlier this year.

Budd will be tapering her training in the weeks leading up to Comrades and advises ultra-marathon novices to just run their own race and not to be too goal orientated.  Her tip is for all Comrades runners to focus on going through the motions without putting extra pressure on themselves.

“The worst part of the Comrades is around 60km when you are so sore and tired and you still have a way to go.  The hardest part is convincing your brain that it is ok to do this to your body.   At the marathon mark my mind went blank when it realised I have already run a marathon, but I am not halfway yet,” she recalls.

“I never thought I would actually do it and now I am doing my second one!  I think people run the Comrades because it adds meaning to their lives.  You are not just a runner, but a Comrades runner.  It is a challenge on a physical level but even more on an emotional and spiritual level.  It also makes you part of something bigger than yourself and bigger than just a race.  Running Comrades last year was an amazing experience and I will never forget the deafening roar when we entered the stadium.  People were cheering me on along and the Brendi Fassie song was played en route,” concludes Zola.

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