So … back to running

After this morning’s run, there’s no doubt I’ll always be a runner

Fabulous run. Not for recovery from the 2013 Comrades, nor for something like Comrades, as all the runs before 2 June were: committed, thought-through, after-analysed, all trying to build the right stuff to handle the monsters on the day and get through those tricky 54 miles distance, those 87 km of hills and heat – plus the walk to the start and trying to find the car afterwards.

So a 05:30  run  under a bit of moon, a few stars through a lot of streetlight pushing back the dark, just for the sake of running.

The power in my legs surged, made me hop, laugh and whistle; race oncoming cars across three lanes. And laugh again. Boundless running on bounding legs. Just love it.

And as I ran this Comrades culmination thing, this targeted, planned, focused, then made-real thing, bubbled and spurted, thrilling, filling, spilling.

Something deeper

The race-pic of me walking Polly Shorrts in long shadows was a bit of a nasty surprise. Legs, body, arms look strong with enough thrust. But my face shows strain. Much more drain than I was feeling.

Thought 1: Maybe I shouldn’t have been as confident as I was feeling. Sure I was desperate to see the 8 and 7  km-to-go board which I never did.  But that doesn’t explain all the drain. I knew I was dehydrated but maybe not as much as I must have been. Still I knew I had enough time and enough in me to finish. So I was thrilled. Which should have added a bit more spark in the eyes under the cap that had worked so hard for me.

Thought 2: Mostly I don’t talk about this, because I worry that if I do, it will disappear. Who am I to get this magic you see?  But, well, I knew even then after all that heat, I had tapped a deeper energy. It’s happened before.  Some things, Comrades being one, put me in its flow. That’s all I’ll say for now.

So why run the Comrades Marathon

I know now why I wanted to run this not-too-but-long enough ultra- marathon.

I know to exactly why.

Running helps me get the most out of life. The Comrades Marathon, all that it is, gets me the most out of running.

Simple. Marvellous




Comrades 2013 – Physical overview

Cap and Shoes

Long enough ago …

I ran 11 Comrades, one after the other, got sick, got better and a medal a couple years later then stopped for too many years.

So this is a kind of second time around and definitely starting over. My record for Comrades Two – two Vic Clapham medals, one DNS and one failure in which I got to about 84 km before the 12 hours ran out. Right, running 84 km in 12 hours is a failure.

To put my Comrades Two into perspective, 20 years ago I ran I silver, now I charge the last 500 m to get in before the final 12-hour cut-off.  My average for Comrades One was under 9 hours with two just under 10 hours, one 10+ hour run and two under 8 hours.

But hey, if getting a Vic Clapham medal (11 to 12 hours) is the way to honour our Vic, I’d happily run that long every year I can get to the startline of his masterpiece at least okay enough to run with not too many holes in me.

Training right

This year I was strong to ultra-run. Something I haven’t really been for maybe 13 years. The strong of running regularly over many months, gradually increasing mileage and having an easy week now an again and, not getting sick or injured during that time.

I think its right to say that if you manage yourself right through all the training, you can manage yourself through the day of the run.

Running enough adapts all the running systems  and gets them working together – legs strong, cooling system efficient, digestion-absorption supporting running, motivation making sure that I know a sleep after finishing is better than a sleep that stops me finishing in time – (my kind of running humour in case you’re wondering why I brought sleep into the equation); in short all of what it takes to run.

In practice it means having fun on 4-hour runs, get back and still have energy for the kids and to mow the lawn. And to look forward to lots more run-in sunrises.

Running on the day

In running-on-the-day terms my training meant I got to the start line maybe 12 kg lighter than when I last ran Comrades two years ago, and with more then the minimum miles in my legs; enough I would have guessed for an 11-hour Comrades.

Not that I was there for a race against the clock and course and conditions.  I was going to share the run with friends Hans Koeleman and Simone Guikema from Amsterdam, Holland. I was confident that I had enough to finish no matter what and sure enough that’s what happened

More than that I knew that I knew enough about what and when to eat and drink along the way. I do. I know how to use my fat supplies for energy (enough I’m sure to get around the world a couple of times), how to keep up my blood sugar up and how many and what electrolytes to take when. I kinda know it all and know it right, do it all and do it right. Except for one thing.

So I had enough when I hit the heavy heat and wind on Harrison flats to get to the end in a slower time. My legs never got sore during or after the event because I walked lots on the ups.

The only problem

The one thing I can’t do is get the past the point where I just can’t drink anymore. Slurp-fatigue.Swallow-overload. I tear open the water sachet or Energade bag, or swallow at the Pepsi cup and my throat opens to let in a little and then … that’s it. Gag. No more for a good km or two.

Under the 2012 conditions, going at that slower pace which increased the time-gaps between the water tabled, I dehydrated. Not enough to blow the run, but enough to make walking the ups even slower.  I cheated a bit on the downs and let gravity drag me into running quite merrily (more humour – it’s what really gets me through, with my shoes and cap). Thank goodness the last 18 km has lots of downs.

When I’m dehydrated my mind keeps working at whether I will make it with what I have left. I like that. When it is sure my old body had enough it wanted to drink even less. By then it was getting dark and cooler anyway. Sure enough, I crossed the line with a big grin. Ultra-success. Comrades success. But well depleted. 3 l of drip depleted.

I’ve been more or as dehydrated at the end of a run, even at this year’s Two Oceans 56km run. Usually I stagger away, think about and sometimes start drinking a beer and gradually replenish. But this time I though it best to get a drip which ended up as three and get a bigger part of the Comades family experience – those great doctors and carers in the medical tent. They restored just about all the vitality I need to smile and doze on the way back to Durban.

Other than that I got off lightly. I’ll lose a toenail on my right big toe. But it will grow again and maybe look better than the old one.  And a got more light from the Comrades glow, so that I’ll be back next year if all goes well.

The learnings

The learnings reinforce the essential basics:

Do the right training right. Know how how to eat and drink on the run. Know how to cope with conditions on the day, even if it means toughing it out.


2013 Taper day 18

Un-timed 5km time-trial after a 2 km warm-up. The point being to stay up against the effort (effort = 2 steps per breath) of a run from which I can  quickly recover . In the old days I would have run 10 km but these younger days, well, I’m older.

As maybe it should have, everything in me surged and throbbed. The ups were powered, the downs laughed, the flats glided. Nearly like an athlete.

My running tanks are full. Legs working just fine. Great.

The tanks are not enough big enough to keep my ~ 6.10 min/km current long run cruising pace all the way. I know that. And no matter how I manage myself, by Camperdown I’m going to have to dig deep. It’s how I am this year.

Otherwise everything is working fine – head, body, legs, inspiration.

Now to get to the start line un-sick, with not too many cuts, tears or strains, with my champion-timing-chip.


2013 taper day?

A personal note

My taper is turning out to be, well, unstructured.

I want to run more. I don’t want to run too much. I skip runs if there is just I hint that I don’t want to do it.  I set out for 18 km then settle for 12. This morning rain tapped on my window while I was getting ready to go out so I had a cup of coffee.

But I don’t mind.

If I feel anywhere along the Comrades way as I felt this morning when sudden urge made me sprint and laugh in my jeans and sandals through a parking lot while doing chores, it going to be okay. Maybe better.

And I want to see how fast I can run my 5.22 km around my neighbourhood time-trial route, maybe tomorrow, even if its raining.

2013 Taper day 9


Woke up easily for my run but felt stale and uninspired. Unusual. I didn’t look forward to running as I normally do. I worked through whether I have been running too much. not really. The alternative of going to the gym and cycling a bit, or doing the circuit didn’t inspire me either.

When I thought of changing my route I got excited. When I started out my legs fizzed and jogged happily. That reminded me of The Lore of Running  – in there somewhere it talked about changing routes to relieve repetition of running.

Out there under the stars of yet another gorgeous Cape Town morning, I wanted to run 8, 15 k, maybe more. But I remembered more of the Lore of Running before I did too much: let recovery runs be recovery runs. I learned long ago that a recovery run should be just that – run until you feel like running then stop and go home. Let all that fizz and bounce, bubble through legs, body, mind.

That’s what this taper is about anyway. It’s so easy to get caught up in chasing distance that its hard to remember the taper is about less distance and more happiness in the legs.

Great. Bring on tomorrow.

Notes from 1946

Notes from 1946

For 6 years through the World War II years, the Comrades Marathon wasn’t run. In 1946 it started again with a field of 22 of which 8 finished.

Winner in a time of  7:02:40 was Bill Cochrane, who had also won the 1935 run. Morris Alexander in his book The Comrades Story notes the irony as ex-prisoner-of-war Cochrane ran past the Oribi camp in Pietermaritzburg “still crammed with hundreds of Italian prisoners” many of whom watched through the barbed-wire fence.

At the back of the field “balding 59-year-old Edgar Marie hobbled on to the track, and around the final circuit, to pass the finishing post with only 2 seconds to spare.”

The cut-off was 11 hours then. So Edgar Marie could be me me this year finishing in the same time but with 1 hour and 2 sec to spare, except I’m not yet balding and I’ll try not to hobble.



2013 Taper Days 5-8

The taper in practice

The best part of last Saturday’s 2-hour run was how I felt in the last 3 km -as if I could have gone on all day at that effort level.

Which is just as well because in less than 3 weeks I’ll have to do just that – run most of the sunshine part of the day.

After a rest day on Sunday I ran out for what’s become my standard training run, 8.72 km down into town and then back up again. I felt strong, ran strong and did it 40 sec faster than I’ve done it before. Great. Another indicator that the taper is going right.

Plus I have no twinges or other indicators that something is going wrong in my legs. And so far I am not feeling ill in anyway, nor do I feel worried about getting sick.

So far so good.

2013 Taper – 3

Tapering – tweaking the power

Day 1 rest

Day 2 easy 8 km ( says its 8.72)

Day 3 the same 8 km. This time pushing harder in the last 3.5 km,  surging on the 6 little hills, easy on the 30-50 m between. Not too much but faster than yesterday.

1 min 20 faster over the the whole run, around 10 sec per km but actually closer to 20 sec/km becasue the effort was only over the last part of the run

Thoroughly enjoyed the effort. The orange and coffee afterwards

Feeling strong, ready to go on.