As a runner in the Sunninghill area I have often prided myself that I live in a really hilly area and am thus well prepared for hills. The infamous K60 strikes fear and respect in all our hearts as we set out to run it. Comrades teaches that there is nothing in the area that comes even close to the hills of KwaZulu Natal.
The person who described the run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban as the ‘Down Run’ should be led out before the runners and made to apologise. This is a monster hilly course.
2) It was colder and windier than I expected.
Race sponsors Bonitas very kindly supply a paper T-shirt to wear over your vest. Sunday was unusually windy and this was an absolute life saver. You need to concentrate on keeping warm at the start.
3) You must avoid Cateyes in the Road
I watched two runners very nearly come short as they clipped these things. It sounds silly, but they do present a serious threat to your run. I have spoken to two people who tripped on them and landed face first on the tarmac. By the time your legs have 80 kilometres of running in them they are incapable of quick reactions.
4) I ended up joining a bus and that has major Pros and Cons.
I joined a bus near Kersney College. In retrospect, it was one of the cleverest things I did on the day. Having a more experienced runner make sure that you make it to the end was great. It meant I could spend my then limited brain power on the run and tracking an increasingly sore ankle.
Here are some of the pros and cons of running in a bus.
|Pro||Con||Solution to Con|
|Someone else takes responsibility to pacing the run.||You cannot run and walk when you want to run and walk.||No solution.|
|They walk most water points.||Lots of people suddenly descend on the volunteers all needing food and water placing pressure on the volunteers.||Stay near the front and to the side of the bus.|
|People in front of you suddenly weave to the side because they have spotted a road side supporter.||Again – keep to the front of the bus and to the side.|
|It can get hot in a bus.||Again – keep to the front of the bus and to the side.|
|You get to congratulate each other at the end. There is a phenomenal comraderie that takes place when you have been running together for so long.|
5) The Crowd Support is amazing.
There will be moments when you are squeezed into a funnel because of the people on the sides of the road. A woman gave me a slice of chocolate cake at the bottom of Pinetown toward Cowies Hill. I have never enjoyed a piece of chocolate cake as much as I did on Sunday. I have no way of ever thanking her and would never recognise her again. That is very humbling.
6) I managed to injure my ankle
I have a fair idea of what when wrong on the day. My left ankle started to swell and hurt. Years ago I ripped most of the tendons off the bone and combined with a few other factors this started to play up. Key learning – things will go wrong on the day, adapt, change your time goals and keep moving. If it gets too sore, you can pull out but try not to. I was fortunately able to continue moving and the ankle is now healing well.
7) Comrades is a uniquely South African Race.
Cycle races, Triathlons, Swims, Marathons and half Marathons are done in most countries. Comrades is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race. People of all races come together to tackle a very hard course. I don’t think there is any other ultra so packed with history. If you are a serious runner, Comrades is an absolute must.
Yours in running