Lessons from our Comrades – Part 1
“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. If you want to talk to God, run an ultra.” – Dean Karnazes
When our Trail Bokkkies returned from (what was for most of them) their first Comrades Marathon it was not unlike a return from a spiritual pilgrimage with each of them displaying a renewed perspective on life and a deeper understanding of the unlimited potential within us all.
Each one of them had witnessed a unique and personal experience. Their tales ranged from deep emotional connections formed with other human beings along the race, to anecdotes of runners hopelessly declaring dismay at the lack of toilet paper in Porta Loos somewhere around the 60km mark 🙂
But all agreed that the crossing of that finish line after a hard day along the 87km route is definitely something truly special.
The months of preparation, the hours spent out on the road, the crazy night-time runs to fit in the required mileage – all while trying to balance personal and family relationships – had reached its conclusion and they all seemed to have taken a few lessons from the Ultimate Human Race.
I caught up with our Trail Bokkies and asked them to share some of their newfound wisdom that would help first timers get that full Comrades experience.
This post is split in two parts:
- Part 1 covers tips on Training, Nutrition, Equipment and Logistics aspects of the race
- Part 2 covers the Race and Post-race aspects
Adenaan: Comrades is a tough race. You need to be clear right upfront about wanting it badly enough so you don’t fail in training and on race day
Wafiq: Start preparing sooner rather than later. If you follow one of the programs on-line from Lindsey Parry or Wietsche van der Westhuizen you’ll be OK
Ridah: My best piece of advice is to learn from the old timers and race veterans. I trained with a group that had more than 60yrs of Comrades Races between them
Danyaal: Assess which muscle groups are weak (e.g. quads, glutes, calves, feet etc.) and focus on improving through strength and weight training programs by submitting them to similar stresses to simulate race conditions
Ridah: If blessed with a training partner that runs with you – stick together. This will come in handy even on race day when you will pull each other through and it also helps with sharing the load of thinking about nutrition, strategy etc.
Wafiq: Don’t forget to do core training
Danyaal: Road-side support is vital for LSDs, alternatively ensure that there are service stations on route
Danyaal: Find what works for you with regards to your diet. Even on race day, eat whatever you usually have on every other day i.e. don’t deviate from your diet. Toast, butter, cheese, jam, beef, salty cracks, croissants, black coffee, FutureLife, oats, Taystee Wheat, amino acid supplements – these are what worked for me during training and on race day
Ridah: While you are pounding the pavement, it is easy to forget this essential part. By the time you feel the need to fill your tanks, it is really too late. Instead you should always be topping up your tank
Wafiq: During the race take something like Cramp Block from the first hour and top up every hour after that
Ridah: What works on a 10/21/42km race is not necessarily going to work for Comrades. Something light, filling and not sugar dense (i.e. stuff that spikes your blood/sugar levels and drops you like a hot coal afterwards). This is a different race. Be cognitive of what you consume and when you consume it. This is VITAL. I nearly bonked twice during the race for lack of appreciation of time
Danyaal: Invest in a hydration pack for long training runs. Pack some snack bars, amino acid supplementation and some extra glutamine for recovery
Ridah: Thinking, after 56km… You will struggle to put two sentences together, let alone workout race times – unless you have a fancy GPS watch
Wafiq: Compression tops, tights and socks work best for me
Danyaal: Never use new shoes on race day. Ensure that you’ve done an LSD and plenty of short runs in new trainers. Use your old insoles to run in if your new trainers still feel uncomfy
Ridah: Don’t try new things on race day… unless they are Injinji socks – they work. I swear by it. No blisters no dead toenails
Ridah: Book your flights long before the time – prices are cheaper. Be warned that return trips are not always cheaper
Danyaal: For the “Up run”, the beach front is in walking distance from the start. So the Palace, the Hilton, Balmoral, Holiday Inn are very popular places to stay
Ridah: If you are planning to eat some of the local Durban curries and exotic food, do so at least 3 or more days before the race – trust me
Danyaal: It’s best to collect your race number as early as possible at the expo. Avoid the rush and the possibility of missing out on Comrades apparel e.g. your pre-ordered watch
Wafiq: Get a t-shirt / hoodie at the expo to add to your memorabilia
Ridah: The race is hard on supporters too. They will follow you along the route and have to deal with traffic, gridlocks etc. So if you miss them, don’t cry and stick to plan E. Plans A to D tends to go to the ducks
Ridah: Try getting your sleep two days before. The night before the race you will NOT sleep. It will be like the longest insomnia you have EVER had… and DO NOT be tempted to do the dishes
The tips continue in Part 2
Have you completed a Comrades Marathon before? Share some tips on what worked for you in the comments section below.