March 17, 2015 by DAVE JACK
There is a good chance that I will be criticised for some of my opinions in this particular article – but hey, it worked for me and most of us back then and still does for those who follow it today.
What I would like to tell you now is the preparation for Comrades in terms of training as there were very few races leading up to Comrades between January and the end of May. This incidentally, as far as I am concerned gave us a definite advantage over the runners of today as it forced us to build ourselves up training rather than break down by over racing. I don’t believe there is such a thing as treating a race as a “training run”. Run in a race and you will always run faster than you would a training run of the same distance.
Many people have told me that I am completely crazy that I still fervently believe that there was nothing wrong with the training for Comrades back then. I will deal in more detail about what we did further in this blog and I leave it to you to decide whether we were completely crazy or not.
My decision to run Comrades came at the beginning of January 1968, just 5 months before Comrades itself. Remember that in 1968 and before it and a fair number of years after it, the time limit was 11 hours.
I was allocated race number 482 and I ran my first Comrades in 1968. An entry of around 600 with the normal dropout before the race of around 10% so things like training schedules and programmes existed in the most basic of basic forms and pacing charts didn’t exist at all. Also an advantage to us I believe as we created our own to suit our needs and abilities and didn’t rely on programmes done by people we didn’t even know.
First thing I had to do was to find out how I went about getting ready and what I should do. By chance, Clive Crawley, who wore race number 1 in Comrades was staying for a short while at the hotel in Pinetown where my Dad worked so rather tentatively I approached the man who a few years before had run a gold medal.
Clive was more than happy to help me and at the same time I found out that a chap by the name of Robin Friedeman was the head baker at the bakery where my Mom worked and his number 111 was also green and he was also very happy to help me.
A couple of chats with both Clive and Robin (I seem to remember just one chat or maybe two with both of them) and I was ready to start, and my first run was on 18th of January 1968 – just 4 and a half months before Comrades, was 1.5km and I didn’t feel great after that but one of the first things I did was tell virtually everyone I knew that I was running Comrades so there was no backing out after that.
Both Clive and Robin explained how I should start and how I should build up with LSD (Long Slow Distance) a concept that I still believe works perfectly today but I seem to be one of the few people who holds the view that this is the way to prepare despite the fact that we were required to finish Comrades in under 11 hours – and most of us did! What LSD was and the explanation from both Clive and Robin was the sum total of my “training programme” and after that I was on my own to get to Comrades.
LSD became part of my life for many years and I ran my best of 8:29 using the same method of training, but back to 1968, and my distances grew each Sunday as I ran further and further and each week on the Comrades route itself.
It wasn’t an easy task because my training was done on my own until I heard about the group headed by the late Ian Jardine, the famous blind runner of the 60’s and early 70’s until he was stopped from running by the organisers because he had passed the upper age limit of 65. In those days the race was open to white males between 18 and 65 only.
I joined the “Jardine Sunday School” just three weeks before Comrades for their annual run from Pinetown to Pietermatizburg but it was after that first disastrous run with them three weeks before my first Comrades that I realised how little I knew about “The Marathon” and after a complete “all fall down” after about 35km, I was summonsed to appear before the “Old Man” who said to me “I see we’ve learnt a lesson today”. The words “I see” were a regular part of his vocabulary but in fact he couldn’t see anything at all. A very serious lecture about basically being stupid – but no advice – and off I went a few weeks later to attempt the magic that has enchanted me for many years.
I eventually reached the finish in 10:25 in position 320 to get my first medal which in those days was silver, as gold went to the first 6 finishers and silver to the rest of the field. One of the things of which I am still proud today were my splits for that first Comrades and I put that down firmly to LSD. First half 5:10 and second half 5:15.
Incidentally even my best run when I did my 8:29 my splits were pretty even because I had the strength to maintain my speed and for that I thank my LSD training.
Getting back to 1968 and the first thing that a proud new finisher had to do was to get his blazer and tie and for that I had to travel to Pietermaritzburg to buy the articles from Lambert’s Outfitters, in Church St in Pietermaritzburg, the sole stockists of these. No Expo or Comrades Shop back then. I still have the blazer although it has shrunk in my cupboard over 47 years!
And so began 10 years that gave me 100% finishes in my starts to turn to green my race number 482.
Over the next 10 years I ran another 4 Comrades proudly wearing that green number.
For all that I thank LSD. In writing these chapters I have spoken to top runners and coaches and all of them have one thing in common. Cut down on races and increase the LSD.