I hadn’t met Charne Bosman before she won Comrades 2016 but I contacted her nonetheless and asked her whether we could meet for a cup of coffee and a chat for a chapter of The Marathon and she readily agreed.
When we met I found a charming, down to earth very friendly young lady bubbling over with excitement at what she had achieved just a week before, and why not? She had won the women’s race in the world’s Ultimate Human Race, The Comrades Marathon, and only 23 other women have done that before her since women were first allowed to compete officially in Comrades in 1975 – 41 years ago.
I started off by asking her if she had always been a Pretoria girl.
CB: No, I was born in Malmesbury and when I was still quite young we moved to East London and then when I was 16 the family moved to Pretoria and I have been here ever since. I currently live in Centurion.
DJ: So when did the athletics bug bite?
CB: Shortly after we moved to Pretoria I started running with my niece (a provincial runner) and then I developed an interest in track running with a focus on 1500m and 3000m and especially in Cross country and within 6 months of moving to Pretoria I had my Provincial colours for Cross country and it just carried on from there between track and cross country and shorter road races up to 10Km.
DJ: Throughout your career you seem to have slowly moved the distances up as you have got older without trying to do shorter distance racing at too old an age.
Is that a fair comment? So when did you get National colours for the first time and how many times have you had National colours?
CB: That is what I have done. I always thought that there was no point in trying to compete against people much younger when you are no longer able to do so, so I moved my distances up as I got older to half marathon then marathon and eventually to ultra but ultra wasn’t actually planned at the time. I first got National colours for Road relay at the age of 20 and I have been fortunate to have had National colours 23 times.
DJ: When you say that your move to ultra running wasn’t really planned at the time, what do you mean by that and when was it?
CB: I moved to Ultra running when I was 37. I desperately wanted to make the South African team for the Olympics in 2012 for the marathon but narrowly missed it. I was very down in the dumps about that and very nearly gave up athletics altogether thinking that there was nothing left and it was my husband, Carel who suggested that I should think about a move to Ultra distance so in 2013 I went to Two Oceans and did my first Ultra and was pleasantly surprised to find myself finishing in second place.
I then decided that Comrades was worth a “go” so I entered and finished in 5th place in 2013. I actually came onto the track in 4th and lost 4th place on the track and finished in 5th. 2014 I came back to Comrades and didn’t finish because of ill health and then last year in 2015 I managed a second place to Caroline and so my ultra career had started.
I still run shorter races but I don’t take them seriously at all. If I happen to do well in them it is pure bonus. For example I won the Johnson Crane at the beginning of the year but the time was slow as I wasn’t going out to race hard. I ran Two Oceans this year but didn’t feel great on the day and ended up in 4th place. 4min behind the leader.
DJ: One thing I don’t understand and perhaps you can explain. There are two of you who are top runners. You and Caroline. You have the same coach in Lindsey Parry yet your strategy towards races in the 5 months before Comrades differs significantly. Who decides that strategy?
CB: We jointly do. We obviously discuss our ideas with Lindsey and listen to what he thinks. We will then go to the race with a very specific plan that we try to execute the best we can.
We will sometimes race against one another in build-up races as we both stay in Pretoria.
DJ: In early April you had a mishap at home when you slipped and broke your little toe. It must have been very sore but you said nothing and I’m sure that Lindsey knew about it but he also said nothing so the media knew nothing about it either. Tell me about that.
CB: It was very sore and my foot was swollen a day or two after it happened to the point where I couldn’t get a shoe on. I knew that if I didn’t do something that Comrades was gone as I was going to be out too long whilst my toe healed so I did what everyone does. I went and asked Dr Google!
I found out about HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY (suggest you Google it if you’re interested) and with the treatments I had I ended I up being out for only two weeks. I broke my toe on the 8th of April and I was back on the road on the 24th. I was very fortunate.
DJ: And the toe didn’t bother you at all on Comrades day?
DJ: Now that we’ve mentioned Comrades Day, tell me about your day.
CB: My day was good. Everything went according to plan and I was happy and content to sit where I was and I came into Durban happy to be in second place and I had no idea at all that Caroline was in trouble until I saw the lights of the lead vehicles in front of me and getting closer all the time and then I started wondering what was happening. When I eventually saw her I couldn’t actually believe it and I caught her and passed her but I didn’t say anything at all to her and at the back of my mind I realised that perhaps I could win this thing but also that Caroline is very strong and could come back at me and then there was the memory of being passed on the track to lose 4th place two years ago so all these emotions were going on.
DJ: Eventually the emotions must have been replaced by reality that you were going to win when you came in sight of the finish tape. Are you able to explain what it felt like?
CB: Amazing! Just amazing! I crossed the line and one of the first people to get to me was Nick Bester the Manager of the Nedbank team and the first thing he said to me was “Are you crying?”. And I replied simply “Yes”.
DJ: So now what happens? Comrades is over but everybody wants a piece of you for interviews and I’m sure you are not back on the road yet.
CB: No, I’m not. A rest for a week or two and then short races and quality stuff to the end of the year and then come January we start concentrating on building the quality longer runs and looking ahead to what I’m going to be doing until the 4th of June next year.
And there you have it. The story of a young lady who has come a very long way and travelled many kilometres to get to that finish line of Comrades – The Ultimate Human Race, ahead of the rest of the women in the field on the day of the race.
We wish you well Charne. You certainly deserve it!
6 JUNE 2016