COMRADES MARATHON UP RUN ROUTE 

6

September 16, 2016 by DAVE JACK

THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL COMRADES MARATHON ASSOCIATION ROUTE DESCRIPTION

This chapter has been written as a help to those who have never run the Up Run but also those who have struggled on the Up Run, and has been done from many years of having run the Up Run myself and also having trained on the course of the Up Run over many years.  I have tried to keep the distances as close as possible to official race distances but with ever changing road conditions this is almost impossible but the distances I have shown are very close to the actual official distances and are certainly close enough to enable any reasonably trained runner to complete the race comfortably.

WARNING:  THE FIRST 25/26KMS OF THE UP RUN ARE EXTREMELY TOUGH NO MATTER WHERE IN THE FIELD YOU ARE AND CAN LEAD TO YOUR UNDOING FOR THE ENTIRE RACE IF YOU DON’T LOOK AFTER YOURSELF PROPERLY OVER  THIS STRETCH.   

THIS PART OF THE ROUTE CLIMBS ALMOST THE ENTIRE WAY OUT OF DURBAN AND IN THE DARK AND WITH THE EXCITEMENT AND ADRENALIN OF THE EVENT MANY RUNNERS DON’T NOTICE THE CLIMBING AND IT IS IN THE FIRST 25/26KMS THAT YOU EITHER MAKE OR BREAK YOUR COMRADES ON THE UP RUN.

LOOK AFTER THIS SECTION OF THE RACE AND YOU WILL HAVE A GOOD DAY. THE CRAZY PART ABOUT THE FIRST 25KM IS THAT IT ISN’T UNTIL ABOUT HALFWAY THAT YOU FIND OUT WHETHER YOU HAVE BLOWN IT IN THE FIRST 25KM

 

 

CONTROLLED WALKING

I mention “Controlled Walking” several times and this is simply my term for managing your walking especially on a hill but the same applies anywhere. There are a few ways to do this rather than aimlessly walking. Aimless walking wastes an enormous amount of time. Here are a few tips and I relate these to a hill but it applies equally anywhere.

TO MANAGE YOUR WALKING 

1. LOOK AT THE HEELS OF THE RUNNER IN FRONT OF YOU AND FOCUS ON THOSE RATHER THAN THE HILL.

2.  RUN 200 PACES AND THEN WALK 100 AND   REPEAT THAT PROCESS UNTIL THE TOP OF THE HILL OR UNTIL YOU ARE ABLE TO START RUNNING AGAIN 

3. NEVER LOOK AT THE TOP OF THE HILL

Counting paces may seem silly but it takes your mind completely off the job of climbing the hill or your walking. Controlled or managed


walking is hard work but it will save you time, but then all of Comrades is hard work.

START TO TOLLGATE (About 4kms)

Flat from the start in the city centre and then onto the “Western Bypass” (double road section) and then a climb to Tollgate.

tollgate-bridge

DANGERS

It’s all well-lit in wide good roads. Everybody around you fired up with adrenalin and the excitement of finally getting to Comrades.

The race leaders start far too fast and as a result pull the entire field with them starting too fast and you don’t notice the climb to Tollgate.

 

TOLLGATE TO 45TH CUTTING (ABOUT 3kms)

A slight dip after Tollgate but then the climb up to the top of 45th Cutting.

45th-cutting

DANGERS

Still well-lit but still lots of banter and adrenalin and excitement and many haven’t noticed the climbs yet but some little strength sapping climbs if one is not careful.

 

45TH CUTTING TO WESTVILLE (ABOUT 7kms)

Another dip from the top of 45th Cutting but it doesn’t last too long before the long pull up the M13 to Westville

DANGERS

In poor lighting and mostly in the dark although the sun is slowly starting to get up. The pull up to the top of Westville is long and mostly in the dark and the banter is still on the go. For that reason it is dangerous.  Be careful of the “cat’s eyes” on the M13 double road in the dark as you can easily trip and fall over them in the dark.

 

WESTVILLE TO BOTTOM OF COWIES HILL (ABOUT 2kms)

When you reach the top of the climb to the Westville centre there’s some respite on a downhill and a stretch of flat to the bottom of Cowies Hill.

DANGERS

None

 

COWIES HILL (ABOUT 3kms)

Up and over Cowies Hill and it’s the first of the tough hills. Nice views of Pinetown but no time to stop to admire them.

cowies hill

DANGERS

You may need a bit of CONTROLLED WALKING to climb up Cowies Hill. Some of those who didn’t look after themselves coming out of Durban will already be starting to feel it.

 

INTO PINETOWN (About 3kms)

After the hard work from the start to the top of Cowies Hill there’s the drop to the bottom of Cowies on the Pinetown side and what looks like the flat run to the centre of Pinetown but don’t be fooled. It’s still a gradual pull most of the way along what used to be called the Old Main Road (now Josiah Gumede Road) so just maintain your steady pace.

DANGERS

You continue your gentle uphill pull that you don’t really notice.

 

CENTRE OF PINETOWN TO THE TOP OF FIELDS HILL (ABOUT 4KMS)

This is one of the tough sections that takes you up Field’s Hill and to the end of the punishing and damaging climb from the start. This is the part of the run where many of the people around you will have lost their time for the day due to foolish running in the first 25km of Comrades. They won’t be the first runners to do it and they certainly won’t be the last.

fields-hill

DANGERS

If you look after the 25km from the start to the top of Field’s Hill you will have a pretty good day. If you don’t do so you will probably be in for a very long, hard and painful day to Pietermaritzburg.

 

KLOOF TO HILLCREST (ABOUT 6KM)

You have just completed what is arguably the worst part of the Up Run and from here for the next 6km things are a lot better. To Hillcrest whilst there are a few little bumps, if you took care of those first 25km from the start there is nothing too serious and it is nice recovery time.

DANGERS

A little pull up past the fire station at Gilletts but otherwise nothing. Controlled walking may be necessary – but as always it must be controlled walking.

 

HILLCREST TO THE TOP OF BOTHA’S HILL (ABOUT 4KMS)

After Hillcrest a drop out down to the bottom of Botha’s Hill on legs that are starting to feel a little tired and you get to another of the famous hills and Botha’s Hill is steep and it’s fairly long. You are probably going to need to do so, so controlled walking is completely in order but stopping to admire the scenery is strictly prohibited. Down the other side and into Botha’s Hill village.

bothas-hill-village

DANGERS

Botha’s Hill is one of the famous hills in Comrades but if it’s handled correctly it is no major threat. Near the top look out for the boys from Kearsney College who are out cheering you on your way.

 

TOP OF BOTHA’S HILL TO DRUMMOND (ABOUT 8KMS)

halfway-sign

This stretch is mainly easy running apart from two little climbs, one at Phezulu and the other at Alverstone (look for the radio mast on your left) before you drop down Alverstone and suddenly to have reached halfway and because you looked after the first 25km out of Durban and controlled your walking you find you have reached Drummond in a comfortable time.

drummond

Hope you didn’t forget to greet Arthur Newton at Arthur’s Seat about 1km before Drummond on the left hand side of the road. The greeting is “Morning Arthur” and if you can, you place a flower in the seat and don’t forget to doff your hat.

arthurs-seat

DANGERS

Forgetting to greet Arthur.

 

DRUMMOND TO THE TOP OF INCHANGA (ABOUT 1.5KM)

So now comes Inchanga. You will probably have to do some walking. Aimless walking will without any doubt cost you time that will be added on at the finish but controlled walking whilst it might feel tough at the time will save you time, about that there is no debate. One thing that is strictly prohibited is staring at the views whilst taking part in Comrades under the pretext of needing a nature break.

valley-of-1000-hills

DANGERS

Controlled walking and there are then none.

 

TOP OF INCHANGA TO INCHANGA CARAVAN PARK (ABOUT 6.5KM)

First it’s the gentle trot down Inchanga then the little climb which isn’t too serious to the Enthembeni school (one of the Comrades charities) where lots of the kids will be out at the side of the road cheering you on. After the school another little climb to the caravan park.

enthembeni-school

DANGERS

None

 

INCHANGA CARAVAN PARK TO CATO RIDGE (ABOUT 9KM)

The first thing that hits you after you leave the caravan park is a really nasty little climb that has no name. It’s a little over 1km long and takes you to the Nagel Dam turnoff and the start of Harrison Flats. Harrison Flats is exactly that – flat all the way to Cato Ridge.

DANGERS

None

 

CATO RIDGE TO CAMPERDOWN (ABOUT 4.3KM)

One of the things that has always been an inspiration for the Comrades runner is knowing that when he or she gets to the area around Cato Ridge and Camperdown that it won’t be too long before they get to Umlaas Road and they get their first glimpse through the afternoon winter haze of Pietermaritzburg. This section is pretty flat with a couple of little “bumps” of no major concern.

camperdown-walking

DANGERS

None other than aimless walking. Note the lady in the red vest on the right of the photo who is doing controlled walking.

 

CAMPERDOWN TO UMLAAS ROAD (ABOUT 4KM)

A nasty hill with no name out of Camperdown as you make your way towards Umlaas Road which is the highest point between Durban and Pietermaritzburg but as you have learnt about controlled walking this poses no threat.

DANGERS

None

 

UMLAAS ROAD TO THE BOTTOM OF POLLY’S (ABOUT 9KMS)

The only thing of any concern on this stretch is “Little Polly’s” which lies about 11km or so from home. It isn’t particularly steep but it comes at the wrong time. It comes when legs are sore and runners are tired and it’s unfortunately one of those hills that has to be climbed because it’s there.

DANGERS

Most of the further back in the field runners will walk Little Polly’s aimlessly and by doing that could lose between 10 and 15 minutes and that’s before they reach Polly’s itself.

It’s now that controlled walking, as painful as it might be is so important.

 

POLLY SHORTTS (ABOUT 1.7KM)

Much has been written about Polly’s. Much has been spoken about Polly’s. Horror stories have been told about Polly’s.

At the end of the day it’s only a hill on the old road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg and once every two years runners in the Comrades Marathon need to make their way up that hill. Some runners go up faster than others but it’s just a hill.

Sort out your strategy for the way you are going to tackle Polly’s before race day and it’s not going to be a big deal. It really isn’t.

polly-shortts

DANGERS

None

 

TOP OF POLLY’S TO SCOTTSVILLE RACE COURSE (ABOUT 7KM)

THE MEASURED OFFICIAL DISTANCE OF THE 2017 UP RUN IS 86.73KM

My sincere thanks to Comrades for the copy below which sets out the exact detail of the new route from the top of Polly’s to the finish.

From the top of Polly Shortts continue along C B Downes Road (R103) direction Pietermaritzburg, then turn right into Gladys Manzi Road (previously Murray Road).

Proceed over the N3 National Freeway and then left into Cleland Road (passing the Hayfields Shopping Centre on the RHS).  Then left into Blackburrow Road and back over the N3 National Freeway.

Then right into Fairfield Avenue and then right into Ridge Road, crossing over New England Road with Ridge Road now becoming Harwin Road, then left into Taylor Street, proceeding all the way to the end, through the palisade fence and into the Scottsville Race Course complex.

Through the subway under the race course and then finishing on the race track in front of the main grandstand/big screen TV.

scottsville

DANGERS

You’re virtually home so there aren’t any!

And this is what awaits you when you reach the finish.

20151130_163928

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “COMRADES MARATHON UP RUN ROUTE 

  1. Werner Human says:

    Thank you…this is so helpful. I am doing nr. 8 this year, so although I have a good idea of what is waiting, the description is great. I feel the need to ready it at least every day for the next few weeks to be mentally prepared and reminder to tackle each section on its own merit and not let the sheer distance overwhelm me.

    Like

    • DAVE JACK says:

      I don’t know anyone who could stand at the start and not be overwhelmed by the sheer distance of Comrades if they were to think of the whole thing as one race. It’s for that reason that I have always suggested that runners should break Comrades up into about 7 short runs from cut off point to cut off point so your longest run of the day is no longer than about 19km.

      I explain this in more detail in my blog published yesterday entitled “Comrades is 90% From the Neck Up”. Have a look at it and read it in conjunction with the route description.

      All the best and have a great run on the 4th of June.

      Regards, Dave

      Like

  2. Lisa Alexander says:

    Thank you for breaking up the route the way you have, makes one feel so much more confident and in control. I’m not a fan of the up run, but your description has actually made me excited for the first time. This being my 5th up run.

    Like

    • DAVE JACK says:

      Hi Lisa

      An absolute pleasure. I ran a total of 9 Up Runs and my best on an Up and loved them for some reason so for me it was fairly easy to give you the route through my eyes.

      Hope you have a great run on the 4th and achieve exactly what you are hoping to achieve.

      Regards

      Dave

      Like

  3. John Chester says:

    Dave
    Great article- many thanks.
    I will be travelling from the UK for my first Comrades. Reading this has really helped with the mental preparation.
    All the best
    John

    Like

    • DAVE JACK says:

      Hi John

      Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a wonderful Comrades and a fantastic day between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

      I also hope that you have been able to “see” the route through my description and that it has helped with your mental preparation for the race.

      Regards

      Dave

      Like

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