Posted in ALL MY BLOGS, PERSONAL STORY

WHO I AM

People might wonder what gives me the right to write about or talk about the Comrades Marathon, that amazing event that takes place in June every year, although 2020 saw it cancelled because of a global pandemic, only the second time in the history of the race that this has happened, the first time from 1941 to 1945 because of World War 2.   Allow me to briefly explain my credentials. I was introduced to the Comrades Marathon early on the morning of the 31st of May 1956 when my dad woke me and asked me whether I wanted to go with him to watch “The Marathon”. I had absolutely no idea what that was but that’s what locals called this wonderful event that is run in alternate directions between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in the province of Kwa Zulu- Natal in South Africa at the end of May every year and has been run every year since 1921.
I was only 9 years old and a little bleary eyed when I dragged myself along to stand at the side of the road in Pinetown where I grew up and which is part of the route to wait for this race, little knowing how my life was about to change that day. In 1956 there were a little under 100 runners on the “Up Run” that started in Durban and made its way to Pietermaritzburg some 89kms (about 55 miles) away over some very punishing terrain and as I stood and watched the runners make their way through Pinetown I was captivated and without hesitation I said to my father that when I was “big” I was going to run the race! I had to wait until 1968 before I had the opportunity to run it for the first time. That was the 31st of May 1956 and since then I have been at every Comrades Marathon except just three of them and of course the cancelled race in 2020. Why did I miss those three Comrades? I thought after I had been at 50 of them in succession that I had probably got Comrades out of my system so I deliberately missed two of them and had dreadful withdrawal. The third year I decided to travel to the UK to avoid the withdrawal but then sat in front of a computer and watched the live streaming on the internet so whilst I wasn’t actually at the race, I was “sort of” there. During the second half of 1999 I went in search of any runner who had been to more Comrades that I had and after a lot of searching I came across just one and that was Brian Swart, who is well known in the Comrades world of Pietermaritzburg and who has in fact put together the Comrades history in the Comrades website. He has attended 4 more than I have.  If there are any other people who have attended Comrades more times I would love to hear from them. My credentials as far as Comrades are concerned are that I have run 14 of them. I have been a helper to friends of mine who have run when I was not running. I have served on the organising committee, I have worked for a radio station reporting “live” into sports and news bulletins for 18 years. I have worked as stadium announcer for over 10 years and in the years in between I have enjoyed simply being a spectator watching the race from the side of the road or from the VIP lounge at the finish.  I have travelled with international runners on the tour busses in the days prior to race day taking these foreign visiting runners over the route, and in 2018 I was part of the seconding team of the winning woman, Ann Ashworth, (although I played a small part given the speed she was running at!) so not much I haven’t done and I have loved every aspect of my involvement. I have had the privilege of having met many of the winners and personalities over the years and Comrades has given me substantially more than I could ever have dreamed I could have had when I stood at the side of the road on the 31st of May 1956. How many more Comrades do I intend attending? The answer to that question is fairly simple. As long as I am still alive and able to be there, I will do all I can to be at “the marathon”, the name given to this wonderful event by locals in days gone by. Over the last couple of years I have tried to capture something of the magic I have felt in a series of blogs and I hope I have been able to do this and I hope that those of you who read these and who visit this website can experience even a little of the “magic” I feel for that strip of tarmac between Kwa Zulu-Natal’s two cities.
Posted in ALL MY BLOGS, COMRADES MEDAL PARADE

COMRADES MEDAL PARADE

The history of the medals awarded in Comrades is an interesting one. Until 1972, only 6 gold medals were awarded and all other finishers earned a silver medal, not just a silver medal but a silver medal that was engraved on the back with the name and time of the winner of that medal but as the number of runners taking part in the race grew, so too did the medal requirements. When the change came in 1972, organisers increased the number of gold medals to 10 but there have been more changes since then  to keep up with changes in the race.

Here is the list of medals awarded on Comrades day.

GOLD MEDAL
This medal is awarded to the first 10 men across the finish line at the end of Comrades.  As the women taking part are regarded to be running in a separate race they too qualify to win a gold medal should they finish in the top 10 amongst the women.

WALLY HAYWARD MEDAL (half gold & half silver)
This medal, named after 5 time winner Wally Hayward is awarded to those male runners who finish outside the gold medals, but under 6 hours i.e. Position 11 to sub 6 hours. This was introduced in 2007.

ISAVEL ROCHE-KELLY MEDAL (half gold & half silver)
The women’s equivalent of the Wally Hayward Medal will be earned by those women finishing from position 11, which is outside the gold medals and running sub 7 hours 30 minutes. Introduced in 2019. This means that women will no longer earn a Comrades silver medal.

SILVER MEDAL
With the change to the number of gold medals awarded from 1972, the organisers also decided that there should be a time based incentive to earn a silver medal so the 7 hour 30 cut off to win a silver was introduced.

BILL ROWAN MEDAL (half silver & half bronze)
The first Comrades Marathon in 1921 was won by Bill Rowan and it was the first Down Run with the 16 finishers of the 34 starters finishing at the Durban City Hall. Rowan won in a time of 8 hours and 59 minutes so anyone breaking 9 hours in Comrades is awarded this medal being symbolic of the time taken to win the first Comrades.

THE ROBERT MTSHALI MEDAL (titanium – pewter colour)
Runners who have missed the Bill Rowan Medal for breaking 9 hours can earn the Robert Mtshali Medal if they finish between 9 and 10 hours.
Robert Mtshali was the first unofficial Black runner in Comrades and he finished the 1935 race in 9 hours 30 minutes. Again a symbolic medal of the time Mtshali ran and introduced in 2019.

BRONZE MEDAL
The Bronze Medal was introduced in 1972 has no specific name and is won by any runner finishing between 10 and 11 hours.

VIC CLAPHAM MEDAL (copper)
When the time limit for the race was extended to 12 hours, a new medal was introduced for runners who finished between 11 and 12 hours. The copper Vic Clapham Medal was introduced in memory of the man who started it all way back in 1921.

BACK 2 BACK MEDAL (nickel & bronze combination)
In 2005 the Back 2 Back medal was introduced and awarded to runners who had completed their second Comrades in the year after their first run. It can’t be won by anyone who doesn’t run their first two Comrades in successive years.

Posted in COMRADES ADVICE, COMRADES IS ONLY 7 LITTLE RUNS

COMRADES IS ONLY 7 LITTLE RUNS

Many top runners believe that the way to tackle Comrades is to break it up into smaller and more reasonable pieces (or Little Runs) rather than try to tackle one enormous distance of the better part of 90km. That’s enough to destroy even the strongest of us and that’s before we have even started running!

How does one break up Comrades though? Here are the easy to follow steps:

  1. Comrades organisers have 7 cut–off points on the route (including the finish and each has the time of day by which you need to be there.

  1. Use these 7 sections of the route given by Comrades to work out each of your “7 Little Runs”

  1. Calculate the distance of each “Little Run” from cut-off point to cut off point.

  1. Calculate the time that you need to reach each cut-off point. This is not the time needed to run each Little Run but the time by which you need to be at the next cut-off point – or end of the Little Run.

  1. Study the route from the description of the route posted to this website about November every year.

  1. The organisers have put up a large board warning of the upcoming cut-off point which is usually about 1km ahead of the point.

  1. You now know the distance of each Little Run and the time by which you need to have completed it.

  1. Now you can start to prepare your own time schedule (some call it a pacing chart) of where you need to be at what time of day to reach your goal.

  1. It is imperative that you plan your day. A realistic time schedule helps to avoid wasting time (which is easy to do) if you know that you need to be at the end of the section you are on, at a certain time.
Posted in 10 tips for the 9 - 12 hour runner, ALL MY BLOGS, COMRADES ADVICE

10 TIPS FOR THE 9-12 HOUR RUNNER

  1. It’s not just the distance on the road that you need in training. You also need to know the route. The detailed description of the route is posted to this website around November each year
  1. Carefully plan how you want to run your day. One of the best ways is to draw up your time schedule of where you want to be at what time of day knowing at you must be at the finish before 17h30. What about breaking your Comrades into 7 Little Runs rather than having to face one huge challenge of almost 90 kms.
  1. Comrades gives you 12 hours as a maximum to get from the start to the finish so it’s up to you to manage yourself to make correct use of that or whatever other time you’re aiming for. You can’t manage time. You can only manage yourself to use that time correctly.
  1. There’s a knack to the walking you are probably going to have to do on Comrades day. Remember that aimless walking wastes time so when you need to walk, just walk 100 paces at a brisk pace, then run 200 paces. Walk 100 paces then run 200 paces and carry on until you have finished your need to walk.
  1. Whatever you do, don’t waste time at refreshment stations. Take your drink and walk briskly through the station. Remember that if you waste just 1 minute at half the refreshment stations on the road, you will have lost over 20 minutes from your day
  1. Don’t waste time by stopping during the day unless you absolutely have to – and most times you don’t have to. Remember that every step you take in the direction of the finish is one less step that you have to take.
  1. Unless there is no possible way to avoid it, don’t get into a rescue bus. The pain of doing that stays with you a lot longer than the pain of getting from the start to the finish.
  1. Look after yourself over the first 25km – both Up & Down Run.  If you don’t pace yourself properly there, you stand a good chance of messing up your entire race.
  1. Remember that Comrades is 90% from the neck up. Just when you think you can’t carry on, remember that in most cases you can.
  1. Enjoy your day. That’s why you’re there and here’s what awaits you.