Posted in COMRADES 2022

COMRADES IS BACK

After having been without Comrades for the last two years because of the dreaded Covid pandemic, the thought that Comrades is going to be back this year is exciting and I am certain that I am not the only person feeling this way. It’s s just over 190 days to race day and you would be amazed at how fast those 190 days will pass.

I was at the launch of Comrades 2022 this week and it was confirmed that the distance and route for this year will be the same as it was for the 2018 race.   90,2km starting at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall and finishing at Moses Mabida Stadium in Durban with the usual 6 cut off’s on the route. The exact cut off points haven’t been announced yet but almost certain they’ll be pretty much the same as they were in 2018 so plan your race on that until we know for sure.

Entries will be capped at 15,000 in terms of National Legislation (and not Comrades rules) and the first window period of entries opens on the 23rd of March and close on the 31st of March.  The first window entry period is for those who successfully entered for the 2020 race which was cancelled.

My guess is that just as we have seen previously, there will be a mad rush of entries in that first window period and if history is anything to go by, entries will be sold out within a day or two and then the complaints will begin by those who missed the deadline.

If you enter, you need to be fully vaccinated and you need to upload your vaccination certificate by the 12th of July.  This doesn’t apply to the need for booster shots.

Comrades has made it clear. No vaccination certificate means no race. I don’t know what the situation is if the reason for not having had a vaccination is valid. Comrades hasn’t made that clear but I’m certain they’ll have to.

The race will have “batch wave starts” and for the first time ever will be timed on a mat-to-mat basis rather than a gun to gun basis as it always has been.

The entry substitution process will be during the whole month of June and the window period to withdraw is the 1st to the 14th of June and the Window period to secure a sub entry is from the 17th to the 30th of June.

Substitution open to all (Local & Foreign) runners and an Admin Fee of 15% of the entry fee will be deducted by the CMA from the withdrawing  athlete. The CMA will then refund the withdrawing athlete 85%    of their entry fee. There will be no money or voucher exchange between athletes.

The usual Substitution Admin Fee of R200 will NOT apply this year and the sub athlete will pay the 2022 entry fee price.

I hope the substitution rule is clear. If you miss the deadline for entries, don’t stop your training because there is always the possibility that you are able to get a substitution entry in June.

An exciting prospect is the special 95th commemorative medal that will go to all finishers as well as the special design T shirt. We haven’t seen either the medal or the T Shirt and we’ll have to wait a while to see those but I’m told the wait will be worthwhile.

I don’t know about anyone else at the launch but I could feel Comrades in the air and I have always been able to smell it as we get closer to the big day. Now I know that at this stage we are nowhere near close to the big day, given the change of race date to the end of August but having missed it for the last two years I can already smell Comrades in the air.

Call me strange if you wish but Comrades 2022 will be the 63rd race I will be attending – my first one in 1956 and since then I have missed only 3 deliberately and I am counting the centenary celebrations at Comrades House in May as a Comrades although there may be some who would argue that. Be that as it may, that day in May at Comrades House felt very much like Comrades but if you want me to take that off my tally, I’ll do so reluctantly.

Anyway, what I was trying to say is that after all those Comrades, where 62 or 63 doesn’t matter a lot, to “smell” Comrades even this far in advance of the race, I would suggest is normal and if you were to ask any of the “old runners” they will understand what I am talking about.

Firstly, I am delighted that I have seen nothing anywhere either as complaints or compliments that the race is now at the end of August and that from now on it will be held in August ever year and well done to Comrades for explaining the reasons so well and so thoroughly.  This does alter training schedules though and in a recent article by Bruce Fordyce, he suggested that “April should become the new January” as far as starting proper Comrades training is concerned.  That said, I am sure that many runners will get it wrong and will either over train or under train and get to the start under prepared.  Listen to what Bruce says, He’s run a couple of these races so he has a fairly good idea of what he’s talking about!!!!!!

I’ve made quite a lot of comment about training programmes and especially race day schedules and I have made the point that the person who knows your body best is you.  Certainly not some person in a magazine who has never met you and this has never been more the case than with the different training dates we face this year and remember that if you are living and training inland in South Africa, the bulk of your main training for the end of August will be in the middle of winter and if you are not able to go out and train when the temperatures warm up, you are going to be training in pretty cold temperatures.

Many of you will be looking for either a training partner (or group of runners with whom to train) or an individual coach.  I have no problem with that and in fact in my running days I did that all the time but I never changed my training partners. That’s a disaster. Find the right person or group early in the year and stick with that person or group. If you find that you need to change, you should do it early when you still have enough time and not leave it until the last minute.

Shoes, energy supplements and clothing must also be sorted out early in the training year. I have actually seen runners buying new shoes at Expo that they intend wearing in Comrades in the next day or two.  Can you believe it?

If you live in KZN and near the route you will most certainly have trained over at least parts of it.  If you live far from the course, you may only have seen the route profile and that is enough to frighten even the bravest individual. 

Simply put, I don’t believe that you can learn about 90km of tough terrain drawn on an A5 page of paper – but hey, that’s what I think. Go over the route at least once before race day – and remember if this is your first Down Run but you have run and completed Comrades on an Up Run. You are still a novice. The two races are very different.

On the question of race day schedules – my advice is do you own! Nobody knows your body better that you do. Nobody knows what your body can do better than you. How many times have I heard a runner who climbed on the 11 hour “bus” say “I could have done better but I ran slower being in the “Bus”. Sorry about that now”.

If you do your own race day schedule, be conservative and set times you know you can achieve and give yourself a 15 minute “window” to reach a certain point on your schedule.  If you don’t do that and you find yourself even 5 minutes slower, the result is instant panic when you don’t need to panic if you are still in your 15 minute “window”.

The same applies at the other end if you are running too fast. You can easily “blow” your entire race by misjudging your times and going too fast.

The bad news is that in terms of Covid regulations, the field size has had to be capped at 15,000 – down from the 25,000 the last time we had entries open for Comrades a few years ago so I expect that we will have a mad rush for entries. Entries open on the 23rd of March and close on the 31st of March for the first “window” period. This will be for those who entered towards the end of 2019 for the 2020 Comrades that was cancelled but which race organisers said they would carry entries across to 2021 – which was also cancelled so they’ve carried them across again to Comrades 2022.

The problem comes in where the demand for entries from the 2020 race exceeds the cap of 15,000 for the 2022 race. Any over and above the 15,000 simply won’t be accepted and this won’t be a rule of the Comrades organisers but will be a national rule because of Covid.

So the only answer? Get your entry in as soon as you can to avoid the disappointment of a rejected entry.

The second “window” period of entries assuming the 15,000 isn’t reached by the time the 31st of March is reached (and that’s somewhat unlikely I think) is for those who didn’t enter for the 2020 race towards the end of 2019.

The second window period if it’s necessary is from 20th April to 16th May 2022.

Entries will only be accepted via online entries and postal and hand delivered entries will not be accepted.

So those are the early notes on Comrades 2022. Keep watch for further news from Comrades House on what will be happening on the 28th of August and get those running shoes on, get your qualifying marathon done and get your entry in as soon as they open on www.comrades.com and you can make changes to your entry until the 12th of July. The important thing is to get that entry in and get it in as soon as entries open on the 23rd of March.

Remember.  Don’t post your entry or hand deliver it as it won’t be accepted.

18 FEBRUARY 2022

Posted in PERSONAL OPINION

TO WIN COMRADES :

The more I have written about Comrades in this blog and in other articles over the years and the more I have spoken to winners over the years the more I have realised just what an enormous achievement it is to win Comrades.

Think about this. At the time I write this, we have had 93 Comrades Marathons starting with that very first one way back in 1921 and we have had just 51 different men’s winners.

Pause for a moment to let that sink in.  In 92 races we have had 51 different winners. That tells us just what an enormous achievement it is to win Comrades. Only 51 men have been able to win this race.

Obviously there have been the multi race winners but that takes nothing away from those who are single race winners when you think of the very long list of those who would dearly love to win this race but have just not been able to do so.  Those who have had to be content to go home year after year with a gold medal but no winner’s medal.

Make no mistake though, to go home with a gold medal is still something pretty special.

The trouble is, that whilst it is very special to win a gold medal or a collection of gold medals people tend to forget the person who finishes second, no matter what the sporting event is.

To demonstrate what I mean, Hardy Ballington, who was a five time winner and who is remembered for that achievement, had a younger brother John, who won 5 gold medals in Comrades with a best position of second in 1949.  Does anyone remember that?  

He wore race number 26 and that was long ago reallocated to the late Ian Jardine who turned it green so even the “honour” of getting a green number for John’s five golds for the number he wore was lost because things were different.

Green numbers were first introduced in 1972 so John Ballington’s number 26 had been reallocated long after he stopped running and long after the concept of permanent numbers for 5 gold medals was even thought of.

I have tried to find somewhere that John Ballington’s 5 gold medals are recognised and I haven’t been able to do so.  He wasn’t a winner – he came second and had a collection of gold medals!

I think also of that fantastic runner from Collegians Harriers in Pietermaritzburg, Gordon Baker. Many runners from the modern era won’t even know the name.  Gordon ran Comrades nine times and won eight gold medals but just couldn’t win the race itself.  The result is that today he’s basically forgotten by most people except those of us who knew him from way back when. 

I have been privileged to have met many of the winners since the sixties and when you speak to these chaps they’re ordinary people and most of them quiet and unassuming – until you see a few of them gathered together and you realise that there’s a bond that holds them together.

That bond that says “We’ve won Comrades” and they don’t have to actually say a word, it’s just there.  A magic in the air that you can feel and almost touch. 

I heard Bruce Fordyce recently refer to the Winner’s Trophy jealously as “Our Trophy” and he made it clear that they don’t actually want just any name on that trophy and if your name is on there you have to earn the right to have your name there and he wasn’t being big headed about the way in which he said it although he had every right to be so. 

It’s a very special club and not just anyone can join and from what I’ve seen as an outsider looking in, it doesn’t matter how many Comrades they’ve won to be recognised by the members of that “special club” they all seem to be equal in each other’s eyes.  All that matters is that they’ve won.

I have had people tell me that it was easier in the “old days” to win Comrades when the fields were smaller and slower but I think that’s rubbish.  Maybe the fields were smaller and slower but there were challenges of different sorts that made winning just as big an achievement as it is today.

Some of the biggest winning margins were recorded in “the old days” when the fields were very small but so too were the two closest finishes in the history of the race when fields were much smaller than they are today so that sort of throws that argument out the window.

I remember that after the 2016 Comrades I organised a dinner with Alan Robb and Tommy Malone and the reason for the dinner is that it was 60 years since the year I had first seen Comrades, 50 years since Tommy had won his Comrades and 40 years since Alan had won his first Comrades so I thought that it had some significance – the 40 – 50 – 60 year celebration.

TOMMY MALONE 1966 FINISH

It was a very pleasant evening indeed and with Tommy’s daughter and son-in-law who were also present and who have also run, there was a total of something around 80 Comrades medals between us but the focus was on Tommy and Alan who were winners. The rest of us didn’t really count.

At my 70th birthday party last year the theme was Comrades Marathon (could there have been anything else) and amongst the guests there were a total of exactly 100 Comrades medals and that included two winners.  They were the two people on whom the attention was focused. The rest of who had run just happened to be there and it was my birthday party!

Winning Comrades is a huge achievement.

I have seen 59 Comrades Marathons at the time of writing this and I am looking forward to seeing my 60th in June this year and recently I was given an old DVD of the 1979 and 1982 Comrades which were won by the late Piet Vorster and Bruce Fordyce respectively.

win (1)

I sat watching this DVD and I was reminded again of the speed at which those two guys had to run to win Comrades.  It’s simply mind blowing and I have seen a lot of Comrades and I still marvel at the speed at which the front runners go and for the distance at which they have to run it.

For many years when I was reporting the race for 702 Talk Radio I was on the road alongside the front runners and it was fascinating to see the strategies  and to watch as one by one they faded and the favourites came through. Then you would hear comments such as “Fordyce is starting to make his move” or “Fordyce is starting to come through”. 

bRUCE WINS

Bruce was an amazingly strategic runner and from where I was, it always looked to me – and I may well have been wrong – that he let the others come back to him.  Sure he seemed to increase his speed a bit in the second half but the others did most of the work for him – or so it seemed as I watched and I have heard him say this in talks he has given. He let them come back to him.

I remember one year I had that great athlete Sydney Maree as a passenger in the 702 car with me and we were on Harrison Flats following the leader who was on his own out in front and Sydney said to me “Do you think he’s looking good”.

I said “Nope. He’s just blown. Watch. In about 1km he’ll be walking and in 2km he’ll be out”.  That particular runner was another who thought he was going to win when he was some 30km out but who wasn’t even going to go home with a medal of any sort and he didn’t!

It’s a huge achievement to win Comrades and not just anyone can do it!

After the 2016 Comrades when David Gatebe became the first person to run under 5:20 and we were told that his average speed was 3 minutes 33 seconds per km for the entire 89kms someone asked me at what speed I had run in my best Comrades.  Not knowing the exact distance of the 1975 race when I ran my best time of 8:29 I guessed it was around 5mins 50secs per km and I am pretty damn proud of that. It was a huge effort for me.

DAVID GATEBE

But when you think of David Gatebe’s 3:33 per km you suddenly realise just what an incredible achievement it is to win Comrades.  At my best I wasn’t able to run even one km at David’s speed let alone 89 of them one after the other!

So before you watch Comrades from in front of your TV and grab for another beer as the winner comes in and you salute him as though what he’s done was no big deal or you hear about his win when you still have the better part of 40km still to go on your journey to Moses Mabhida Stadium on the 10th of June, pause for just a moment to consider exactly what this man and all the winners before him have done.

It’s one hell of an achievement.

Will this year’s winner become the 52nd winner or will the number remain at 51 because on the day, there is nobody new who is able to qualify to get his name on the trophy that Bruce Fordyce jealously regards as “Our Trophy”?

And rightly so. It’s very special that trophy.

 

April 2018

Posted in PERSONAL OPINION

COMRADES ISN’T HARD :

We’re into March and most Comrades runners should by now be well into their Comrades training and I’ve just read Bruce Fordyce’s latest blog in which he says it’s now time to start training hard for Comrades and I totally agree with him. March used to be when I started the serious stuff in my running days but it’s not the physical training I want to talk about.

I have often been asked by “ordinary runners” – as opposed to the elite or even those running for silver medals – if Comrades is hard and my answer has always been the same.  Comrades isn’t hard. 

By implication, that would mean that Comrades must be easy and I can immediately hear runners and “would be” Comrades runners saying that I must be completely round the bend.  If Comrades wasn’t hard, then everybody would be doing it.

When you consider that in the 92 years we have had Comrades, we have had something like 120,000 different people who have run Comrades (that is something of a guess) and that is only a very small percentage of the total population of the country who could qualify to take part that, so if it is “easy”, why then do so few people actually take part and why have so few people taken part since the race started in 1921?

The answer, I believe, is fairly simple. Getting to the start line of Comrades is hard but Comrades itself, if you’ve prepared properly both physically and mentally, is not hard.

I started off by excluding the elite or professional runners and those running for silver medals etc. because I know nothing about how they feel on Comrades day.  I have never been there so I can’t comment on what it feels like to run Comrades at 5 minutes a km or faster but I can comment on what it feels like when you are running a Bill Rowan or slower because I have run in both those categories and its those runners I’m wanting to “talk” to in this blog.

The first big challenge is to commit to running Comrades, often from having done little or nothing at all in the way of exercise previously in many cases. I know one person who promised himself for 20 years that he would run before he eventually did!

That’s quite a long time to make up your mind!

The problem after you’ve made up your mind to run is that you are still a long way from the Comrades start line and almost immediately second thoughts and doubts start to creep in, and often it’s only the fact that you can’t keep your mouth shut and you’ve told people that you are going to run Comrades that keeps you going. In many cases you elect to shift the goalposts a little from this year to next year’s Comrades in order to give yourself more time. 

The trouble with that is the shift in the goalposts often comes with an easing up on the training and in most cases stopping completely “because my knees are taking too much strain”.  Old rugby injuries you understand!

Where the runner doesn’t move goalposts and the training and racing distances get longer and longer there are other problems that come along.  Pains in places you didn’t know pains could be. Trips to physios and doctors and it’s only the end of March… but we carry on.

We feel better. We have qualified. We’re sometimes even running better times but it’s getting harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning because it’s getting darker and colder. Some of our training partners have fallen by the wayside.  Old rugby injuries you understand!

We start hearing horror stories about things called Inchanga, Botha’s Hill and Cowies Hill and there’s talk about cut off times and being pulled off the road if we don’t reach certain places by certain times. Our mind starts to do cartwheels.

We go out and buy ourselves a very expensive watch that works out our speed per kilometre, which by the time we get to the 65km mark on race day is going to drive us completely insane as we work out that we’re running at 3 mins 15 per km!  No! That can’t be right!

The marker boards count down in Comrades but nobody told us that. Now we’re trying to calculate our times with that fancy watch and marker boards that count down and so we try again.

Ah! That’s better! We’re doing 25mins per km.  No! Hang on! Now we’re in very serious trouble.

Bottom line – save yourself the money. You don’t need the fancy watch. Use an ordinary wristwatch. You start at 5:30 in the morning and you need to be at the finish before 5:30 in the evening and at certain cut off points by certain times of the day and the organisers tell you what time of day those are.  Keep things as simple as possible!

So where is this all leading me? 

You may not have noticed but I haven’t said a thing about how you should prepare physically for Comrades.  There are plenty of people around who can do that for you.  Some of them will confuse the hell out of you but I leave you to work out which training schedule works best for you – just don’t jump from one to the other.  

Everything I’ve said has to do with that part of you from the neck up!

That crucial 90% of Comrades from the neck up that needs to be very well prepared to get you through from Pietermaritzburg to Moses Mabida Stadium on the 10th of June.  The legs and the physical training only account for 10% on Comrades day.  We’ve been saying that for more years than I can remember.

I remember being told as a very young Comrades runner 50 years ago that if my legs could get me through 60km, they could get me through 90km.  The other 30km is up to your head but if that hasn’t been prepared properly you are in for a rough day.  We’ve always said the Down Run actually starts as you get into Pinetown!

I’m certainly not by any stretch of the imagination a hero of any sort when it comes to running Comrades but I started 14 of them and I finished all 14 inside the time limit which in those days was 11 hours and not once did it even enter my mind during the worst of my runs to stop and get into a car.

In the 1971 Down Run I started with what we later found out was ITB but at the time we had no idea what the pain at the side of the knee was so I ran. Or at least I tried to run but by the time I got to Pinetown I wasn’t able to run so I had only one thing I could do and getting into a car wasn’t the one thing. Walking to the finish was the only option I had, so I did that and I got home in a touch under 10 hours and I put that down to the fact that I was strong mentally and I always worked on that preparation in all my Comrades.

That day in 1971 if I hadn’t prepared mentally there is simply no way I would have finished and it was only that mental strength, that got me through in what I regard as a fairly respectable time in what I have very recently learnt is regarded as the longest ever Comrades distance-wise.

The longest ever Comrades and I walked from Pinetown, effectively with a leg that wasn’t working but my head was!

If you have put in the distance in your legs and you have done at least one but preferably two or three runs of 60km or maybe a bit more, your legs will see you through on “the day”.

So how do you prepare mentally for Comrades?  There are just a couple of things to do before race day. Those 60km runs in your legs go into your mental “bank account” and count big time on Comrades day when you remember that at the end of those training runs you felt “pretty OK” to face further distance so now your physical is taken care of and you can focus on the mental preparation that literally hundreds of Comrades runners ignore at their peril.

So what do you do to train mentally?

The major thing is to get to know the Comrades route. This is easy if you live in KZN and get to run on it regularly and things like Inchanga, Botha’s Hill and Cowies Hill become regular parts of your training runs.

Not so easy if you live far away and the first time you see the route is on race day or the day before.

I have done a detailed description of the route and it’s available on another chapter of this blog. Study it and get to know it.  Not just a passing glance. Read it several times so that when you get to know the various places where you are.

Then the crucial thing you must do is break up your Comrades into small pieces.  There are usually seven time based cut off points (including the finish) and the longest is usually no more than about 19km or so.  Whatever you do, don’t stand at the start thinking you have to run 90km to Moses Mabida Stadium in Durban.  That will just blow your mind.  

Stand at the start and think that all you are going to do is your 19km run (or whatever the distance is to the first cut-off) and that’s all.

You have all run 19km and much more in training so that’s not an issue at all so your longest run on Comrades day is 19km or so.  The next cut off is about 11km further so that’s your next run.

So that means that your first run on Comrades day is about 19km. Your next run is about 11km and so you go for the rest of the day.  Don’t worry about anything other than the run you’re busy with.  No point in stressing about Inchanga when you’re in Camperdown!   Concentrate on Camperdown when you’re in Camperdown!

So on Comrades day you will end up doing seven little runs.  That’s all it is. Seven little runs! That’s not too much to ask of anyone.

One long run of 90km is a huge job – but seven little runs.  That’s no big deal!

The great thing about these cut off points is that Comrades tells you where they are and then they put up huge big boards about 1km from the cut-off point to let you know it’s up ahead. 

So all you have to do is to learn to identify the landmarks of the cut-off points and then tie them back to the route description I have given you.  Six of them on the route!

This is getting easier and easier all the time!  That’s why I say Comrades isn’t hard.

Do the hard work before the 10th of June and enjoy Comrades day.  That’s what it’s there for.

 

 MARCH 2018

Posted in COMRADES ADVICE

COMRADES DOWN RUN ROUTE

I have written this description of the Down Run route as I have seen it after having been done from many years of running the Down Run and also having trained on the course of the Down Run over many years.  The only section which is new to me is the last section from Tollgate to the Moses Mabida Stadium which was run for the first time in 2018.

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.

START TO TOP OF POLLY SHORTS (About 5kms)

There’s a change to the way you leave Pietermaritzburg this year and this came about in 2018 and you’ll be reverting to the route that runners in the 60’s used to leave at the start of the Down Run.

From the start at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall it’s along Chief Albert Luthuli Street towards Durban then along Alan Paton Avenue where you run past the university and then contraflow onto the N3 national freeway.  From there, you will glide off right onto the Market Road on ramp and then left onto the slip road to CB Downes Road and then follow the traditional Comrades route towards Polly Shortts and onwards to Durban.

Climb fairly gently from the start out of Pietermaritzburg

DOWN RUN START

DANGERS

In the dark although there are street lights. Everybody around you is 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

 

TOP OF POLLY SHORTS TO THE BOTTOM OF POLLY’S (About 2kms)

Steep downhill

DANGERS

Usually totally dark and huge numbers of runners. Many removing the black plastic bags they were wearing for warmth at the start (not actually allowed as these have been banned by the organisers) and discarding them in the road. Danger of tripping.

At the bottom of Polly’s there are speed bumps and the danger of tripping.

 

BOTTOM OF POLLYS TO UMLAAS ROAD (Highest point between Pmb & Dbn) (About 12kms)

Gentle climb of about 1km from bottom of Polly’s to Ashburton Store.

Then down “Little Polly’s” to the “Tumble Inn”. I remember in days gone by it wasn’t unusual to find locals who had dragged a doubled bed out to the edge of the road to cheer the runners from the comfort of their bed whilst sipping champagne but snuggled up in bed.

From Tumble Inn bridge steady climb all the way to Umlaas Road. The worst part the last 1km before crossing under the Highway at the Lion Park turnoff. After the bridge a gentle climb to Umlaas Road.

DANGERS

Still fairly dark over the entire stretch to the bridge under the Highway. This is where you USUALLY cross the first timing mat and get to the first cut off point so it’s also once you have crossed the first timing mat that family and friends can start tracking you from the Comrades app.

Once again the dark and adrenalin of the runners causes running too fast on the climb from Tumble Inn

  

UMLAAS ROAD TO CAMPERDOWN (About 4kms)

Fairly gentle with a nasty but short hill not long after leaving Umlaas Road as you go under the highway.

The first of the fairly big crowds of spectators at Camperdown. Usually a number of toilets available.

DANGERS

Nothing of any consequence other than the nasty little climb mentioned above.

CAMPERDOWN

 

CAMPERDOWN TO CATO RIDGE (About 4km)

After leaving Camperdown with a very slight and hardly noticeable climb of about 400m there is a dip and then a short but fairly steep climb to a sharp right turn across the bridge that crosses the N3

After the bridge a gentle run alongside the N3 to Cato Ridge. Through the village under the N3 again and a right turn and in this area is the second cut off point.

DANGERS

Potholes coming into Cato Ridge and not seeing them and stepping into one could badly twist an ankle and there are also a speed bump or two.

 

CATO RIDGE TO INCHANGA CARAVAN PARK (About 11km)

Climb out of Cato Ridge on a deceptively long although not too steep section. This takes you onto the start of “Harrison Flats” that really is flat until you reach a downhill that takes you to the Inchanga Caravan Park.

DANGERS

Nothing but Harrison Flats is pretty boring and the first time you ask yourself what you’re doing here!  Reassure yourself that you are not that far from Drummond and half way!

 

INCHANGA CARAVAN PARK TO BOTTOM OF INCHANGA (About 3kms)

A gentle downhill from the caravan park to the bottom of Inchanga. You will recognise the start of Inchanga by a small store on the left of the road with a view of the Valley of 1000 Hills

DANGERS

First bit of tiredness creeping in. Pretending to stop and look at the scenery. Don’t stop to admire the Valley of 1000 Hills! If you travelled the route in the days before the race it hasn’t changed!    And if you haven’t seen it already – here it is so you don’t have to stop to look at it again!

cropped-valley-of-1000-hills

 

INCHANGA (About 1.5kms)

The first of the really big hills on the Down Run. Two ways to handle the hill. Either get behind a runner of your speed and watch his/her heels whilst they pull you up to the top of Inchanga.

If there is no runner at your speed around you, you can walk 200 paces and run 100 paces and continue on that basis until you reach the top.

DANGERS

Many of the runners around you will be walking aimlessly towards the top. Control your climb up Inchanga and anywhere else you walk and you won’t lose time. It is very easy to be hooked into the aimless walking where runners are together and talking negatively about how stupid they are. In most cases these are the same runners who were carried away in the first 20kms.

 

TOP OF INCHANGA TO DRUMMOND (About 1.5kms)

Down Inchanga and into Drummond and the official half way lies ahead. Not long after the start of the run down Inchanga you see Drummond. When you reach the bottom of Inchanga the road levels out for a very short while and then you climb up to the official half way.

 halfway-sign

DANGERS

The most dangerous part of running down Inchanga is the desire to go too fast to get to half way.  Remember that you already have a full marathon in your legs and you don’t want to punish them more than is necessary.

Big crowds are usually in Drummond and as the climb to the half way starts, ignore them.  Head down and find a pair of shoes in front of you to study. One of the biggest dangers here is the desire (tiring legs) to soak up the atmosphere and walk or even stop for a while.

 

DRUMMOND TO THE BOTTOM OF ALVERSTONE (About 3kms)

As you leave Drummond you climb a hill that has no real name although many runners have given it a name that can’t be used in polite company!  It’s nasty. It’s really nasty. There is simply no other way to describe it.  Be careful of it as very few people even talk about it. At the top of that climb is Arthur’s Seat and legend has it that Arthur Newton (5 times winner in the twenties) sits in that seat every year on Comrades Day. Here is your opportunity to stop for about a minute to put some flowers you have picked onto Arthur’s Seat and give him a hearty “Morning Arthur” and legend continues that if you do that Arthur will look after you to the finish.

 arthurs-seat

A short “dip” brings you to the Wall of Honour where runners’ names are erected giving the names and race numbers of Comrades runners both past and present, many of whom have gone to that great ultra-marathon in the sky. Don’t stop to read the names on the Wall of Honour. That is just an excuse to waste time.

WALL OF HONOUR

After the Wall of Honour a flat stretch takes you to the bottom of Alverston Hill.

DANGERS

Without doubt it’s the climb out of Drummond. As I said above – IT’S NASTY. The only other minor danger is spending too much time greeting Arthur or stopping to take in the splendour of the Valley of 1000 Hills. Now is not the time for scenery.

 

ALVERSTON (About 1km)

Alverston is not actually as bad as people make it out to be.  As you start Alverston, there is a little climb, a slight level and then another little climb to the first corner. After that first right hand turn there’s a steady climb to the top. If it’s too tough to run the whole way do the run and walk to the top. Remember 200 paces run and then 100 paces walk and repeat to the top.

DANGERS

If you take care of that first 200 metres or so the hill is yours. Go at it too hard you are in trouble.

  

TOP OF ALVERSTON TO BOTTOM OF BOTHA’S HILL (About 5kms)

From the top of Alverston all the way through the village of Botha’s Hill it’s fairly undulating.   Not far after the top of Alverston you will see “Phezulu”, a well-known tourist attraction, on your left. About 1km after that is a little climb – again with no name – that wouldn’t be too bad if you didn’t have about 50kms in your legs. After that it’s a gentle downhill to the bottom of Botha’s Hill.

DANGERS

Nothing except that little climb after Phezulu

 

BOTHA’S HILL (About 1km)

The next real climb on the Down Run. Not that long but your legs are starting to get tired and you may need to do the “walk & run”.

DANGERS

Nothing other than the hill itself and the pretence that you need to stop and gaze over the Valley of 1000 Hills towards Inanda Dam.  You DON’T need to do that!

 valley-of-1000-hills

 

DURBAN SIDE OF BOTHA’S HILL (About 2kms)

Fairly steep downhill for about 2kms. Just after the top look out for the pupils from Kearsney College sitting cheering runners. They’re there every year.

DANGERS

Temptation to run too fast down Botha’s can cause trouble further on. In fact too fast down any hill to the finish can generally cause damage to your legs from here on.

 

BOTTOM OF BOTHA’S HILL TO HILLCREST (About 2kms)

When you get to the bottom of Botha’s Hill you will see some shops on your right and you are on a gentle down road – then you hit it!!!!!       It has no name and has been called many not too pleasant names. Nasty nasty climb into Hillcrest. Not too long though.

bothas-hill-village

DANGERS

That little hill with no name into Hillcrest really is very nasty so be careful of it. It’s probably a walk and run hill.

 

HILLCREST TO KLOOF (About 6kms)

All the way from Hillcrest to Kloof is fairly easy and gentle and almost all slightly downhill although not really noticeable. As you go through Kloof there are lots and lots of spectators who have been there all day. They cheered the leaders and they’ll cheer you. Enjoy the vibe.

DANGERS

Nothing

 

KLOOF TO PINETOWN (About 2.5kms)

Kloof behind you and you have 2.5kms down Fields Hill to Pinetown. In the distance you will get your first distant view of Durban and that’s a great encouragement.

DANGERS

You will find runners walking down Fields Hill. Again these are the runners who started too fast. Of course your legs are sore. They are supposed to be. You have done just over 60kms.  Be careful not to run too fast down Field’s Hill. If you looked after the way you started, your legs will be just fine.

 

 THROUGH PINETOWN (About 3kms)

Bottom of Field’s Hill and you are into Pinetown and all the way to the bottom of Cowies Hill just three little “bumps” to worry about. The first as you come off Field’s Hill over a rail bridge. The second as you climb up a little rise to the “cross roads” in the centre of Pinetown and the third half way along Josiah Gumede Road (previously the Old Main Road) under a subway. Only about 100metres.

DANGERS

Nothing

 

COWIES HILL (About 2kms)

At the end of Josiah Gumede Road (previously the Old Main Road) you meet Cowies Hill. Another of the big climbs. Nothing much you can do but it’s not much more than 2km long. Walk and run may be needed. At the top of Cowies, a good view over Pinetown. Don’t stop to look at it. Then it’s down the Durban side of Cowies Hill and virtually into Westville. Bottom of Cowies Hill and you have 15kms to go.

Now for the first time you can start using the distance marker boards. Count them down from 15kms to the finish.

DANGERS

Just Cowies but once again protect those legs by not running too fast on the downhill side of the hill.

cowies hill

 

THE M13 THROUGH WESTVILLE TO 45TH CUTTING (About 7kms)

You are now onto what used to be the main highway to Durban before the “bypass” was built. Just after the shops in Westville, there is a nasty climb (no name) of about nearly 2kms and then after that it is all virtually downhill until you get to 45th Cutting. The climb up 45th Cutting is fairly tough and may need to be “walk and run”

45TH CUTTING

DANGERS

The climb from Westville on the M13 up 45th Cutting.

 

THE TOP OF 45TH CUTTING TO TOLLGATE (About 3Kms)

The climb to the top of 45th Cutting is tough because your legs are seriously tired now and it’s your head that’s doing all the work from here to get you home.  After you get to the top of 45th Cutting it’s downhill until the highway. A nasty little climb of a couple of hundred metres takes you onto the highway and a gentle downhill until you climb up to go under the Tollgate Bridge. The climb to go under Tollgate Bridge is not long but your legs are tired.

DANGERS

Nothing

 

TOLLGATE TO MOSES MABIDA STADIUM ( 7Kms)

You follow the N3 under the Tollgate Bridge an then take the new fly-over into David Webster Street (M13 to the M4)  which becomes Bram Fischer Road. From there, you turn left into Samora Machel Road and past the old finish venue at Kingsmead Cricket Stadium then on to until that road becomes Masabalala Yengwa Avenue.

You then run contraflow in Masabalala Yengwa Avenue and cross to the north bound lane at Battery Beach Road. You then take the pathway to the left between the bollards, pass the Virgin Active Gym and turn left into the tunnel before Nino’s and onto the field to the Finish Line at the Moses Mabida Stadium and it’s all over!

MOSES MABIDA

One of the main reasons for the move to the Moses Mabida Stadium was to align with the requirements of the Events Act as per the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act 2010.

Total distance of the Down Run Comrades Marathon is 90,184km.  It’s almost exactly the same as the 2018 Down Run that used the Moses Mabida Stadium as the finish for the first time.

 

December 2019