Onward Comrades June 06 2018, 0 Comments

And it is upon us again.  Sunday, 10 June.  05h30.  The 93rd Comrades Marathon will be underway.

Comrades, affectionately known as the largest human race, is indeed one of the biggest races of it’s kind.  An ultramarathon with 20 000 participants, all with one objective in mind – to finish and receive that elusive medal, the ultimate token of thousands of hours of discipline, sweat, mental strain and bloodletting.  But some will walk away with nothing, except an aching body and an aching heart. 

A fallen comrade is not to be forgotten.  Who can forget that moment?  A marshal, gun in hand, back to the finishing line.  Bunches of runners, resilient and struggling, digging deep to find a remnant of energy from hollow stores.  Deliriously dragging insufficient sinew just a meter more, just one meter more.  Around the corner he wobbles and tries to focus on the line; the cruel finishing line, made thus by a ferocious clock that moves unyielding towards the top.  He may not hold on to anything except his mind, which is blurred and irrational.  Another step, another meter and he falls.  He starts to crawl.  In circles, looking for his way home.  The crowds scream.  Upon his feet again he makes his final charge and falls again.  The hand of that willful clock is seconds from the truth.  He is on his own in a race of hands and knees.  He reaches one more time and touches the line.  The one behind him does not. 

The gun is fired.  The race is dead.  And that is the glory and the agony of Comrades.

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If you are new to running, you may be in awe of those who ran the 100km ultra-marathon.  You may also find them strange for putting their bodies through all that trauma.  So, maybe the Comrades Marathon is not the race with which to begin.  But think about some pointers that could help you along the way to the big one, one day.

Firstly, think about why you want to run.  Is it to raise some money or perhaps to honour someone close to you.  Maybe it is just to improve your health and you have set some goals to help you along the way.  knowing why you are running is important as it will keep you going after the initial excitement of trying something new has worn off.  It will also help you push through the monotony of a tough run, through to the next one.

Secondly, it’s not all about the running.  It is about the stretching, too.  While adapting to a new running routine, stretching before you run will get you warmed up and prepped to go.  Stretching after the run is just as important to help the muscles return to their normal, working length.  Stretching helps prevent injury.

Thirdly, running on your own can be very lonely.  It is the time that you could experience ‘me’ time.  But, if you like the company of people with a similar disposition, join other runners a few times a week.  It will be a time to compare notes and help shake you out of your comfort zone.  You will learn about when to push yourself and when to hold back.  Standing on the starting line with many other runners may feel a little intimidating.  Being with people you know can alleviate unnecessary tension, making the race all the more enjoyable.

Lastly, this can’t be emphasized enough.  Make sure that you have the right running shoes.  Good shoes are shoes that fit well and that support you where you need it most.  Everyone has a running style – the way they strike the ground with their heal, the way they follow through and the way the knees and ankle move inwards or outwards through the cycle of the stride.  Do you overpronate and require a shoe with increased stability?  Possibly you are a supinator.  A nice, neutral cushioned shoe would usually work well.  The shape of your feet will also indicate what type of shoe to look for.  Are they narrow or broad, with a high or low arch?  Today, a good shoe is a shoe that can compensate for the vagaries of our unique bodies and prevent injury when testing yourself in the longer distances.  

Today, it is much easier to take a video of yourself on a treadmill, which can be analyzed in slow motion.  Advice on running shoes is available from reputable sports stores. and an expert can help you decide which shoe would be best.

Apart from light clothing, and a few good pairs of socks, you are ready to go.

Remember, that in addition to having a reason to run, a plan is the next item to think about.  But don’t be afraid to start.  Just start.  Do it!  Start with a light running or walking plan and build up slowly.  Consider walking at first, then add some running and gradually replace the time you walk with running time until you can jog comfortably while holding a conversation.  No need to be out of breath.  Don’t increase your pace and volume to quickly.  Keep it enjoyable!

If in any doubt about your health or if you feel unwell at any stage of your training, seek medical advice.

If you enjoy other forms of exercise, such as swimming or playing sport, don’t stop.  They will help maintain your motivation and may add to your strength, which is important for long-distant running.

Sleep.  yes, get your sleep.  Don’t skimp on sleeping time.  It is an important physiological event that affects your immune system and helps manage inflammation.  Sleep also is necessary to regulate hormones which can affect your appetite and motivation.  Very importantly, the correct amount of sleep will improve your athletic performance.

Balance is important.  Too much training will wear you down instead of building up your strength.  Neither give up sleep for training nor make sleep an excuse for not training.

If this is your first Comrades, Prestige Awards wishes you a very enjoyable down run.  If you are a veteran, fly the flag and may your earn another medal.  If you are a spectator, dream of the trophy for next year.   And get off the couch.  There is a long road ahead!