Comrades 2015 will always be remembered as a “good one” for many reasons. As usual, the race organisers managed to stage a magnificent event, before, during and after. It must take a superhuman effort, pretty much like running from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and back again, and more often than not, these efforts are taken for granted and the CMA and their team of volunteers don’t get the recognition they deserve. Congratulations and all the very best for 2016, after 90 years you guys are certainly building on a strong foundation and keeping the Comrades Marathon and all its traditions not only the biggest, but the best Ultra Marathon in the world.
Personally, I went into the race confident that I had a good build up but nervous what the extra distance would do to my time. Strange as it may seem, I still feel that I have a couple of “good” Comrades left in me and that a 6:45 was on the cards even with the extra distance.
I had an early wake up alarm set for 3 am, surprisingly from a very deep sleep down in Durban. I tucked into a pre-race snack of toasted rye bread with a banana sliced up on top, washed down with a cup of coffee. I took my time getting into my race kit, ensuring that everything was fitting perfectly and that I had vaseline in all the right spots! My Adidas Super Nova Glide 7 being the most important item in my kit, and successfully tested over the Two Oceans route earlier in the year.
By 4:30 am I had finished sipping on 500 ml of 32Gi Endure and felt ready to head to the start. Julie dropped me near the start and I made my way to Durban City Hall. I had an elite seeding which allowed me to warm up in the city hall with all the race favourites and previous winners of Comrades. I felt pretty relaxed but excited that the big day had arrived at last and eager to things going.
The atmosphere was electric as anyone that has lined up for this race will testify, the singing of Shosholoza and the SA National Anthem has your goosebumps standing at attention, and then the gun is fired and we were on our way.
A good start means not being tripped and hitting your stop watch first time, so I guess I had a good start. I settled into a comfortable pace and concentrated hard on not getting too excited and carried away by the runners around me and going too fast. I saw Vladimir Kotov and Stuart McColl, two of the main contenders in the Masters category, early on in the race but also knowing that I always ran my own race and concentrated on my own strengths and that I had no control over their race, the athlete that ran to the best of their ability would win on the day.
I always break Comrades down into smaller “chunks”, 10 km being easier to digest at a time than the daunting prospect of 87.72 km. My times for each split were so close to being perfect and my time at various landmarks also just what I was looking for. I was running the uphills comfortably passing Kotov at Alverstone and felt strong going out of each of the “big climbs” heading towards Inchanga, keeping a close eye on my heart rate ensuring that I kept that under 145 bpm.
I went through Drummond in under 3:18 (position 268) which was almost the same as my time on the 2014 down run, wondering if I had gone out too quickly, it didn’t feel like I had but the second half would reveal if I had. I climbed Inchanga really well and it is now that some of the early pacesetters start crashing from an over enthusiastic start, the first marathon of this ultra is tough with so many hills to climb, but the second marathon is just as tough having already been softened up by the first one!
After descending Inchanga quite cautiously but at close to 4 mins/km I got the news from the side of the road that there was a Master 10 minutes ahead of me! I dug deep and really concentrated hard on the second half, all my 32Gi Accelerate drinks being where I expected them, a great seconding team making my job just a little bit easier. I ran 2 of my better 10 km splits on the second half, dipping just under 45 minutes.
I enjoy the crowd support on Comrades and especially arriving in Camperdown where my family are waiting with a drink and lots of encouragement. I felt incredibly well at this point and ran the nasty “hill with no name” out of Camperdown a lot better than I have in recent years, passing one Master at the base of this hill and another within the next 2 kms. I enjoyed the drink and support at Umlaas Road and kept a steady pace down to Lion Park and all the way to Little Pollys. I even managed to run up Polly Shortts, and was greeted by a song I had chosen and that Wayne Riddin played for me to push me to the finish line, “Freaks” by Timmy Trumpets.
This was home territory to me and I recognised many locals during the last 7 kms which helped me to push as hard as I could to the finish line. I finished in 6:39 and amazingly felt strong all the way. On my 27th voyage I had managed to finish 65th overall and 1st Master for the 3rd year in a row, beyond my wildest dreams and expectations.
A huge thank you to my family, seconds, friends and sponsors for the support again this year, I certainly couldn’t have done this without your help and support.
I hope all of you that took part in Comrades had the experience of a lifetime and that you are already thinking of Comrades 2016, if you would like to share your experience please get in touch, otherwise take a well earned break and concentrate on the shorter stuff for a while, work on your speed which tends to be a weakness of us ultra distance junkies!
Take care and happy running 🙂