Comrades 2016

There is something surreal about this event that many runners, including me now, attempt to articulate in simple words. I really didn't "get it” going into this year’s up-run as a novice. I like to think I have a healthy scepticism about stuff people tell me in these modern times of daring do. They would say "you'll end up falling in love with this", or "you'll never want to run anything else", "I've run it X years in a row now and I just can't get enough of it", and I would think to myself; "I have never felt the need to run any race more than once, these dreamers must be soft in the head, what a waste repeating yourself time and again”. The one thing that attracted me to this above those perspectives was the kudos, even with my scepticism, if I stumbled over a Comrades runner I would look up to their courage, this run has a reputation of toughness, I had a definite need to conquer it, especially the up-run, there is in theory no other 55 mile stretch that compares.   

Having recently completed an up-run I still feel all the things above, but, I have this weird space in my head where Comrades now lives; it is a special place (quite possibly soft) and I find myself saying strange alien things like; “Comrades is a beautiful thing to behold; it somehow welcomes you with open arms and wants you to succeed”. How can a simple tarmacked road turn into something so human and emotional? Is there some simple psychological truth at the heart of it, a Stockholm Syndrome of the road? I am not in love, but I have a severe need to go back and prove I can do a down-run. I know that will be a very different experience having run up this road, but it really was a simple thing I "knew" I had to do, even before I had finished this year's up-run attempt.

A lot goes through your head in 12 hours, all that time is "yours", nothing else in the universe matters except you and your goal, maybe in writing those few words I've just discovered why it keeps people coming back, there aren't many other instances where I've been so entirely self-indulgent in my life; it is addictive, you are out there doing something you love, being totally supported with supplies to help you succeed, with people lining a lot of the route willing and encouraging you to succeed, and in my particular case I was somehow carrying the knowledge that I “knew” I would succeed? I don't know what I would be writing now if I had failed? But that severity of failure is again part of the enticement of this event; you have to “manage" your run, work out a strategy for practically achieving your goal, that stays in the forefront of your mind, forget any pain, any doubt, if you do not stick to your plan, or modify it through the curve balls Comrades throws at you, you will fail.

In the days following the up-run I got a definite case of "Comrades blues", I needed to be back on that road, deep in the heart of the experience, I looked up other ultra-marathons to compensate, but so far nothing seems to live up to Comrades. There I go again? Me? Romanticising about a simple 55 mile run up or down some hills? If circumstances allow I will be there next year; anyone else climbing aboard?



  • Peter RPeter R ✭✭✭

    I am in for another year, 2016 will be my 8th!!

  • Becca7Becca7 ✭✭✭

    I wasn't going to but it looks like I'm going to be in Mauritius in early June next year, so it makes sense to fit in a trip to Durban.

  • Amazing.. I said I was in as soon as I crossed the line image 

    “Comrades is a beautiful thing to behold"

    It's one of the reasons we are gonna be leaving the UK and moving back to Durbs in the next few months. 

    This is the image of me and the guy who I ran the final 3k's with. I was suffering really badly with pain in my foot but he would not leave me. He said that in the final few hundred meters there would be no pain, and he was right. As soon as we entered the stadium we hit the afterburners and sprinted to the finish. 

    Without a doubt the spirit of the comrades right here in this pic and something I wish every south african could be like, every day




  • Becca7Becca7 ✭✭✭

    That's a lovely story zuluboy and a great picture.  Well done on your time as well, pretty good with an achey foot.

  • Thanks Becca7,

    I know I can do a better time, but for me, that's not what the first one was gonna be about.

    The experience and emotions alone were so much more important to me than a medal.

    I had read so much prior to comrades about the risks of taking painkillers during the run so went the whole run without. Even when I was offered them along the way. Most runners I spoke to after had said they had started taking them about 25k's in image 

    I think for the comrades you need to train for the comrades. Train at the pace you're going to run at for the day so your body is strong for that pace. I had never run that slowly before and pretty sure is what contributed to the pain in my foot. 

    Either way. I really cant wait. Its only 346 more days... 

  • Becca7Becca7 ✭✭✭

    Good attitude zuluboy.  I have never taken painkillers during Comrades - it doesn't seem worth the risk and I have been lucky to have had nothing more than the discomfort that is to be expected after 55 miles of hills.  You are right about the experience and emotions as well.  No other race like it.  A bigger medal this year as well but even the tiny ones that we normally get are more special than any of my other medals.

  • Great picture zuluboy.

    I'd really love to run Comrades at some point. It won't be 2016, or probably 2017 unfortunately but, seeing as I think I'd like to do an up run, I have 2019 in my mind.

  • Lowrez - that's very interesting. Last year, even going into the pens, I had no idea how I was going to get on, or even if I would get beyond halfway (it was very hot the day before). Then suddenly in the middle of 'Shosholoza' a lightbulb went on in my head and I 'knew' I was going to finish. Very weird. Never had that in a race before or since, but it sounds like you had a similar experience.
  • lowrezlowrez ✭✭✭

    Good to see I won't be alone next year! But then I knew I wouldn't be image

    zuluboy - great picture, great Comrades story, run and finish - I steer clear of painkillers too - if anything breaks or is working loose I want to know about it as it happens.

    RR - we must be wired up the same way, or should I say weird up the same way?

  • Certainly not confident enough to think I would finish whilst in the pens but 30-40k in just relaxed. Really flowed and spent rest of racing smiling and laughing.

    Lowrez I did see your pink Floyd top at R&R, commented to someone about it. I'm on the Wirral, it was Wallasey AC manning the water station. I've done Ellesmere port before but it's father's day. Maybe penny lane after though.

    I'm very tempted to do Comrades again but not 100% yet. Got my back to back medal, still want a BR but not my entire purpose for this race... It's just a phenomenal experience. It changes you. Some targets for the winter then make a decision.
  • Fido2DogsFido2Dogs ✭✭✭
    I am not running at the moment but I assume they'll offer International sub's again so should I (UNLIKE MOST TIMES) be fit and healthy next spring... I don't seem to have flogged my sim card or currency yet.

    Quite agree re painkillers.. ahem... I seem to have a "do as I say, not as I do" tshirt here... Smells like it was worn for most of a long hot race.

    Notice someone is setting up a Liverpool to Manchester ultra next March. Anyone know more re likely route, how runnable "managed trail" is etc? FRC?
  • Fido2DogsFido2Dogs ✭✭✭
    Bloody phone SUBS no apostrophe!
  • Slow DuckSlow Duck ✭✭✭

    Great to see some enthusiasm for the next one!

    I suspect I will be on the start line in Pietermaritzburg on 29 May...

  • With a Big Mac slow duck soon after? image

    Fido, not heard about Lpool- Manchester ultra, is that on here as a thread? but managed trail, probably the canal paths? Light muddy, bit of gravel, similar to Glasgow to Edinburgh I expect. There are Manchester to Yorkshire versions in April 50/75/100k.

    Someone mentioned to Bernard Gommersall they were trying to do London to Brighton road race also.
  • DannirrDannirr ✭✭✭

    Is this where all the cool kids are hanging out now?     If so, it looks like I might have to go back for #3.  I think it's my patriotic dutyimage


  • lowrezlowrez ✭✭✭

    Its getting cooler by the hour Dannirr!

    FRC - "Knowing" wasn't a confidence or arrogance thing it was as SD says also; "weird", I just knew, I'm with you too on the happiness syndrome, maybe there is some Comrades drug that kicks in only if you attempt this event. Is Penny Lane another local event? I of course know the lane, but not the run. So did you run Liverpool too?

    F2D - Liv-Man sounds enticing, but I would prefer it to be on road. Historic stuff following in the footsteps (or should I say "tracks") of George Stephenson & Co. 

  • Bike ItBike It ✭✭✭

    I'm in.

    I love this race and can't wait to hear that cockerel crow.  Before that I'll enjoy all the build up and running that gets me there.

    I prefer the down and find it easier and faster than the up, so here is my chance to go for a sub-9.  I've only done sub-9 once so far which was on the down run.

    I moved from the UK to to SA at the very end of December. One of the reasons was to get my Green Number.  It's still a long way away, having done 3 so far, but I'm here to 2022 at least.

  • Mr KMr K ✭✭✭

    Just `window shopping` image

  • lowrezlowrez ✭✭✭

    Bike It/Peter R + any other multi-down runners  - How are your toes after a down run? Do you do anything different to protect your feet?

    Mr K - What a cliff-hanger you left us on your blog after this year's up-run...I can tell you want to do this one!

  • Becca7Becca7 ✭✭✭

    I don't recall my toes being particularly bashed after the down run and I didn't do anything special to protect them.

    What I would emphasise is that the cambers were a problem for me on the down run, in particular early on.  I had a terribly stiff calf after only 6 miles.  I had failed to prepare for cambers, having focussed on downhill technique and other preparation for running downhill, but this time I would aim to do some training to prepare for the cambers.  I don't know what, though.  Any ideas?  Standing on one leg perhaps and other things to strengthen the stabilising muscles.

  • DannirrDannirr ✭✭✭

    Becca - I don't recall, but does the camber affect the entire width of the road?  Or is it flat in the middle?

  • Becca7Becca7 ✭✭✭

    Entire width, which was what caused the problem - switching to the middle or the other side would otherwise have solved it. I don't know why I found this a problem on the down and not at all on either up run.

  • lowrezlowrez ✭✭✭

    Becca - I was doing a lot of walking uphill this year but feared I would fall off some of the hills due to the camber in places. I plan to do a lot more running next year, thanks for this insight I wouldn't have been aware of it otherwise (my internal space head had forgotten this until you mentioned it). Not sure how to plan for it either, any weight machine I can think of is perfectly symmetrical in it's configuration. 

  • marty74marty74 ✭✭✭

    lowrez - fantastic first post. If that doesn't get people to run the race next year, nothing will. You described the feelings about the race so well.

    Comrades definitely has a place in my heart. Next year will be number 4.

    And camber on the down run. Ahhhhhhhh. I can still feel that pain after getting down (it wasn't really running at that stage of the race!!) Fields Hill and towards Pinetown. Those cramps still haunt me. I will do better next yearimage

  • lowrezlowrez ✭✭✭

    Thanks Marty! Do you do any special sessions aimed at helping you cope with the "downess" of it all?

  • +1 for Fields Hill,  I was preparing for a massive impact on my quads in 2013 but rather it pushed my calves to the limit,  I was surprised by the severity of the initial camber as you follow to the right. Made a point of checking it out this year too but really didn't seem as bad going up but having 60+kms in your legs coming down from PMB could explain that. 

    lowrez -  big fan of eccentric calf drops,  really help me strengthen calves and you can add weights as they get easier in time.  I also stretch twice a day during training as I suffer with tightness which has led to achilles issues in the past. 

    Normally I like to make sure I can stand with one foot at least 5cms from a wall/post then try to bend my knee so it touches the wall/post, if it doesn't stretch that far then back off from long runs until I get some flexibility back through foam roller and stretching.

    Those two tips from a physio friend have kept me injury free for almost 18 months now.


  • lowrezlowrez ✭✭✭

    justanothrrnr - physio advised me to only stretch after a running session when muscles are warm, sounds like you are stretching "from cold"? Or do you do a warm-up prior to stretching? Not sure if I am doing the knee thing correctly but I can touch a wall with my knee from a lot farther back than 5cm (2 inches). What are you foam rolling to get the flexibility back into?

    With my hamstring problems I've been seeing a physio weekly for an overall leg massage plus some concentrated effort on my hams and glutes. It is incredible how every visit locates soreness and tightness generally, almost always in the calves. Like you I have not had injury thought this "general care". Its not cheap, but I think its worth every penny. For marathon training I follow Hal Higdon's plans and he is a big fan of weekly leg massage for general maintenance.

    I wonder if we are achieving the same results through different methods?  

  • marty74marty74 ✭✭✭

    Not sure about any special sessions really, but do plan to keep running hills and probably more downhill running in particular. My club is running the cotswold relay next week so may do more trail running over the summer as well to hopefully aid strength.

    And just seen on youtube the last 30 minutes of the race. Here's the link.

    It gives me goosebumps every time i watch it.image

  • lowrezlowrez ✭✭✭

    Thanks for the link Marty, wonderful stuff!

    I've completed the last commitment I had (until the Chester Marathon in October which I intend to by my Comrades qualifier this year) at the Ellesmere Port "Sport in the Port 10k" yesterday. I was running for charity, you need to pick me out from this photo:-


    I seem to be recovering pretty well from Comrades although some people stiil think I need psychiatric help.  

    The day before this photo I shed, like a snake, the entire end of one of my toes that had taken a battering during Comrades and Liverpool, the husk of an all-encompassing blister including the albino white nail I'd been sporting on that foot for several months. My better half refuses to let me keep it as a memento of "good times"!

    So now I can tackle that bothersome weight I've been carrying for a while and attempt to speed up a bit for Chester.

    I was thinking maybe my socks are a contributing factor to my toe ailments? I run in Thorlos and must have had the few pairs I've got for years now. They are a good tight fit, possibly too tight? What do other people wear and how often do you renew them?     

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