What I Think

comrades finish 2018

Over the years during which I have been involved with Comrades it stands to reason that I will have acquired a fair amount of knowledge most of which will have been of a personal nature but which I would still want to share with people.  The trouble is that the knowledge, many will say, was acquired in my running days of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, that it is so horribly out of date that it is no longer valid.

Any opinions expressed in this section are mine and mine alone and nobody is in any way forced to follow any of them as advice. 

My full thinking on each of the subjects in this section can be found in my blog at themarathon.co

I have given the month when each of these articles was written so when you have opened the blog, look at the “ARCHIVES” listing, which is in month order, and go to the month I’ve indicated.  To scroll through all my blogs simply click this link themarathon.co




Blog: October 2015 themarathon.co

 Comrades held its launch for the 91st race on 29 May 2016 under the banner “Izokuthoba – It Will Humble You” and people who have never run this amazing event could be forgiven for thinking that the banner for the 2016 race is rather silly. 

I have even had a few runners say to me that they have something of a problem with the banner. “I have never been humbled by Comrades” they say, and then you remind them about “that race” or “those races”.  They were humbled.



Blog: June 2015 themarathon.co

This section is not intended as a training programme and I am not suggesting that any reader should follow what I write in this chapter as a training ritual for their next attempt at Comrades. I am not a coach and certainly not one of the official Comrades coaches nor would I pretend to be and I am simply trying to describe the antiquated training methods we had in the days we had only 11 hours to finish Comrades – Up Run or Down Run, it made no difference. 

I also stress that this is the way that those of us who ran between 8 hours and 11 hours trained. The top chaps and winners probably had a very different approach but never having run anywhere near top times I have no idea what they did. 



Blog: January 2016 themarathon.co

January and time to start thinking seriously about running Comrades and how you intend to train to get there. Right?

It seems this is not the case at all and I know that this particular chapter will probably land me in hot water with a lot of people many of whom will probably say “The silly old goat can only think of the old days” and perhaps that’s quite right but the “silly old goat” started 14 Comrades, finished 14 Comrades at a time when we didn’t have the luxury of a 12 hour time limit.

We also didn’t have the luxury of a refreshment station every few Kms and had to rely on personal seconds who almost always were stuck in traffic jams and we went some fairly long distances without anything to drink. The “silly old goats” also didn’t have the fancy equipment available today and our shoes were the ordinary “takkie” or sandshoe used on tennis courts and we drank “corpse reviver” and didn’t have the modern food supplements.

I am not for one moment knocking the modern runner.



Blog: March 2017 themarathon.co 

I suppose with the title of this article I’ll have coaches up and down the country in a terrible state wondering what exactly I’m trying to do by getting into their territory but they needn’t worry at all because I’ve said before, I am not a coach so I won’t say anything about coaching other than just one thing and it’s this.

When you decide on a coach, and it doesn’t matter who it is, please stick with the training program offered by that coach and don’t whatever you do jump around from coach to coach because that is a recipe for disaster and probable failure come the big day.

What I’m wanting to do is to give a few little tips that helped me on the day and leading up to the day when I was running and had nothing at all to do with the way I trained



Blog: April 2017 themarathon.co

In saying that Comrades is 90% from the neck up I am assuming that anyone  who is running Comrades has trained physically and properly and has taught his or her legs how to run at least 60Kms on at least one but preferably two occasions in the four month build up to Comrades. 

If the Comrades runner has done that, then Comrades generally becomes 10% physical provided he or she doesn’t go into Comrades either sick or injured.

Comrades isn’t tough. It’s the training to get that medal that’s tough. Do that properly, both on and off the road, and Comrades is a great day.  It’s a fun day that you will remember for a long time, particularly if it’s your first one and the pain in your legs disappears as if by magic as soon as the officials thrust that medal into your hands as you cross the finish line.



Blog: May 2017 themarathon.co

Let’s pretend we’re just a week away from the big day. What must we do in this last week and what must we not do in that last week?  Almost certain the nerves are shot and you’re not sleeping all that well.

We have basically finished all our work on the road. There is no way that we are going to get any fitter now if we get out on the road and put in any more kilometres. It’s too late for that. Our training programme may suggest a couple of days to keep the legs moving with a few very short runs but then again it may not.

Whatever it does, stick to it and don’t change it.

In fact don’t change ANYTHING at all that you have been doing in this last week.



Blog: July 2017 themarathon.co

What exactly is the Comrades Marathon?  No!  I’m not talking about the foot race that Vic Clapham battled against the odds and the authorities to get going in 1921 and at which 34 people eventually lined up and 16 finished on that morning in May 1921.

I’m not talking about the race where a bunch of very fast runners take off from the start once a year to try to get to the finish just short of 90km away in as fast a time as possible.

I’m talking about the real Comrades Marathon.  That special something that has happened for years since 1921 and has attracted thousands of people who come and run either from Durban to Pietermaritzburg or from Pietermaritzburg to Durban depending on the direction the race is being held that particular year.



Blog: March 2018 themarathon.co

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 am completely round the bend. 

If Comrades wasn’t hard, then everybody would be doing it. The answer, I believe, is fairly simple. The training to get you to the start line of Comrades is hard but Comrades itself, if you’ve prepared properly both physically and mentally, is not hard.



Blog: April 2018 themarathon.co

The more I have written about Comrades 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 92 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.



Blog: July 2018 themarathon.co

I’ve been around Comrades a very long time.  In fact, I’ve been around Comrades longer than most people have and I have often been asked “Why run it because it can’t be good for you.”

I know one chap who won’t run it for that very reason. He feels that he would rather give Comrades a miss than risk any sort of permanent damage to himself. 

I feel very sorry for him because of what he’s missing but that’s the decision he’s made and I would never try to change his mind. He’s of the opinion that Comrades is simply a race to see who can get to the finish in the fastest time and is not really any different to any other race.

It’s so very much more than that. 



Blog: August 2018 themarathon.co

A lot of people have asked me over the years what it is with me and the Comrades Marathon.  When I initially thought about it years ago my immediate response to myself was that I really didn’t know what it is that drew me to feel the way I do about Comrades but when I sat down and thought about it, and that was a fairly long time ago, I started to understand.

Its way more than the physical challenge it presents because one has to travel some 90km on foot within a certain time and in some sort of strange way it was a disagreement with someone about Comrades that got me thinking about all this again. 



Blog: November 2018 themarathon.co

Go into Comrades with no respect for the race, come undone and suffer badly and it’s your problem and you’ll get no sympathy from me and I was sitting thinking about the way I feel about people who take part in the race and who, especially in their first run, don’t take it seriously. 

It doesn’t often happen to people who have run it more than once. Those people have learnt that Comrades deserves respect and they give it the respect it deserves.

I have often heard novices say they are really scared and my reaction is always that they shouldn’t be scared of Comrades but if they are properly prepared both physically and mentally for Comrades they need to respect it but not fear it. To my mind there’s a very big difference.

I have never feared Comrades but I have certainly respected it.