RESPECT – 90th Comrades Race review

Comrades 16 months of training and dedication come down to one day – either success or disappointment. Even though I did not complete this race this time I was disappointed at first but I have had time to reflect and I have learnt an alternative word to disappointment which is RESPECT. This race teaches you many things about yourself that you were not aware of. If you did not learn anything then maybe your heart was not in it.

I will break R.E.S.P.E.C.T. in to individual words for the Comrades:

  • Relax it is Race Day – You have trained hard for this day and you know you can do it. Enjoy the National Anthem followed by Shosholoza then the cock crow and the Chariots of Fire. It all starts from there. It is an unbelievable feeling where more than 15 000 people sing the National Anthem and Shosoloza – goosebumps will emerge just for the singing
  • Expect anything – Plan properly. Have a plan A, B and even C. You may feel like you are having a great run and then something could go wrong. What are you going to do? Plan B may get you to the finish. Going in with only one plan and then needing another may spell disaster.
  • Slow – Don’t race this run as it WILL slow you down at some point. Resist being pulled at the start as you can be caught up and feel good but it will eventually catch up to you. Also don’t worry about crossing the start line after 10 minutes as you have almost 90km to run and can make it up slowly, so take it easy and run at your own pace. Remember the faster you start the slower you finish.
  • Persevere – One thing you need to remember is to persevere and keep moving. Don’t stop. Rather walk through the water stations. There are around 46 water stations and if you stop for a minute at each you could lose up to 46 minutes add the 10 minutes from the start and it could be close to an hour that you lose!
  • Enjoy – Use the supporters for extra energy. They are there for all of the runners. If you need something, they will most probably have what you need (plasters, salt, cold beer, bacon and egg roll and the list keeps going….) They are fantastic and they enjoy it more when you are enjoying it. Even when you are not enjoying your time they lift your spirits. So, keep going and have a great time. Enjoy!
  • Commitment – Stay committed to your race plans to get to your main goal – To finish as you are Ultraordinary!
  • Take advice – I cannot stress this point more. Whether it is advice from a fellow runner, your partner, doctor or even an article by a professional (Lindsey Parry for one, I also listen to Brad Brown and Lindsey Parry’s podcasts on This is invaluable information for those running Comrades and needing advice) Another wealth of information is from experienced runners. I have learnt so much from them over the short time I have done marathons and ultra-marathons. One of the more experienced runners I have received advice and encouragement from is Axel Rittershaus. He did so well this year and accomplished a Bill Rowan medal (sub 9 hours) at this year’s Comrades. His advice on his running blog or even in person if you are fortunate to meet him is also invaluable. Lastly, you need to listen to your gut feel. This sometimes is the hardest to listen to when all you have been preparing for is the big day. I count myself lucky that nothing tragic happened in my ignorance and selfishness in trying to complete this race. This race will be there next year and then the year thereafter!

My Race review:
The 90th Comrades was to be my second run and I was in contention to earn a “Back-to-Back Medal.” This is only achievable on your very first and second completion of both runs. It was mine for the taking as my training was better than last year. I was mentally and physically fitter than ever before. Sadly, I was unsuccessful this time around. I entered my race with plan A and plan B. Plan A would be a sub 11 hour race and plan B would be to finish with the 12 hour bus if things were not going to my primary plan. In the end I should have opted with plan C which would be the “Grown-Up” decision. Plan C would be to not run at all due to a bout of flu I caught the week before race day. Even Lindsey Parry who is the official Comrades Coach recommends that you do not run if you have been sick in the last three weeks before race day. I think most of us runners don’t listen to our bodies or take advice from others easily as we invest so much time and do not want to miss out on what we have trained for.

Comrades Visor

Comrades Registration

We travelled up from Cape Town on the Thursday before and went straight to the expo. It was an amazing change from last year where we stood in queues for about 1.5 hours. This year I walked straight to the front of my nominated queue and was speedily on my way to walk around the expo. We had a choice of either a full cap or a visor. I chose a visor. They have the route profile on the underneath of the peak. A quick walk around to get a few last minute items and a free health check by Bonitas (promised my mother to get checked) and then we left. All fine except blood pressure was quite high but the nurse said it was ok. There was quite a bit to see and do at the expo but I did not want to be on my legs too long so close to raceday. Friday and Saturday were rest days and I watched Super 15 rugby for most of these days. Early to bed on Saturday night as we left for Durban at 03:30 on raceday to be there before the roads get congested. My wife dropped me off and I went to my start batch. I was met with a fellow club runner and we chatted which helped me settle my nerves.

Comrades Start

It all begins:

The start area is amazing as you can feel so many different emotions. Either yours or even your fellow runner. The National Anthem is played then Shosoloza and followed by the cock crow and bang you are off. A full 7 minutes for me to cross the start. It is a steady climb out of Durban. You will probably climb for a full marathon before you feel like it is a bit flatter. Outside of Durban I saw a fellow club member that wisely chose option C. I caught up to another club member in Pinetown where we made our way up Fields Hill. We chose to run and walk this hill. It is punishing which ever direction you are running as it is long and steep. We eventually made our way to Hillcrest (around 37km done) where my support base was waiting. My wife, sister and brother –in-law were waiting there. After a quick kiss and a photo we were off again. After Hillcrest we met Botha’s Hill. This is where I could feel I needed plan B as my claves were starting to twitch and a sign that it was going to be a longday.Disappointed at my condition as I had been taking tissue salts every hour and they worked really well during the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. It was too early for me to start cramping but I persevered towards my goal of getting to Pietermaritsburg. The supporters were fantastic and keep you going. They encourage you and sometimes I even believed them that I was still looking good although I was dying inside. When I was just past Inchanga with about 36 kilometers to go it all went downhill for me. I stopped to let my wife know where I was and I cramped. First my right calf started cramping and then Arden whom I finished my previous Comrades with helped me but I could feel I needed something else and told him he had to go (He completed and got his Back-to-Back medal 11:46) Then both legs gave in and I ended up lying on the ground. In pain, 3 runners helped me to my feet and one runner took out a bag of salt a told me to suck on it.. After I was able to go again I made it to a physio and had a rub down. In mid rub down she stopped and I realised that I had thorns all over me from when I was on the ground. She got one in her thumb. My apologies to her! After this she recommended I see the medical tent. The nursing sister said I was fine. I had a phone call from a friend and he said I need to rub the calves down as much as possible with ice. I managed to get a block at the next water table. This helped and I was again on my way. I made it to Cato Ridge and was 45 minutes ahead of the cut-off at this point (57.7km done and 30km to go)

Comrades 5

Comrades 6 Hillcrest – Still enjoying it!

Plan B:

Shortly before Camperdown my plan B arrived…The 12 hour bus! I was struggling at this point and I could feel the energy of this bus. I ran for a few minutes with them but I could feel my day was going to get harder. Then the second 12 hour bus arrived and I could not keep up with them. I met my wife in Camperdown where she was waiting patiently. She had some food for me but at that point I could not eat anymore. She rubbed my calves down again and while she was rubbing my calves down a fellow runner stopped and waited patiently for her to help him out with a rub down. She obliged and then I shuffled on as I felt I may be able to accomplish my goal. (Remember “P” for persevere and keep moving) I made it to Umlaas Road Interchange with 20km left and just on 3 hours to complete and my mind said YES, you can do it. At this point your mind plays tricks on you as an easy 21km run is 2 hours or less and with an extra hour added this is easy. Wrong! At 15km to go I ran past my aunt as they live near Lynfield Park and was encouraged by both their support and how I was feeling.

15km to go, I can do it!

I Can still do it:

15km left and 2:10 to do it within. Game on! Then at 12km to go I realised it may be over. I could not run anymore without my legs wanting to cramp. I could not find ice at any of the next 2 water stations. It was a warm day and they were out there for a long time already. At 10km to go I had a rub down and was again on my way. This was the point I realised my day was over. A bus was driving slowly behind me. Should I get in? No, go as far until you are pulled off was what I had in my mind. Tears flowed as I knew I could not make it and I had disappointed myself and friends that woke up early to watch and support. Now I was on the last named hill – Polly Shortts (this hill has been the heart break of many professional runners vying for a gold medal). The 9km to go board was there and cut-off was 14 minutes away at 8km mark. I can still do it, just keep walking and didn’t give up. I was then met by a fellow club runner and he said to me to keep going. I tried to go but I couldn’t and then suddenly I managed to shuffle along again and caught up to him. We made it to the 8km marker and we looked at each other and felt that it was strange as there was not real activity at that point. Did we made it…? Then a little further along and approximately 40 meters away we heard a gun go off. NO, that was the actual cut-off and we did not make it. A mere 40 meters away! Yes, I can still smell the gun powder.

Comrades Heroes


Wow, emotional as it was I was relieved that I could get into a bus and I did not need to run the last few kilometres as I would have made the end but not in time. I called it a bus of shame at the time but it was far from that. We were all upset but there was still an energy amongst us. Such a long day in the road without a medal. That’s not true. We made it up the Big 5 (Cowies Hill, Fields Hill, Botha’s Hill, Inchanga and Polly Shortts), we ran further than most people can run, we are heroes to someone. No one can take the accomplishment of what we did away.

Thank you:
I would like to thank my wife Julia for all her support leading up to and including race day. It is amazing that knowing someone is there for you can get you so far. It is a very selfish period as you need to be focussed on your training and diet for the build-up to the Comrades. She deserves a huge medal. We then made our way on Tuesday up to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Pakamisa for a well-deserved break.

36th Winelands Marathon race review


Type: Road race

Distance: 42.2km

Difficulty: 3/5

ThHelderberg Harrierse 36th Winelands Marathon was graced with near perfect running conditions the day after the Western Cape was battered by a massive thunderstorm the night before. As a result my lift was left stranded in Hout Bay which saw me make my way to Stellenbosch on my own. Thoughts of “Nutter” crossed my mind thinking I may be the only die hard to brave this race. Closer to Stellenbosch I could see fellow runners driving towards the start venue. So I wasn’t the only crazy runner…. The parking was well organised and you could even park fairly close to the start by paying a few Rands to park on the nearby school field. Due to the weather conditions I chose not to take a camera so there are no running shots.

The start line was alive with the typical chatter and banter before the run. I was joined by a fellow club runner for the first 10 kilometers. Unsure of pushing or taking it easy he bolted. As you turn off the Polkadraai Road you are greeted with farmlands. We passed strawberry fields, vineyards and even a farm with Wildebeest. The water tables were well placed and had ample water and coke. The course is undulating and is not the easiest around but the scenery makes up for this. Around the 33km mark you turn onto an uneven gravel road for approximately 3kms. The rain started at this point but it was light and actually helped me. Thereafter the route back is flat and downhill at times. The finish is well organised and you are greeted with the announcer welcoming all the athletes in with the customary medal to mark your achievement and my PB. Benefits belonging to a club is the gazebo at the finish. A great time to hear fellow club runner’s stories. A nice hot cup of soup was the perfect finish to the day. Great race, well organised and will do this again!

Winelands Medal Winelands kit

Berlin Marathon Review

 Even a snail makes the finish….

The 40th Berlin Marathon on 29th September 2013 was the big highlight of Andrew’s and my Germany trip this September. WHAT an experience!

P1000133 Berlin RosenbomberOur marathon weekend started on Friday with the registration and expo at the historical Tempelhof Airport. We arrived there by underground railway and everything there was organized perfectly to get our start numbers. Both the atmosphere with all our fellow international runners as well as the great music got us into the marathon mood and even more excited! All the big companies for running supplies, apparel, sports nutrition etc. could be found in the huge halls of the expo, and outside- on the runway of the airport- they had the historic candy bombers standing. We could even watch some of the inline- skaters that were getting themselves warmed up on the runway for ‘their’ marathon on Saturday.

On Saturday, the day before the marathon, we did the Breakfast Run which started at the picturesque Charlottenburg Castle with a couple of thousand participants. This 6km fun run is perfect to get the legs moving a little before the big day and to just enjoy yourself with all the other runners. Since there are so many different nationalities of runners, lots of people ran with their respective home country flags or dressed up, either with wigs, as penguins, pirates, you name it… J By the way, even Haile Gebrselassie appeared at the start of this race.

Berlin Breakfast 2Berlin Breakfast 1Berlin Breakfast 3Berlin Breakfast 1

Of course, Andrew and I were running with our South Africa flags and we quickly met other South Africans, that even knew our friends from Hout Bay. And after the run, we even bumped into Andrew’s previous German teacher Bettina from Cape Town…. Which proves again that the world is a village!

After the Breakfast Run finished inside the Olympia Stadium, we could get some breakfast goodies at the stalls outside – after fighting our way to the front of the stalls through the crowds of people. This was a little disorganized but with some juice, apple and a chocolate croissant we were quite happy and generally, the Breakfast Run is a great thing to do when you’re doing the Marathon!

The big day was finally here on Sunday morning! In South African terms, the race starts very late at 08h45 ( we normally have finished a half marathon in South Africa by that time!), but we wanted to not get pressed for time, so we took the underground railway at 06h30 to Potsdamer Platz and walking towards the Brandenburg Gate and Straße des 17. Juni with thousands of fellow runners. After a couple of pictures of the Brandenburg Gate in the morning sun, we made our way to the start area. Security everywhere was quite tight and we had to show our blue Marathon ribbons a couple of times on various check points to get to the start area, but this still went very quickly for us. The tog bag facilities were well organized and we found Andrew’s spot quite quickly. The tog bag tents were organized by race numbers and the female tents quite far away from the male ones’… but we still made it in time to be at the start area at 08h30.

Berlin Brandenburg

Of course, with all the thousands of runners and the music, the start of the marathon was a big goose-bumps moment for me and after a short while, Andrew had disappeared in the crowds in front of me and I started to ease into the race. Especially in the beginning, there are lots of people around, but from 3 – 4 kms onwards, I could run my comfortable pace without zig-zagging other runners.

The weather was just perfect, about 11 degrees and quite cool, but sunny and without any clouds.

As I am not a very fast runner ( my fastest Half marathon time is a 2h16) and with so many people running this race, I knew that I would not be running my fastest time in any case and I just ran comfortably without thinking about my time. This proved to be just perfect for me and I took a photo- or water stop every 10 – 12 minutes and then continued running.

It’s amazing to see all the different areas of Berlin, there’s something to see everywhere and the first 21kms almost went past in a flash. But of course, I also have to mention that we runners had the most fantastic support from the spectators and the people from Berlin. In 5 years of running, I have never run a race before that had hundreds of people cheering and clapping for us runners on every corner and every single street of the race. This support really carried me a lot, especially after the 30kms when the going starts to get a little tougher… One lady in Kreuzberg just shouted: Julia! You can do it! You’re my hero!!! ☺

Berlin Run

After a couple of walking and drinks breaks, I eventually got to Kilometer 41. From here it’s not far anymore until you see the Brandenburg Gate ahead of you and even though it’s been a loooong day on the road up to that time, suddenly I didn’t feel tired anymore and was loving every second of the last few hundred meters. We ran past the prestigious Hotel Adlon at the Pariser Platz and then through the magnificent Brandenburg Gate which is SUCH an emotional moment considering all the historic events around the Berlin wall that happened at this spot. And knowing that I had finally made it to the finish, was just the best feeling ever! The last few meters to reach the finish line are just a breeze and not even the fact that they had run out of medals could wipe that huge smile off my face! The organizers have promised to mail our medals in the coming weeks and I really hope I still get my one. But even if not… I have taken such unforgettable memories from this race which are far better than any medal!

Berlin Start

Andrew and I finished the race day off with a big Erdinger Alkoholfrei beer which went down extremely well after the race ☺

Berlin Beer

Of course, a big highlight was also the new world record of Wilson Kipsang who ran an unbelievable 2:03:38. What an achievement!

Even though I did not finish anywhere near such a great marathon time, I have absolutely enjoyed it and it will definitely not be the last one for Andrew and me. And next time again, my motto will be: Even a snail makes the finish….