Comrades 2013

For all Comrades, south Africa 2013 runners & those wanting to know more

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17/08/2012 at 18:31

Hi, love reading all your posts - I'm seriously thinking about doing my first comrades in 2013, but have a couple of questions (to start with):

- I'm confused about club/permit criteria for UK runners? 
On some parts of the Comrades website it says:
'Club Information(for South African athletes only)'
'Do International athletes have to follow the same qualifying criteria?
Yes. However it is not a requirement that International athletes have to belong to a running club.'
'Club & license information (for South African Athletes ONLY)' 
but then it also says:
'Rules of entry
Foregin competitors, particularly those who compete for any prize, should note that in order for them to take part in the race, they need written approval (Permit) from their own IAAF Affiliated Association.'
I'm most definitely not going to be competing for any prize, but should I join a running club in order to obtain one of these permits before September? (joining a running club is a whole other discussion - I really want to, but haven't been able to fit my own work/running schedule around a running clubs schedule yet...)

- Also, has anyone ever done any of the organised sports tours for Comrades? I know every year many people from outside Africa organise it themselves, but as a young (29) female most probably going to be travelling alone, I was thinking it may be a good option and worth paying a bit more for less stress.

Many Thanks!

17/08/2012 at 19:57

Hi Emily,

No, you don't need to join a club. That bit about approval really is only for people who might be winning and stuff.

Yes, I did a sports tour last year (2011). It was rubbish and I did it all myself this year (see p8) and found things much easier.

For example it was so much easier not having the time of my shuttle back to the airport changed at the last minute (worse still they didn't tell 2 others on the tour! They were NOT pleased). It was so much easier making my own way back after the race with other runners rather than going to a prearranged meeting place and finding nobody there and having to sit around on the grass, soaking wet, nauseous, having run 56 miles, as night fell, waiting for my other half to track the tour peeps down.

Basically it had been subcontracted to a local firm and they did all the easy bits you can do anyway like booking accommodation or a hotel airport shuttle, except not terribly competently, see above, but there was none of the extra advice and care you would normally expect from a sports tour - I have been on several with RunningCrazy and this year went to Boston with Sports Tours International and each time was really well looked after by people who were other runners and knew what you needed.

In other words - flights are flights so as a young woman really there's nothing to worry about there. Perfectly civilized.

Accommodation you can book over the interweb and again once you get there it will be secure & the folk at the hotel / hostel desk will call taxis (which are cheap) for you and /. or advise where you can go, where to find things etc.

There is a shuttle from the airport which stops at lots of hotels & hostels and you don't need to book that from the airport, it leaves just outside the airport building. "Just outside the airport building" being if anything rather more nice than say Luton! Get the hotel to ring up for you to book the return shuttle (actually I rang up myself and sorted it and was v. pleased as by SA standards my accent is often inpenetrable).

 So that gets you to your hotel or hostel. You will need to get to the Expo. Consult at the hotel desk: you'll probably be able to walk or take a bus. I sometimes got the hostel or hotel to ring a taxi for me (see above re my accent) and that would usually cost around a fiver, the fare that is.

There are some food stalls at the Expo and it is not far from the beach where there are some cafes such as Joe Cools or the News Cafe in the Sun Coast Casino. The  hostel/guesthouse I stayed in had a Spar over the road and a kitchen so that was good too.

The Expo is next door to the Hilton so I just emulated Carmen and got the nice doorman to hail me a taxi when I needed to get somewhere from the Expo (also after the race). I am not in general a great fan of taxis but there were no real problems, particularly once I realised that the doorman knew how to pronounce my destination even if I didn't  Beh-ray-ah? Beh-ree-ah? Still can't remember!

 You'll have made lots of buddies on the forums so you won't be alone once you get to SA (you may even meet folk on the plane out).

That covers it I think... 

17/08/2012 at 20:41
Jeez... Yes, that more than covers it ! And she is right - perfectly doable solo and plenty of fellow travellers. Especially on the way back when they are easily identifiable by a rather distinctive gait and greet all fellow cripples like long lost friends.

Fido - not your area but my daughter just got in to Sheffield so I need to start learning a new language
19/08/2012 at 13:13

Great, thanks for all the advice! no doubt I'll frequently be back for more...

I was just wondering about the best time to book flights/accomodation? I was thinking:
- enter race in September
- run Liverpool marathon in October to initially qualify (hoping to improve my 4:36 to 4:20)
- then book flights/accomodation once initially qualified
- continue races throughout training, and nearer the time submit best qualifying time 

19/08/2012 at 17:25

Welcome Emily.

As far as flights are concerned, it's worth keeping an eye out on prices on a regular basis.  You'll get a feeling for what good prices are and when a bargain appears - usually for a short period - you'll be able to snap it up.

I think with accomodation you tend not to get so many bargains - so book when you find something that suits.

Very sensible to get your qualification in early and then look to improve your seeding.  Although I wouldn't get too hung up on starting in a good pen in an Up run  as the roads at the start are much wider than for the Down and you tend to get less congestion as a result...

20/08/2012 at 11:39

Hi all

I'm jumping into the forum with both feet...hope no one minds.

Just wondering how long people reckon their longest training run needs to be for Comrades. Do you aim for about 40 miles and just grind through the last 16 on the day, or do you aim for 50 or so? And is it any benefit splitting the long runs in two - eg 20 miles first thing in the morning and 20 early evening, or 20 one day and 20 the next?

20/08/2012 at 22:59

Welcome Weedy(speedy?)G - it really depends on what suits you best.  Marathons were the furthest distance I ran for the first few Comrades... I've done 40 miles a couple of times but something in the mid-30s seems to suit me best...

Edited: 20/08/2012 at 22:59
21/08/2012 at 08:43

Weedy - opinion varies a lot of people just go to marathon distance as SD wrote.  Other training plans go to 60km/37miles.  I was a novice Comrades (and ultra) runner last year and I found the 37mile run to be very helpful from the mental perspective.  Running 19miles further than you have ever run felt easier than 30 miles if I had only ever gone to marathon distance.  Also going very long lets you practise your walk strategy and fuel strategy.

The back to back double runs are a common feature of a lot of training plans.  Personally I found them very exhausting and settled for 2xMLR per week and one LSR in the range 20-26miles per week

21/08/2012 at 09:12


Am intrigued by the run/walk strategy and am now starting to look at some training plans. Have most of you just cobbled together your own plan or can anyone recommend one out there. Funnily enough, it is the walking aspect of all this that is new to me.....built into a plan that is and am not saying I have never walked in any of my marathons, but that has usually been because I was exhausted and not a planned walk !!  


21/08/2012 at 12:29

Thanks for those

The idea of only training to 26 miles scares me. I'm one of those people who doesn't like surprises - 30 miles is an awful lot of unknown territory. I think I'll prob aim for the 37 miles and see how I get on. I'm up to 22 at the mo with training for Amsterdam.

Slow duck - speedy I ain't. All I'm aiming for with Comrades is to beat the clock.

21/08/2012 at 15:48

Weedy - I agree. I would want to get to at least 40 miles before I attempted this. I have run a few ultras of 30 miles and know even those extra 4 can be very hard.

21/08/2012 at 17:35

Weedy - I follow the Fordyce method, where the long runs in the peak 6 weeks look something like the following: 20, 26, 40, 20, 26, 40. Perhaps spread over a couple of extra weeks to suit specific races. 

All the old boys in SA who are going for Silver swear by 6 x 50km in the build-up to Comrades, which is something to aim for if you want to perform to the best of your ability.

21/08/2012 at 18:15

Welcome Emily - I would agree with SD re accomm & flights. You have already run a marathon under the qualifying time so there is no big question that you can do it again. So good idea to book accommodation as early as possible for the best choice & prices. SD likes the Durban City Lodge (close to the Expo/Hilton and I have stayed there too & it's fine), Carmen, Ode & me have all stayed in Gibela's backpackers, which I liked better, plus it had a supermarket opposite. But it's further away from Expo/Hilton - still, it was so much cheaper that even with a couple of taxis a day at about a fiver each I still saved money too.

Flights, people (Carmen!) seem to be able to get fairly late (if you don't mind going via some Euro-hub).

Possum & Weedy - there are training schedules on (or see Don Oliver's book Make Sure Of Your Comrades Medal which you can get via the interwebs from SA). Also training schedules on the comrades website. I would reference these to check I was doing roughly the right thing.

You have to find out how *you* like to cover ground at Comrades speed. After much trial and error I found (almost by accident, long story) that it was more comfortable for me to "run" all the time at 11:30 m/m than to run faster but take walk breaks. Basically find the biggest hill you can and work out the most comfortable way you can get up it (again and again) (BY YOURSELF ON YOUR FEET ).

Most people take the odd walk break during the race just so that the stuff they're getting from the (frequent) aid stations doesn't go down the wrong way. Also on some steep sections.

Last year my longest run was 40 miles - this year it was 50k and yes, I know this year was the Down Run but I was 50 minutes faster. So much goes in to how you do at Comrades, whether you spend an extra 2-3 hours on your feet on one day of your training is not going to make a super big difference.

I think it is not so much the length of the run as the experience of going on when you are pretty tired and really want to stop. I got this practice by accident this year (but quite a lot!) because I had various injuries and so ended up doing all my marathons (and the one 50k in training) in a slow and often tired way because I was so undertrained from having taken time off!

Practice going up great big hills (Box hill is good). Practice eating Comrades-style food on runs and find out what you can't take (e.g. I found orange segments disagree with me however super they seem, but potatoes & bananas are fine) and can. Practice running at Comrades pace (slow) - I got this practice by accident this year but it meant I had got to be pretty efficient and relaxed at that speed come race day.

Frankly it is all a bit of a crapshoot so don't worry too much about your qualifying time or, in fact, much at all. A few good night's sleep and a healthy dose of bloodymindedness often trumps diligent training and natural speed!

Also: stay away from seafood during race week, and from your better half from about, er, now, to say the end of September

22/08/2012 at 09:08

LOL...thanks for that Fido. I warned my very supporting other half last night that he might not see me much over the next few months.......I'm sure he 'air punched' when I turned my back on him.

22/08/2012 at 10:24

There are other ways

Ah where would we be without the Bag Carriers Of The Year, eh? I had to laugh last year when we were on the plane back home from my qualifying marathon and my poor other half had blisters and I didn't! He reckoned he'd probably walked about ten miles...


22/08/2012 at 12:48

From my recent experience running NDW50: I was concerned because it was an 18-mile step up from longest run of 32 miles (a 50K, but all the Garmins said it was 32 not 31 miles) and training runs max 29 and 30 miles (done B2B with 10-16 miles next day).  However, on the day, after a three-week taper, the 50-miler felt easier than some of my long training runs.

I included B2Bs as a cornerstone of my training. They're very good for practicing running slowly enough and on tired legs!

Still trying to decide whether to go for Comrades as well as Lakeland 50 next year...

22/08/2012 at 14:26

Thanks to Fido for her brilliand advise on this thread. I was planning on doing Two Oceans in 2013 and Comrades 2014, reading these stories, wondering whether to skip Two Oceans and go do Comrades in 2013 instead? Hmm.. ah well, either or I am committed (as someone said above) to do Comrades latest in 2014, so keep the stories & advise coming.

And what it comes to flight prices, you guys in UK are in such a blessed situation that you can get so much choise. We in Ireland unfortunately need to pay the premium of getting out of Ireland first and then connecting somewhere.. always adds to my running trips..


22/08/2012 at 15:37

Dub Runner - before Comrades became a good proposition next year, I was all set to do Two Oceans. We have family in Cape Town region and it just seemed to make sense...also the 34 mile seemed to me then, to be as far as I would EVER want to run. I used to live in Ireland (Bangor) so know all about crazy flight prices.

22/08/2012 at 16:24

Hi All. I have 4 Comrades medals (2 up & 2 down) and am planning to go for my fifth in 2013. I am a very average 48 year old female club runner and reckon if I can finish this race in under 12 hrs, anyone can with a bit of effort. In fact this year my watch time was 10:31 - my best yet. If I can offer any advice (altho I am sure there are far more folk on here better qualified) I am more than happy to help.


22/08/2012 at 16:39

I followed the Don Oliver - be sure of your medal book this year & pretty much stuck to their sub 11 hour training plan. It was pretty tough at times, but the plan worked perfectly for me -  I felt great the whole race and achieved what I set out to do.  Good thing also was I only came away with 1 tiny blister and stiff legs for only 2 days!!!

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