Comrades 2013

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

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10/06/2013 at 21:50

Hello there.....first time I've ventured back on here since got home. Am very happy to report I finished in 11.12.46. Was after a sub 11 but boy oh boy...just so happy to finish my first ever Comrades in what seems to have been one of the toughest years yet.

Am happy to report I was back out running as part of relay team at South Downs marathon on Saturday and then put in my best 5k time for a few years on Sunday of 23.19....God knows how !! The Comrade juices still flowing.

Met so many of you there and that was just the best.

Loved it, loved it, LOVED IT !!!

Will I return ??? Oh yuss....just One. More. Time. Gotta get that sub 11.

Well done all of you and I think if it was a year when some DNF...2013 was the year for it.

11/06/2013 at 16:00

Finally back in UK and had a chance to catch up with things at work, home and on here.

Thank you Warren, Andy, SAFER and Alan for the generous congratulations.  I achieved my initial goal of silver but am disappointed with the way I ran it.  Far too cocky/gung ho for the first half and suffered during those last 34k like never before in a race.  I made the classic newbie distance race mistakes that I thought I'd moved on from and could've enjoyed the race more and for longer if I wasn't so daft.  What an event though!  I still need to read the non-RW reports and go through the photos/videos as I've not seen them yet.  I'm sure that the longest lasting memories of this year will be of Becca's brilliant fist-pumping finish broadcast to all of SA and Andy's hilarious and charming shoe story.  I've looked at every start clip on YouTube and still not managed to see it so will have to concoct a version with my imagination.

To contribute to a dataset (BikeIt, is there anything that you can make of this?), here is my uploaded Garmin data:

Splits range from a rather excited 4.06m/km (km17, near the Cowie cheerleaders?) to a painful 8.09m/km on Polly Shortts.  I like that it reads: "Sorry, we do not have any weather for this activity".  If only.   I count 12-14 significant shifts in pace which can't be very clever.  Certainly, they don't match up to the elevation profile.

H - Ghost Runner is a great read.  I found Tarrant's life story very sad and have compared his wife's situation to my girlfriend’s. Hopefully I don't treat her with the same contempt;  I managed to at least get on the flight back to the UK!  He also put himself through a lot but there is no question that the authorities were unjust in their treatment of him.  Some crazy rules at that time such as not being allowed any water until 10m would ruin any race I'd do.  On a warm day, I can just about manage the 7m from work without water.  Tarrant did achieve some great things (such as his 2 world records and supporting the people excluded from Comrades) but a story tinged with sadness at what he might've achieved at an Olympic level with some sensible co-operation and sympathetic support from the authorities, and at the thought that his early death might have been caused by asbestos at the job he took on.  I was pleased to see his picture on the race history stand at the Expo.

Well done again to everyone who took to the start line and went for it, to those who have contributed on here and who made the trip out there so enjoyable for me.  I'll see most of you over on the 2014 thread for any unfinished business.

Edited: 11/06/2013 at 16:05
11/06/2013 at 20:37

Ally - well done to you again and thanks for letting me hold your silver medal.  

12/06/2013 at 10:44

I was googling to read various Comrades 2013 websites, and came across another great pic of Steven at the finish (scroll down).

12/06/2013 at 23:40

Hahaha! Stevan's middle name should be "agony"!

13/06/2013 at 10:25

Ally - I can only interpret your run in one way and that is to say it was an absolutely outstanding performance given the conditions on the day - congratulations

You went thourgh half in 3:25 and finished in 7:22, so the second half was in 3:57 with a 32 minute positive split.  According to Lindsay's stats, then the typical positive split of a silver medalist is 31:36.  So you did a pretty typical split, but given the heat and headwind of the second half then your performance is actually better than a typical year.

From your Garmin trace I can see that your HR fell in the second half.  Normally in a mara I expect it to increase in the final stages.  Here you could find that you were transitioning more to fat burning as it is very difficult to ram 6000calories or so into the stomach and your guts to process it to keep glycogen topped up.

Also I see that you didn't slow down much on the hills to Inchanga!  This would have contributed to muscle damage that you carry into the second half and is one of the causes of slowing down

I would share my garmin trace too but it is lost (Garmin 310XT, 4.50 SW)!  The speed decline was pretty simliar in proportion (except by speclacular blowup at 4km to go). I put my slowing down to:

1) Leg damage from the hills and distance of the first half,

2) Heat and headwind in the second half leading to overheating

3) dehydration

4) Lack of fuel ( I had 4 gels, 2/3 a clif bar and 2 gatorade)

5) Brain

I'll write my full race report in due course, but basically I will be training for the final third of my next Comrades from now.  The first two thirds are pretty much in the comfort zone of anyone who is reasonably accomplished at marathons

Edited: 13/06/2013 at 10:27
15/06/2013 at 14:22

Agree Ally on the Ghost Runner thing.  To avoid issues with the other half however I now roped mine in and he ran with me.  No choice

Meanwhile am hoping today will be my first day in shoes and not flip flops following a blister and infected toe....

16/06/2013 at 17:37
Brilliant pics Emily!!!!
18/06/2013 at 22:19

Thanks for the link Emily 

I enjoyed reading your fb blog too, excellent stuff. Am postponing thinking about 2014 (as only just returned to UK from post Comrades hols today). Loved KZN so may be hard to resist ...

19/06/2013 at 16:47

BikeIt - Thanks for more of the useful analysis.  The 32min average positive split is an interesting point that I wasn't aware of.  Good to be about par on that scale, but does anyone know of any negative splitters?  Surely it should be feasible with the comparative lack of hills in the second half...  I regret running hard up Inchanga and was egged on by a couple of local guys who had caught me slightly earlier.  Tehe one wearing a green number told me that "it's gives confidence when you are running up Inchange and others are walking" and thought it good to match their pace.  I think all three of us struggled a bit over the last few km and I managed to pass this chap - both of us walking - near the outskirts of Maritzberg.  On the HR, you prompted me to check previous races and I exhibited the pattern you describe - of raising HR over the course of a marathon - for MK but not for Manchester.  I think that the fall in SA was most likely due to adoption of a run/walk strategy.

Has everyone managed to track down their photos?  A bit long-winded to access but there are all up on this website:

I managed to avoid looking thoroughly fed up in all but one of my 16 photos so a fair few must've been relatively early on. 

20/06/2013 at 08:37

 The graph above shows the difference between the time of the second half and the first half for all runners versus their finish time.  There are less than a 100 negative splits.  The largest positive split is over 4 hours. 

20/06/2013 at 17:19

Wow, less than 0.7% of the finishers managed a positive split.  Not even Mr Buud managed one.  Brilliant stuff.  I think they need to introduce a "negative split" medal.  Anything on down runs?  Perhaps more manage it when the hills are down in the second half than up in the first and attacked when fresh.  Comrades has changed my whole perception of what to expect or aim for in a race!  Do I remember correctly from marathontalk that the figure for a normal marathon is something like 7%? 

I've finally researched my number and found I've inherited it from messrs Philip Kennedy and Vincent Langlois.  Phil managed three Bronze finishes in 89, 93 and 94 and Vinny a Bronze and two Bill Rowans in 01, 03 and 04 either side of entering his 40s.  The latter was (is?) a member of Jo'burg Canoe Club so must've used Comrades as a way of cross-training to balance out his inevitably huge guns. 

20/06/2013 at 17:35

I managed a negative split in every road marathon last year but no way was that happening at Comrades.  My legs were just too fatigued with 13 miles to go.

Great that you have the best medal of the people to have had your number Ally.  I looked up the history of my number before I went and it had been used by three runners, with only two outcomes - either bronze or DNF.  I am glad to have kept up the tradition with my bronze but hope to go one better next year.

Got a couple of races in the next few days.  Should see Windsor Andy at a race round one of Leicestershire's big(ish) hills and Jacquie on Sunday at Cheltenham Circular Challenge. 

I got sent a photo of me near the finish of Comrades and there, overtaking me in the background, is Hans.

22/06/2013 at 00:19

As I cross the finish line there is a Union Jack showboating in the background. Let me know of you would like an email Becca?


22/06/2013 at 12:15

Ah, yes, I already spotted myself in that pic when you posted it on Facebook.  Apologies for photobombing.

22/06/2013 at 19:29

Hello All (waves to Bike It)

I'm thinking about doing this in 2015.  Can you tell me what the difference is between the up and down hill runs (apart from the obvious!)  Is one as hard as the other? 

Also, Bike it how will you train for the final third?

22/06/2013 at 22:59

Becca, mutual shot went tic, tic, boom! One of my favourites.

24/06/2013 at 09:06

Minni, we are mostly decamped to the 2014 thread now:

What is often said is that the down run is 10 minutes faster but hurts a lot more than the up despite being 2km shorter.

Each run has the hardest terrain in the first half.  The first half of the down is very lumpy and with the bigger climbs being the gentle climb out of PMB, the descent of Polly Shorts and then the climbs to Umlass road and Inchanga.  The up is a continous long haul of pretty much continous ascent for 25mi.  The first half of the down damages your legs with the lumpiness, the first half of the up mainly tires your legs.  

The middle section between Inchanga and Bothas is very challenging on both directions, but probably seems harder on the down due to the 3 hills from HW at Drummond to Bothas hill village where the continous down starts.

The second half of the down hurts as you continously land on your quads but there are only 3 small ascents (Cowies, 45th cutting, tollgate), but you can generally keep moving despite the damage inflicted by the first half and middle section.  The second half of the up is so lumpy and the runners so fatigued that each tiny hill is like a mountain and frequent walking can happen.  Particular Little Pollies and Polly Shortts represent difficult obsticles and generally 'no-one runs Pollys'.

Some people say that heavier people prefer the down, lighter people the up.  Certainly I consider that the down is easier for me.

Whichever direction it is run, the crowd support is amazing and it is amazing running challenge 

In regards to training for the final third, I started to believe that being strong is essential (rather than just having good endurance).  The challenge of Comrades is more on resisting fatigue of the muscles and maintaining a working body - at all times my heart and lungs are operating as they would at 'easy pace'. I concluded that I had run too much in training.  The key thing seems to be able to resist muscular fatigue.

I started cross training in the gym for the core, upper body and legs strength. I also started spinning classes as I got a leg injury anyway which prevents me running.

Particularly for the down, then the quads ability to resist eccentric loading is essential.  Weighted squats/lunges, plyometrics and downhill hill reps will improve the strength in this regard.


24/06/2013 at 09:35

Bike It - thanks for your analysis.. Helpful for those trying to get their back2back in 2014... Intrigued by "plyometrics".. Am on the 2014 thread if you prefer to illuminate there

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