THE COMRADES DREAM – Mncedisi Dlova

Dreaming of running the Comrades Marathon is not uncommon for someone with a running or other sporting background.

Dreaming of it for the first time as a 53 year old without any running history and only a distant interest in social soccer is something totally different.

In this book Mncedisi shares an enlightening and motivational journey to accomplishing just that dream.

In an easy read story the author takes readers back to his youth in the rural village of Ngxakaza, 4km from Dutywa. Tough upbringings are pertinent in sport and the strict influence of his grandmother, Nobandla, is a thread through his story and the pursuit of his dream – A Comrades medal.

“A dream not pursued remains a wish, and a wish can turn to regret if not acted upon” he states.

Dlova would be 54 when he arrived at the day when his dream would be fulfilled. He would have to traverse the hills between the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg and the impressive Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban to do so. He had however, already seen it all in his dream.

A pharmacist by profession there would be few short cuts in preparation, few actions left strictly to chance on this journey.

The storyline takes readers through the early agony of running, finding his own inner strengths and of locating fellow travellers in Mthatha who could  make the training more bearable.

Cheetahs is a formidable club based in Mthatha and they would be the glue that cemented the dream, the reality of what it would take and the camaraderie and inspiration that would lift Dlova whenever he required that little bit extra.

A first half marathon in 2016 set up the “not interested in running or sport generally” citizen of the world to pursue a new lifestyle.

The half marathon led to 42.2km marathons and then ultra marathons in pursuit of a readiness to tackle Comrades.

The dream was realised on 10 June 2018 when Dlova entered a crowded, lively stadium to finish the 90 plus kilometres and claim a bronze medal for a sub 10-hour journey. The final cut off is 12 hours.

It is a wonderful story filled with inspiration for absolutely anyone.

This is not a book about how to train. It is book about how all can overcome obstacles to realise a dream, regardless from which sphere of life the dream might emanate.

Be in the know…2019 Comrades changes

Much speculation as to what more the 2019 Comrades might offer was answered at Thursday’s official and simultaneous announcements to the media and the Comrades Marathon family across the globe.

Many will have been surprised at the extent of the changes.

Those who believe Comrades is far too dominant a fixture in SA road running will have their belief strengthened in the wake of the enterprising changers the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) have introduced.

I must admit to straddling both camps of thought, wanting to see South Africa again become an international force in road running over standard distances, while also sharing the love affair so many of us enjoy with the KZN based epic.

Comrades simply keeps re-inventing itself.

The 94th Comrades, it was actually started in 1921, has opened the road from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, to 25000 runners in 2019. It is an epic number.

Two new medals have been introduced and few saw that one coming, though there has been pressure to name a medal after a woman.

The new Isavel Roche-Kelly medal is named after the 1980/81 double winner who ran was the first women to easily break the silver medal barrier time of 7:30 when she recorded 7:18 and followed that up with 6:44 a year later. A young exciting and talented runner, she tragically died in a cycling accident three years later.

The half gold, half silver medal will be awarded to women who finish from 11th position to and to all who break the 7:30 barrier. That means no women will again win a silver medal, though they are unlikely to be aggrieved by that.

The second new medal is so very special given that for decades, neither women in general nor any black folk were allowed to participate in Comrades.

Most white males have sadly shown themselves down the years, as being a peculiar lot and will forever be judged in history for harbouring prejudice. And yet road running in South Africa has generally been a ground breaker.

In 1935 Robert Mtshali was the first black man to unofficially complete the Comrades in a time of 9:30. So it is that the Comrades now offers a medal, named after his pioneering spirit, for all who complete the route in 9-10 hours. How special is that.

Other changes include a faster qualifying time of 4:50, 10 minutes quicker than in recent times. There has been some negative reaction to this, but seriously anybody can do it if they simply train effectively.

An inflated prize purse to R4.3m is what will seriously worry running puritans, while the winners cheques at R500,000 will lure marathon and even half marathon exponents.

That however, cannot be laid at the door of the CMA who are doing what is best for their historical race.

The controlling body of the sport in South Africa needs to  ensure that similar rewards are on offer for all internationally recognised distances, in particular the 10, 21,1 and 42,2kms.

It can be done, we simply need to want to do it.

 

 

SOLD OUT – the New Phenomenon

COMRADES MARATHON SOLD OUT and then sold out again 21500 entries in just 21 days.

TWO OCEANS 56km SOLD OUT their 11000 entries in two days.

Those are the big two, but then there is Om die Dam a 50km way up north. An established event of 28 years, but not one that is expected to receive a rush of entries right?

Wrong. Entries opened on 6 November and by 8 November only 50% were left and as I write they may well be all gone.

Where did this hysteria pop up from? Well it did not just arrive. Every time a landmark is reached in respect of race anniversaries, the new millennium or 2010 entries have shot up.

The Two Oceans 56km took a bit of a knock when the half marathon was introduced and took a while to recover its previous numbers, but then in 2014 the entries sold out a week before closing for the first time. In 2015 they were sold out a month before and in 2016 by 2 January , just 32 days after they opened, they were all gone.

This year after what happened at Comrades and with the momentum of previous years it was predicted that it would take Two Oceans two weeks. It actually took only two days.

So, what is this new phenomenon and what does it mean to us as runners in respect of our training and racing?

First, we need more than ever before to be totally focussed on what we are doing and be meticulous in our planning.

Runners who perform at a meaningful level need a coach more now than ever before and may in fact need even more support on the logistical side.

Being a member of a running club has always been essential to the big ultras, but choosing a club that has infrastructure, experienced coaching and training methods along with innovation is ever more important.

ENTRY IN – WHAT NOW:

So the pressure is off. Your entry is in and been accepted. Be sure your 2018 fees and licence are all in tact as this will need to be verified by the race organisation and club.

In respect of Two Oceans training should already be underway given that it is a few weeks earlier in 2018. If you do not have a coach – find one.

Comrades however, is only on 10 June and should not be top of mind at all.

It is not often that Two Oceans and Comrades can be raced in the same year, without serious doubt as to recovery, optimum performance and so on.

2018 is however a much kinder year in that there is an 11 week break between the two. Still not completely ideal, but certainly manageable for athletes who are able to focus on their running, training and rest periods.

With Two Oceans early I would suggest skipping a qualifying marathon in 2018 if you have a reasonable one in the bag.

So my athletes would be encouraged to focus on Two Oceans, racing a half marathon, a couple of 10kms and maybe a 32. The 56km could then be raced and a personal best recorded, followed by a few easy weeks before embarking on Comrades specific work outs.

If they are not running Two Oceans and Comrades is the goal, then a well prepared for Buffs Marathon in East London, South Africa would be the call with a pb or “close to” being the objective. That takes place on 18 February, allowing for two weeks recovery and then easing into Comrades training through March, April and May.

It is so important to have a coach who has been there and experienced some of the pitfalls to racing ultra marathons or indeed any other distance. Listening to friends or competitors is fool hardy. They possibly mean well, but have no real vested interest in your success and probably harbour illusions of beating you anyway. And so they should.

Friends are for socialising and racing is for winning no matter how humble the goal.