Comrades Meet Up
One of the greatest unanticipated benefits of running Comrades 2016 was the friends I met through the process. As such, I offered to host a Comrades Meet Up for interested runners the day before the Austin Marathon.
The cast of characters was small but mighty.
Susan represented the voice of experience. She is a 10-time Comrades starter and 8-time finisher. Susan is returning for Comrades 2017 to tackle the uprun and put herself on the doorstep of the Green Number Club. Exciting!
Pete has started Comrades twice, nabbing his first finish in 2016’s down run.
(Susan and Pete both missed a cut-off in the 2015 up run, no thanks to bus drivers who ran the wrong pace!)
John is a Comrades novice. He’s a relatively newbie to the long distance running community, finishing his first marathon just last year. He’s completed an Ironman and holds a sub 3:20 marathon PR, which bodes well for John’s chances of completing Comrades in June.
I was there, too, sharing my limited but vibrant experience from training for and running Comrades 2016.
Our topics ranged from logistics to training to what to wear on race day. Undertaking an event like Comrades requires a significant amount of forethought.
We shared our opinions of travel logistics to South Africa. While I loved going a week early last year, that’s just not possible this year. We all agreed that with a race start of 5.30am, no one does much sleeping the night before the race. Even when the start is in Durban (where most runners stay), there is noise on the streets in the wee hours of the morning to rouse runners out of bed. All of this to say, we shouldn’t spend too much energy worrying about jetlag!
For training, it is clear that John and I have a real advantage with Austin winter weather. We are well-prepared for a Comrades day that gets hot and or humid. Susan and Pete agreed that doing long runs on hills, in addition to hill repeats, was an essential component of a successful training plan. Thankfully, we also have plenty of hills here in Austin!
As for what to wear on race day, John had already read my blog about the various pieces of Comrades kit I felt were useful. Susan pointed out that because the race starts in Durban this year, it shouldn’t be as chilly at the start. This could make it easier to plan what to wear throughout the race.
I also talked about the Race Day Support Marquee service that I found so useful last year. We shared our tips for using the water sachets handed out on the course– Pete’s “always take three” rule seems sensible– and to definitely test eating boiled potatoes on a training run. (It is nine months since Comrades 2016, and I am still potato obsessed.)
We discussed the friendliness of South Africans. Susan shared that her introduction to Comrades was via a South African she met while running the Two Oceans Marathon 12 years ago. Since then, she has visited his family multiple times and is taken under their wings as she returns for Comrades annually. This friendliness lines the Comrades route on race day, and runners are buoyed by the support of spectators and runners alike.
I explained to John that, as a native Texan (and Austinite), this friendliness would be wonderfully familiar to him. I sure found it comforting last year.
None of us were really excited about running the Austin Marathon the next day, but we decided that the hot and humid conditions would give us a good training run to practice fueling and hydration for Comrades. It would also be essential to employ running and walking tactics, also critical for a speedster like John to get some practice doing before Comrades race day. (As it turns out, we were all VERY slow. It was a miserable day for a marathon.)
Runners know that other runners love to talk running. This Comrades Meet Up was no exception. I look forward to seeing my fellow Comrades again in Durban this June!