Saturday, June 4, 2016

Comrades 2016 - Race Report

my Comrades 2015 Up run race report here...


The slogan for this year (91st Comrades) was "Izokuthoba" which means "It will humble you"

I'm the happiest runner for finishing the Comrades Marathon back-to-back Up (31-May-2015) and Down (29-May-2016) runs.  2016 Comrades had total Qualified: 18 597 / Started: 16 807 / Finished: 14 431 (source)

It was always an exhilarating experience to run the 90 kilometers long (56 miles) Comrades Marathon and I always dreamed about finishing both Up and Down runs.  In August 2015, I almost decided not to participate due to certain personal commitments.  But things had changed and as the time flew in favor of me, I registered for the Down run on just the day before the registration cut off.

The run up to the Comrades marathon was a very exciting journey even this time. I had been to South Africa twice already (1 1/2 times at the Comrades finish line). With the Sub-4 SCMM this year and moving up to the D pen in Comrades start line, I planned to give my best attempt for the down run. From Jan to beginning of May everything went like a clockwork precision.  I was getting fitter, stronger and more confident as the days progressed.

The trouble! yet another down run

My runner-self-discovery had its own share of troubles. First week of May, I realized that I was actually ignoring my glutes muscle pain (since 2 weeks) after my runs which started bothering me more and more as I ignored. I reached out to Dr. Gladson Johnson (Attitude Prime) and when I explained my condition he readily agreed to support me despite his busy schedule.  The assessment done by Dr Gladson (a very professional and a thorough one) revealed that I had tight ITB that needed immediate corrections.

Trouble seemed to have repeated with my down hill run (2 years back I had a similar situation just before my 2014 Comrades)

When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.
- Wilma Rudolph

The time to start fixing my ITB was not the best to say.  After the advanced stretches routines I required plenty of rest and recovery for the muscles to repair and heal.  I stopped running and shifted to swimming and cycling. Within one week the pain pattern was completely different. A mild pain in the glutes muscles shifted to a stabbing pain at my right ITB and also at my Piriformis muscles (like Sciatica) even when I walked. After 3 weeks the situation only kept worsening and I would pickup severe pain just after 2-3 kms of running. I decided to drop my travel plans and give the Comrades down run a pass.

It was really difficult for me to accept a decision like this.  I've spent close to 8 months of thinking and 4 months of training and the injury surfacing at the last minute was a real set back.

Emotional flight trip!

Strange things do happen which can instantly change our life direction from down to up. On 24th evening, my daughter, Anjali, came home from her friends place and wanted to watch something in YouTube. I was reading a book and after a little while started hearing a music very familiar to me. First I thought it was just a hallucination but later I found it wasn't. I heard the Chariots of Fire theme music and Anjali was listening to it. It is the same music that every single Comrades marathon runner would listen to, with so much emotion, at the start line just before the final two rooster crows. I've seen some runners cry when they hear the music and I've personally experienced that too. I instantly had goosebumps and ran up to my daughter, lifter her up and gave her a big hug and planted few kisses for putting me on a virtual but an emotional flight trip to the Comrades start line.  I wanted to be there again.

I was continuously nurturing my painful IT and glutes muscles and I started feeling that it was getting much better. The only thing that I did not have with me was adequate time to fully recover. I have actually too soon tapered and wasn't ready to give my 'best efforts' to finish the Comrades.

“Don't miss the bus, boy. You're missing a lot of things in the world, better not miss that bus.” 
― Robert Cormier, The Chocolate War

Anjali had heard the music in her friends place earlier that day and she liked the music very much.  She wanted to hear it again when she returned home which was simply amazing. This was a really the turning point for me and I made up my mind to experience the Comrades this year irrespective of the outcome. I wanted to go there and be there at the start line on the 29th.  I decided to listen to my body on the race day.

South Africa - 3rd year

Sam was there to provide me a warm welcome at the Durban airport on the 26th evening along with Pinto, a young runner from Mumbai. We visited the expo on the 27th morning and took a some good rest on the 27th as well on the 28th. On 29th morning at 3.00 am, Sebastian (Sam's son) took us to Pietermaritzburg and we reached the start line by around 4:30 am.

The road leading to the City Hall were already littered with runners anxiously marching towards the start line. The electrifying ambiance and the abundant energy levels kept all the runners warm despite the temperature was around 11 degrees cold. I kept thinking about my injuries and how I would perform during the run.

Race about to start - new trouble!

A stupid thing happened just before I entered my D pen. I was jolted and thrown forward when I missed a drain hole on the road intersecting with the foot path and fell down and twisted my ankle. I started suddenly sweating even at that cold weather. I came all the way to Pietermaritzburg to experience the race and I was prepared to deal with the injuries that I came with.  But, I was totally not prepared to start the race with a twisted ankle. I picked myself up, limped forward, mixed along with the other runners, picked a spot on the road and sat down quietly while gently massaging my pain spot. When I removed my shoes, I was able to feel a swelling right below my ankle joint. I was very angry and upset with myself. All the other pains disappeared and I knew it was going to be a battle between me vs the newly twisted ankle+the big 5 hills+the terrible slopes and the banking in the highway during the second half+Piriformis+ITB.  Who said running a Comrades marathon is easy?  The fun was about to unfold.

..and the race begins...

The last 30 minutes before the start was filled with the usual sensational routines starting with the South African national anthem, Shosholoza, Charriots of fire and the Cockarols before the gun was fired.



The race began with a great fanfare as usual and I kept moving forward along with the rest of the runners. My focus was on every single footstep to land in a way to avoid the shooting pain at my ankle. After crossing Drummond is when I realized that I forgot about my ITB, Piriformis.  My right ankle was actually holding very well. I decided to finish the race and I was also happy to meet Sam on the way at multiple places and we kept cheering at each other.  It was really an amazing energy shot to meet Clinton and his family anxiously waiting to meet Sam on the way.

Throughout the run I was texting my family and also made some calls to tell my family how I was doing.

I had 27 mins to finish my final 3 kms.  I started seeing the finish line confidently.

..the finish





I finally entered the roaring Sahara Kingsmeed Stadium.  The stadium was at the noisiest sound levels since the spectators were shouting and cheering the runners to finish the race in the final few minutes.   I too finished and like every other time I wished my wife and kids were there at the finish lines since they deserve a big hug from me for being the successful forces behind my achievements.

I felt like sitting in the top of the world to experience the Comrades finish and also to walk away with a back to back finisher medal.

I also stood there at the finish line to witness the 11:59:59 drama.  I was happy for Sam for completing his 12th Comrades.




I was so fortunate and happy to find many of friends and family members were tracking me, wishing and cheering all the runners throughout the day. It takes double the endurance effort of running a Comrades than to be there for others.

Comrades brings the best experience for the runners and also to the people who care for them.  This race is so special due to the course, the people of South Africa, the endurance challenges, the cut offs, the emotional start, during the run and the closure.

It was heartbreaking and unacceptable to find runners collapsing at various sections of the race, even just few meters before the race due to accidental falls, cramps and exhaustion.  I was thankful to the God for being so fortunate for not getting into those terrible ones and run into the finish line successfully and free from any damaging injuries.

The outcome of the race might have separated the runners as some went on to created history, few walked away with happiness and some walked away with disappointment.  True to its legacy (like it is said here) "Comrades race unites runners together since they forget about color, status, background and age, literally carrying each other to the finish line"

Learnings - of course & Heroic welcome!

The last one month was like traveling in an emotional roller coaster. There were moments when I felt better and there were certain other moments I felt like a stupid.  There was plenty of learning from this journey right from planning, training, dealing with injuries and excitements.

When I landed in the Bangalore airport I had a surprise and a heroic welcome from my wife and great friends including Mrs. Rama, Mrs. Krishna and Mr. Ravi.  They were so crazy to be waiting to receive me me at 2.00 am in the morning.   After reaching home another friend Sriram too joined us for a small celebration.

After 14 hrs of flying, 13 hrs lay over in Doha after landing in Bangalore at 2 am, I had to rush to my home and get back to the airport again at 5.00 am for a 10 days business trip to Pune.  My Comrades journey was literally very long this year.  Who said test of endurance is only running Ultra marathons :) huh! ?

After all it was not a bad decision to go to South Africa this year despite my injury vows.  Now I confidently know how to deal with some more troubles anyways :).

“Unnecessary fear of a bad decision is a major stumbling block to good decisions.”
- Jim Camp

"Izokuthoba" - certainly it did!!!

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Few other exciting moments


with pinto, young runner from Mumbai 

 

@the Durban Airport



 This man is very special - he has the right to signal the 12 hr cut off (with the gun in his hand) 

 

my daughters art work at my door front


with Nilson Paulo De Lima, 4 times Comrades finisher, Boston+Big Sur finisher this year and the Olympic torch bearer from Brazil (met him in the flight)


with Ash Nath @ Doha Airport


happy Sam with his 12th Comrades finish - he has his heart in India too


my Comrades running gear 

About me,

I'm an ACE certified personal trainer, an Ultra Marathon runner, and a running coach.  A writer here and there and always enjoys the basic act of sharing and teaching others.  I left my corporate job after 24 years of working and have founded KaysFIT Academy, with a mission to promote overall wellness, provide best possible fitness coaching & mentoring, and fitness education.  


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Comrades 2015 - Race report


Read my Comrades Marathon 2015 preparation story here..

Jump to my preparation checklist and running essentials at the end of this blog


"The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart. —Helen Keller"

I'd like to huuuuuuuuuugly thank my friends and family for showering me with love, care, and excitement during my training for this super ultra-marathon and also on the big Comrades marathon day!!! It was a very humbling experience to complete the Comrades Marathon 2015 between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in 11 hrs and 46 mins 17 secs just 14 mins well within the official 12 hours cut off mark. Yes!!! 11 hrs 46 mins of running, it looks absolutely crazy to me when I look back. There were 16588 runners who started the race on that day and I finished 10822nd. Being a solitary runner by myself, I ran this race with the company of my alter ego, the inspiration from other runners, and the energy gained from the hi-fives and cheers from the charming spectators till the finish.

Now, I have another medal to adorn my wall of honor and a proud bearer of the fondest memory that will stay with me and my family throughout our life. A 50+ miler and the longest ultra-marathon in 4 years since I started running, truly tested my endurance, commitment, perseverance, and patience. At the end of this short journey, I'm a happy soul to finish it with flying colors.

Running is such a beautiful sport and every time I step out to run I experience something so unique. Comrades Marathon provided me an experience of a lifetime to witness great athletes (get a lot of inspiration from them), people of all kinds from many parts of the world, the charming spectators, the way the running had stuck on to so many lives and much more..... It is truly wonderful.

Last year I ran the Comrades Marathon down run and I aborted running after 46 km soon after crossing the halfway mark at Drummond due to an injury. This year, with better care and preparation I went back and thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the Ultimate Human race every bit of it till its finish. Even though I've recovered from the physical pain, exertion, and soreness, and a bit of jet-lag+flying long hours+8 hrs waiting in airports in just under 3 days, I’m still recovering from the pleasant shock from attaining a celebrity status during the last one week. There were so many wishes, emails, messages, and phone calls from all those who cared about me. If this is what Comrades are going to do to me….I will go there year after year :)

For an endurance runner Comrades is not a difficult race to think about as it is described. This is something I realized after the race. Anybody who can plan and execute a long run can very well crack it head-on. It is certainly a wonderful race and also an experience to be part of. I can confidently say that with thorough preparation and a realistic race day plan combined with the belief to stay focused for multiple hours while enjoying the run….minus stressing about the whole thing again staying away from injury at the start line....will guarantee a finish.

I’ve experienced what it is to run in steep and rolling hills on a sunny day shoulder to shoulder with thousands of runners. Not to forget sweat, pain, cramps, and of course myself. It is wonderful because I heard many spectators shouting my name “Kanaaan go for it!!!”, “hey he is from India, Go India go!!’. It was wonderful because some of the runners touched my shoulder and said "you are doing great" – these were free supplies of fuel available to my sore legs. It was simply magical. South Africans and the runners were truly amazing. The best part was even I had the opportunity to fuel many others during the course which suddenly made me very powerful.

I was so inspired to see runners of different sizes and shapes shattering the myth that runners have to always 'look' fit. The capabilities are seen there were simply unbelievable. I had great respect for a pair of runners who went past me after Lion's park.  Anton, a blind runner, was assisted by Tobie by barely connecting him with a yellow band.  They were looking absolutely stunning, focused, and running steadily.  I did not see them till the finish and later I found that both had finished in 11 hrs 28 mins.  Wow!!!   It is also common to find many veteran runners (green club members who have 10+ Comrades finishes) who show you that they are the masters of the 5 big hills. Cancer survivors, biggest losers (obese turning into good athlete through sheer determination). There are so many inspiring stories to read at the end of this super event. Also, some crazy runners running for some amazing causes....like Farai Chinomwe, the master beekeeper, and his unusual running style has inspired the millions, also called 'the Rasta man' who runs backward. Last but not least....the Rhino Man is known for running marathons and ultra-marathons with his crazy super heavy outfit weighing 11 kgs.

I had a surprise party on the 3rd of Jun upon my return back to India.  What more to ask...caring friends like Anands, Srirams, Sajits, Kannan's family + a lovely chocolate cake with the big C logo on it...
My cute little family including my Father in Law converted a wooden plaque to hang my Comrades medal.



Training for Comrades

My training for the 2015 Comrades started on the 29th of Dec 2014.  Having missed the 2014 run, I decided to have a very conservative plan (ran 1038 km as part of my training between Jan and May before the race).  Last year I ran 1400 km (including the 248 in Dec) without a proper foundation.  Last year with a lot of running and little recovery during the training I was struck by an injury.  This year I focused on optimizing my mileage and also improving my training methods with an adequate amount of recovery in between. 
Pic: Comparison of my training mileage between 2014 and 2015

From December I also started focusing on optimizing my weight in a healthy way and bringing my BMI closer to 20+.  I was very successful in doing that so by saying strict no-no to Sugar and a big yes yes to a more balanced diet (lots of protein, soups, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and legumes) and sticking to a strict healthy soup only diet almost on all nights.   Thanks to my expert chef and nutritionist, my wife for the loving care and attention that I received during the last several months.  Even after the Comrades, the soups appear on our dinner menu almost every day.
Pic: My weight goal (in blue) vs the actual weight
My running gear


My race kit

My race day plan, cramps, and the joy of finishing

During the last several months I spent a lot of hours understanding several aspects of this race.  I paid special attention to the running strategy and how the Comrades course should be run as described by those who tasted it in the past, the elevation profile, the expected weather & temperature on the race day, etc., and combined with my own performances in the past - I came up with two plans.  Plan A was to target a sub-11-hour finish and Plan B (red in the pic below) to target just a Finish - and decided to be extremely happy about one of the results.  The plan also helped me in adjusting the pace on the race day.  I also decided to stick to Plan A till the halfway point and then continue to pick one depending on the race day experience.  

When I reached Drummond - I was very closely following my Plan A - but I was skeptical about three things.  Firstly, I had never run beyond 67 km and had no clue how my body will react after that.  Secondly, the temperature was not much in favor as it was soaring close to 28-29 degs and I was concerned about cramping severely - this was affirmed by the time I had reached Drummond I had already witnessed multiple runners bailing off due to cramps.  Thirdly, my fuel/hydration plans were never tested beyond 67 km and I had strictly decided not to bonk and suffer at the later part of the race.  At that time, I decided not to chase the 11 hr finish but to stick to Plan B to finish the race comfortably.


I never liked the design of the traditional pacing chart which usually comes in like a snap-on wrist band;  it lacked intelligence and did not really provide anything beyond just the KM mark and the pace.  I decided to make one for myself.  2 days before the race while sitting in the hotel lobby in Durban, I decided to make something that could be conveniently carried and has all the information that I wanted during my run.  I created one with the comrades uphill profile in the backdrop and marked the elevation gain and loss, the cut-off points, the Plan A and Plan B paces, expected time to reach and finish, etc.,  I took a printout of it in A5 size paper and carefully put it in a soft plastic cover.  The elevation details helped me in understanding the profile that I would be hitting in every 10 kms interval also helped me in focusing only on that particular section.
Pic: my Comrades 2015 pacing chart.

I set up my Garmin for a 10k lap and it helped me to focus on my race in 10k intervals.  I never bothered about constantly looking at Garmin and adjusting the pace every single km.   I also did not use my heart rate monitor this time just to reduce one element of discomfort even though I had trained with my HRM during all my long runs.  I was so confident that my average HR would be in the range 135-145 BPM and decided not to bother much about it.

After 60k, my right leg Vastus Medialis started cramping and I had to use salt tablets at least 4 of them till the finish line.  My fuel and hydration went really well otherwise and I used Gu gel till the first 30 kms and then the Enegrade, water, coke (initially diluted with water and the raw one after 65 km), and potatoes till the end of the race.  I also had realized that the cramping intensity increased whenever I switched from walking to running.  My walking and running strategy early on came in handy during the Comrades.  This is something that I must really work on the next time.

The Polly shots was a killer climb at the end and it took away a lot of time from my reserve while walking up the hills.  I spent almost 40 mins walking between the two Polly's.  I was so elated to reach the top of Polly and decided to run without stopping anywhere till the finish line.  I was all set to finish the race just before the 12 hours cut off but when I saw the 4 kms to go sign I decided that I will finish the race before 11:40+ hrs.  In the final 2-3 kms I sprinted with joy while crossing hundreds of runners slowly marching towards the finish line.  The last 500 meters was a further good sprint and I did not even realize that I forgot about the cramp or any kind of discomfort; nothing bothered me at that time and I was just flying.  Finally, when I touched the finish line, it was a very emotional moment and all that I wanted was a warm hug from my wife and children who provided me everything to reach the finish line on that day.

After collecting the medal and posing for a picture :), I called my wife, spoke to my children.....what a great moment it was!  Truly the stars, moons, and planets with a perfect alignment on that day.  I'm also grateful to good friends like Pastor Samuel and his family, Pastor Nathan and his family, Lincoln and Nisha for their wonderful hospitality - they just provided space in their hearts to make me feel South Africa my second home.


What next?


This race has really altered (in a positive way) some of my internal belief systems.  I love running again and again...as the Olympic motto says Citius, Altius, Fortius....and behaving simply like the honey thief - I have tasted Comrades twice (one and a half to be precise :)) and I will take efforts and go there again.


Next year being a down run - I will focus on different aspects including cross-training especially swimming which I recently fell in love with, more reading and research to do, more exciting time to spend on re-discovering myself further.  I still have my unfulfilled dream of running a full marathon under 4 hours and I'm planning to focus on cutting the time by 16 mins this year- this will also be a good Comrades 2016 qualifier and also to get into the D pen next year while giving me a 2-3 mins advantage at the start line.

As Norman L Kerth suggests, I would continue to mine the timeline for gold and wisdom however tiny the find would be.


I have an innermost desire to identify someone who finds this as an inspiration and starts focusing on leading a healthy/happy life especially by running or through any active sports.

Post Race analysis (from Garmin/Comrades site)
Time

Time: 11:46:18
Moving time: 11:43:35
Avg. Pace: 7:56 min/km
Avg. Moving Pace: 7:55 min/km

Elevation

Min. Elevation: 10m
Max. Elevation: 826 m
Elevation Gain: 1,887 m
Elevation Loss: 1,272


Elevation vs. Pace graph


Lap timing (I'd set the lap distance as 10 k in my Garmin)





















The official race distance was 87.7 kms and the Garmin finally showed 88.93 with an error of 1.2 kms.
Results from Comrades website



Pic: race day timing results





I compared my performance with Gift Calahe (hey why not!!!) (1st in Men) and Caroline (1st in Women) - utter craziness they ran almost twice my speed :).  Amazing to find Caroline picking up her fastest course run during the last 10 kms.

Final thoughts

Alright - you are a novice runner and decided to run the Comrades - you might wonder what you could be doing besides running....here are my thoughts.

Firstly congratulations for having thought about this.  This is the first thing that any novice runner can do to start thinking about Comrades besides running smile emoticon - in my opinion - do indulge, indulge and indulge...in reading a lot about the Comrades marathon, read the greatest stories written by runners from all walks of life, fastest runners, slowest runners, success as well as failure stories, get inspired by watching Comrades marathon, start-end videos in YouTube, especially the spirit of Comrades and the good luck video posted by @peterslaufblog, keep dreaming about it day and night, get charged up every time you imagine you at the start line, running through the big 5 hills and also crossing the finish line, get ready to fail and get ready to succeed and improve.  

At last, make sure you have a life outside this running, spend adequate time with your family and do take good care of your health.

The section below this contains Comrades marathon-related tips for novice runners and also especially from the international runner's point of view, what to expect and recommendations from me based on my own experience.

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Running essentials


Pic: I prepared this kit one day before the race
  • Dri-fit shirt + Bibs safely fastened in front and backside
  • Compression pants / shirt
  • Band-aid / nippies 
  • Compression Socks
  • Shoes with Timing Chip safely fastened
  • Vaseline (feet) / Bodyglide (nipple chaffing) + Sunblock
  • Band-aids or Nippies (nipple chaffing)
  • Cap / Visor
  • Dri-fit hand gloves
  • Head bandanna
  • ID card or band + emergency contact numbers
  • Fully charged Garmin / GPS Watch / ensure you have taken backup and emptied the history
  • Heart Rate Monitor
  • Salt Tablets
  • Energy gels / Protein bars
  • Personal cell phone wrapped in a plastic cover 
  • Good quality+strong safety pins (8 nos)
  • Light sunglasses
  • Camelback / hip pouch
  • Post-run food coupons
  • Pacing chart/band - ensure its covered in plastic / make it waterproof
  • International credit card + cash
  • Recyclable plastic (usually the transparent ones) bag (protection against the cold wind) - the size of a garbage bag - create a hole for head and hands
  • Wear the international runner band (wear it loose - your body bulges as you are running and it will be a major irritant during the race - you need a pair of scissors to cut it out)
  • Wear the bus ticket band to travel back to the start point (or keep it safely in your hip pouch)
  • Stick the tog bag tag behind your bib (or keep it safely in your hip pouch)
  • Gatorade or energy drink to keep sipping at the carol
Expo day

The first thing you must ensure is to prepare a tog bag with the few bare minimum essential items.  The tog bag can be deposited at the Expo (look for a truck outside the expo building where the tog bag is collected - separate truck for international runners).  The tog bag is your most important need at the finish line with all essential post-race needs,
  • Change over clothes + socks + plastic sheet wrap or a jacket
  • Recovery drink (vitamins/protein shake)
  • Water
  • Energy + Carb + Protein bars
  • Body spray + soap
  • Hand towel
The best time to visit the expo is on the first or the second day (the third day is usually crowded). Carry the entry confirmation printout along with your passport and directly go to the international runners counter.   Collect the race kit - 
  • Check the T-Shirt size
  • Verify champion chip for its accuracy
  • Tog bag number sticker
Do visit the international runner's area to meet and greet other runners and also have coffee, cool drinks, energy drinks, etc., / rest and relax.

Tracking runners + live telecast of the race (share this information with your family/friends)

  • The race is shown live on the www.comrades.com website.  The runner position also can be tracked there.
  • The race results can be tracked by a smartphone application ULTIMATE LIVE.  Download and find the Comrades Marathon race, search for the runners to track, and add them (click the Star) as your favorites to track their movement during the race.  The app also shows the approximate position of the runner based on the average pace recorded at the timing mats.
At the finish line
  • Open your arms widely, finish with a big smile :)
  • Collect the medal
  • Ensure your picture is clicked - find a photographer right at the finish line or after collecting the medal
  • Go to the international runner's tent
  • Collect your tog bag
  • Give the food coupon to get a drink (beer is also available) + your choice of food (noodles, soup, etc.,) 
  • Stretch, rest and relax
  • Protect yourself from cold
  • Meet and greet other finishers
  • Don't miss the action at the 12th hour cut off at the finish line - there are also televisions inside the tent covering the live race
Race day photos and videos

The race day photos and videos are uploaded on the following site - the pictures will start appearing in this link 2-3 days after the race.  Wait for at least a week or 10 days to consolidate the pictures and then place your order.  


http://www.jetlineactionphoto.com/


The race day video shot at various points (wherever the timing mats were located) are uploaded in the following link

http://mysports.tv/site/en/


Also, look for the video posted by SABC (telecaster) on the YouTube site


Comrades Marathon Facebook & Twitter


https://twitter.com/ComradesRace

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2573515385/


Join my Twitter Ultra Marathon Listing

Comrades Qualification

To run the Comrades Marathon one must qualify by running a full marathon in sub 5 hours. Unless you are a very slow and steady runner and you feel like running another 2-3 hours after running a full marathon in ~4 hrs 45 mins you may find Comrades a difficult race.  Focus on improving your PR and take it closer to a sub 4 hr 20 mins comfortably before signing up for the Comrades.  Allow at least 6-8 months before running Comrades after your PR is achieved.


I ran a 50k Ultra in 6 hrs in November 2013 and a 4 hr 19 mins full marathon in Jan 2014.  This gave me a lot of confidence for mentally getting prepared for signing up for the Comrades.


References



Monday, May 25, 2015

My Comrades 2015 story

Second time

On 31-May-2015, I'll be running the Comrades Marathon (www.comrades.com), an Ultra Marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg (PMB) - also called the Up Run, in South Africa. Last year, despite the best of preparations for the Down Run (from PMB to Durban).   

"Lack of will, injury, or blunt tools at the start of the battle are the biggest failures than fighting the battle and losing"

I was at the start line of the race with a calf injury which surprised me a month before the race day. All my attempts to fix it before my travel were futile.  At the beginning of the race the injury appeared to be under control but I started experiencing severe pain in my foot (mostly a referral pain) from the 20k mark and I could endure only till the half way mark before pulling out with a heavy heart.  After the race I had an extended and a memorable vacation with my family in South Africa.   But the experience was truly remarkable I had decided to come back again for the 2015 race. 

Now a year behind me and I’m all geared up for the big Comrades Up Run.  The race is run on the hilly roads of Kwazalu-Natal province, marked by “The Big Five” which are Cowies Hill, Field's Hill, Botha's Hill, Inchanga, and Polly Shortts.   Durban city is located at the sea level and one has to run around 44 kms up in the hills to reach the half-way point.  The remaining distance is run much on rolling hills before reaching Pietermaritzburg.  This year, the officials have increased distance by 877 meters (making it 87.7) due to some road construction work making race longer and more challenging for many runners.

History of Comrades
Vic Clapman founded Comrades Marathon in 1921 – he felt that if infantrymen, drafted into the armed forces from sedentary jobs, could endure forced marches over great distances, trained athletes could cover the distance between the two cities without great difficulty…more here..

Pic: Comrades Up run elevation profile 

About the race 

Comrades will celebrate its 90th anniversary this year and the race organizers have allowed 23000 runners to register (usually ~18000).   Statistics say that a majority of runners finish the race either just before the 11 hour time mark and the rest just before the 12th hour.  At the start point in Durban it takes 8-10 minutes for the last runner to cross the start line.  The race must be run within 12 hrs. gun to gun time (5.30 am to 5.30 pm) and has multiple cutoff times in between to qualify.  The runners who don’t make it to any cut off point within the cut off time published are pulled out of the race.  This is certainly not the best part of this race and around 85% of the runners conquer the grueling race on that day.  The top men and women finishers are expected to complete in 5 hrs 30 mins and 6 hrs respectively.  They are some amazing athleticism is displayed on that day and the race is live telecasted and watched by millions across the world.  Dave Rogers has the distinct honor of completing 45 Comrades marathons and Bruce Fordyce and Elena Nuralieva top the list of finishers with 8 gold medals to their list.  

Comrades medal system
  1. Gold medals are awarded to the first 10 men and women finishers.
  2. Silver medals are awarded to athletes who finish from position 11 to those finishing in under 7 hours 30 minutes.
  3. The Bill Rowan medal of silver and bronze is awarded to those athletes who complete the race between 7 hours 30 minutes and 9 hours.
  4. Bronze medals are awarded to athletes who finish the race in a time of between 9 hours and 11 hours.
  5. Copper medals – known as the Vic Clapham medal – go to those athletes who finish the race between 11 and 12 hours.
  6. Entrants who have completed 25 Comrades Marathons run for free.
Indians in Comrades

Every year the number of participants from India is growing and this year there are around 65 runners registered.   Amit Sheth has the distinction of being part of 6 consecutive years since 2009 and also recognized as the Indian Ambassador by the Comrades Marathon Association.  Sathish Gujran from Mumbai has completed 5 Comrades topping the list of most Bronze medals winner from India.  In 2014, Ashok Nath from Bangalore became the fastest Indian (8 hrs 43 mins) to finish the race ever.  Interestingly both Sathish and Ashok are in their 50s age.  Aravind Kumar from Chennai is the youngest (at the age of 27) Indian to finish the Comrades Marathon in 2014.

My training for the 2015 Comrades

First thing I did after I returned from my 2014 Comrades race was to stay away from running for about 2 months.  The rest and recovery helped me get back to shape and I focused on modifying my training plans.  I further indulged in running, injury and fitness related research.  I worked on my basics, the mistakes that I decided not to commit, my running posture and speed techniques.  I became very selective about the races that I ran and focused a lot on quality work than quantity.  I started my Comrades training on the first week of 2015 and during the 5 months I cut down my weight (chopped 6 kgs off), built core, strength and power; cross trained by swimming and cycling and ran 1000+ kms during the last 5 months.  I cut down my running mileage by 30% from 2014 and I did 3 long runs 50 kms, 55kms and 67 kms in Yercaud and Kolli hills to simulate hill running.  All the three long runs were completed with my running friends especially the popular Chennai Runner buddy Praveen Giriya who is making his maiden Comrades this year. 

Someone once said "If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives"

Is that enough to finish the Comrades?  Am I in best shape to complete this time? I have the nudging feeling that there is always something more could have been done and there was nothing like a perfect training.  My wife my children, had provided me the best support and had sacrificed several weekends including their summer vacation trips.  The race day would determine the quality of my training and I’m expecting the extra spirit the energy, inspiration that I can draw from other runners, the crowd throughout the road and the best wishes from my friends and family to take me till the finish line.  This final month is a taper time and I’m feeling very confident to finish this year successfully.
Pic: remembering 2014 Comrades @ the expo...with my extended family from SA, Sam (a veteran Comrades marathoner), Devi, Rose, my son was on the ground imitating how one would feel after completing the race :)

Why run Comrades?

Watch the Spirit of Comrades 2014 video here


Vall Opperman, Comrades finishers, has shared a plaque given to her by a friend which had beautiful words inscribed in it.

“There is a defining moment in each person’s life when the true measure of who they are is tested.  They will be judged, and more importantly, they will judge themselves on how they answered in that moment of truth.  On Comrades day that moment has arrived.  You can no more escape your moment of destiny, than you can recapture it, once it has passed.  You have the opportunity to define absolutely who you are.  Seize your moment for greatness, knowing that when your time of judgment came, you were not found wanting”

Now you probably know, at 41, why I would spend a lot of time, money to train and to go to a different country, run a race for 12 hours and at the end completely drained, mentally & physically and have to endure a lot of pain.

Above all there is a wonderful chance to instantly connect and start an endless discussion as if you were buddies for ages, with another human being, doesn't matter which color, which race he or she belongs to, what age, what the mother tongue is, which country he belongs to....... the list is really long - salute to all the runners.

I invite you to join the endurance club to experience the following but all the 4 stages to attain enlightenment....that include Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual.
Well, I'm all set to go, the final preparations are complete and less than a week count down has already begun. 

At the end of it just sounds like the beginning.

"Living in anticipation for having #eachDay2BeTheFirst brings excitement; It resets the feeling that surprises surprise even the experienced"

'Be Part of It – Bamba Iqhaza' is the 2015 theme for the Comrades Marathon.  

'Ill be part of it - Ngizo Bamba Iqhaza' and feel like I'm proudly representing my country!!!




Also, do you want to know if running would make you a better employee?  read my thoughts here…  

@xkannan

Comrades 2016 - Race Report

my Comrades 2015 Up run race report here... The slogan for this year (91st Comrades) was  "Izokuthoba"  which means  "...