A run down of our Comrades 2016 marathon

This was KK’s third Comrades marathon. He has successfully run the up and the down run, receiving his back-to-back medal, but one thing I’ve learnt is that even if you’ve run Comrades before, each year is different. The training was different, the build-up was different and yes, even the weekend down in Durban was a different experience this time around.

We stayed at the Fairmont Zimbali Resort for the first time. It’s beautiful and when I forgot the stress of the race that hung over KK’s head, it felt like we had escaped to Bali for a getaway weekend. The resort was nice and quiet too which was good for KK to rest his legs and head before the race.Feet up Zimbali Resort

First things first, the Expo which was packed with both nervous runners and excited supporters. It was a bonus to pick up KK’s race pack in record time.Comrades marathon 2016 expo

Back at the hotel and I forced KK to put his feet up and relax. We did lots of napping and snacking and just walking around the gardens of the hotel. And yes, wine for me. It was bliss.File 2016-06-05, 7 12 12 PM (2)

Preparation on my part meant packing a bag of sunscreen and more snacks. Mapping out my supporter’s route was to ensure that KK knew exactly where to look out for me. Here’s me being all clever with my Comrades route map but KK knows I can’t read a map. Thank goodness for Waze. LOL!Mapping out my supporters route

The morning of the race is always incredibly tense. As much as you’ve prepared for the race, it all comes down to how you feel on the day. KK had been battling with an Achilles heel injury which weighed heavily on his confidence to predict what time he would run.Two very nervous runners at the start of the Comrades marathon

Only runners are permitted beyond these gates which somehow looked like once they were through, they were trapped in a cage with no escape!The starting line of the Comrades marathon

The first stop was Cato Ridge. I must admit that finding the right spot to stop was tough because it was pitch dark. I have serious night blindness and even though it felt like I was sitting on the dashboard trying to see the road, my supporter companion Linda, looked very nervous!Cato Ridge Comrades stop

Cato Ridge Comrades marathon down run 59km mark

The first batch of runners started to trickle passed. I was amazed at how fast they ran! And then I even spotted a partially blind runner. Amazing!Blind runners running Comrades

The first stop where we met KK and Shaun W was at the 30kms mark. I have run 32kms before and felt like death. But they looked fresh and were still smiling – a good sign!The first Comrades stop at Cato Ridge

It’s hard work being a supporter but one family had a good idea. While standing on the side of the road, a runner ran up to me, handed me a card and ran off. On the one side of the card was a beautiful motivational message from his daughter. On the other side, a message to me with a cellphone number, “Please can you send my wife a message and tell her where I am and that I’m fine.” Brilliant idea and of course, I sent the message with pleasure and a smiley face!Updates for family

After a while, we shot through to our next stop, Hillcrest. Here we were able to find some toilets, a Woolies and a place to grab some lunch. #priorities

Somewhere along the way, KK and Shaun W had split up. When KK reached us at Hillcrest, he was still smiling (still a good sign) and felt strong but running alone. I knew that once he had reached this spot, the head was required to take over the work as the legs had done all they could. Comrades is a mental race after about 60kms…I was nervous!Meeting KK at Hillcrest 60km mark

The advantage of the down run to Durban is that there is ample place for spectators to sit and watch the runners finish the race. It looks much bigger on TV and we chose the spot where we could watch the runners enter the stadium as well as run down the last strip to the finish line.Comrades finish line

I don’t know how people were able to track their loved ones during the race in previous years, but with new technology, we were able to watch all our family & friends who were running via the Ultimate Live app on our cellphones. It helped to know exactly where KK was and allowed me to be ready to see him enter the stadium, still smiling!Ultimate Live Tracker app

He did it! My heart leaped when I finally found him on the field. It was a PB and he was thrilled with his run.Comrades finish

To take on an ultra marathon such as Comrades means you have to not only have done the hard physical training, but your head needs to be right. Many of the Comrades runners have admitted to dropping into a very dark head space along the route when they were overwhelmed with with negative thoughts. To pull yourself out of this and not quit must take incredible strength. For me, this is what stands out as the most inspiring and amazing quality a Comrades runner possesses.Comrades medals

It’s been a week and KK is itching to go run again. He was told to rest for at least two weeks but every now and then I catch him checking out Strava and looking at trail running sites. He loves Comrades and I know we’ll be back again next year. I can’t wait!

Me? Run Comrades? Are you mad? I know I’m not. (Maybe)

In the days leading up to and after Comrades, quite a few people asked me if I was going to ever run the ultimate race. As all runners do, I’d politely reply ‘yeah, I’d love to!’ But if I had more time, I’d give them my real answer because trust me, I’ve thought about it long and hard. 

Here’s how I’ve broken it down: 

  • I’m a slow runner. Fact! My training with Coach Dave has helped me slice quite a bit of time off my running pace but I’m still averaging 7:44 on my runs. This is me, giving it all I’ve got. To run Comrades, I’d need to run a hell of a lot faster so that when I take on my walk breaks, I’d still be able to average just over 8 mins/km. To slice off another minute and a half off my current pace is a massive task! 
  • I’ve never run a marathon before. This would then need to be another goal to achieve. And to qualify for Comrades I need to run it in under 5 hours which means I need to average 7mins/km. I’m nowhere near this kinda pace now. I’m struggling to get down to even 7:30! Another goal. 
  • To accomplish these goals is a massive task which would most probably take a a few years I’m guessing. Do I honestly want to commit that amount of effort and dedication into my running at this stage of my life? 

So yes, it’ll always remain a dream. But for now, it’s baby steps. My running form is wrong, I still slouch too much, my core needs strengthening. This is what I’m focused on for now. Getting the basics right and focussing on smaller achievable goals. 

So the question again, am I ever going to run Comrades? Highly unlikely. But then again, you never know. 

The entire bit above was written with my head. But here’s what my heart wants to scream out: 


Two coins to win a race

I wanted to give KK something special for his Comrades race, something meaningful. But he’s not the soft, fluffy teddy emotional kinda guy. A rather introverted engineer, he’s not into deep quotes. He’d rather watch cat videos on YouTube than a motivational TED video and Hallmark cards aren’t his thing.

His face went blank when I even suggested that we watch Chariots of Fire together the week before Comrades, so I really was torn as to how I showed him my support & that he knew I understood the significance of his race and what it meant to him.

I knew he wanted his back to back Comrades medal more than anything. This is a medal only given out to those who run the Up run and return the next year to run the Down run (or vice versa). It wasn’t even about beating his previous time. All he spoke about was these two medals and ensuring he finished in time because this would be his only opportunity to get it. Comrades medals and coins

So the night before the race, I packed two coins into a tiny plastic bag which I gave to him to run with. The two coins symbolized his two medals and I told him that each & every time he felt like quitting or when it got tough out there along the route, that he should reach into his running belt and feel the two coins. Feel and envisage what he was running for.  

KK finished his race and got his medals! He didn’t say whether or not the coins helped but I did notice that he never threw them aside. When we packed up to go home, I caught a glimpse of the coins, still in the packet, tucked away neatly with the rest of his running kit. That said it all…

Seeing the medal from 87.7kms away

As I write this, there are just three days to go before the Comrades marathon. KK will be running his second one and going for what is known as a ‘back to back’ medal. His training compared to last year has been entirely different mared by a horrible groin injury since March and less mileage on his legs. 

Him and I approach our running in very different ways. I like to over analyze and talk about the run to death. I read books, articles, blogs and ensure I’m engaging with other runners on social media. KK zones out. 

There’s one advantage to this. Along with the frustration of an injury not healing fast enough and less and less time to do that one last long run, I noticed KK becoming more and more determined. As if as if because he couldn’t train his legs, he put that energy into training his mind.  


Not once has he mentioned bailing. He never talks about quitting. He doesn’t even have a plan B. In his mind, he intends to run the best race he can and come home with his medal. Some might call it arrogance or even ignorance but I think when you take on a race of this magnitude, you need to have your head screwed on right and not have a single doubt in your head or hints of failure. He talks about that medal all the time as if he imagines it in his hand. His eyes are set firmly on the goal and the challenge ahead.


They say that even though you’ve done the training, Comrades is a mental race. Once you pass around the 60km mark, your head takes over and you’d better have that mental strength to push on when your body begs you to give up. If I know KK, this is his strength. Failure is not an option. 


Good luck Karl! I’ll be there with you, in your heart, every step of the way. I love you…