"

Over training is over rated, rest better so that you can train even more" - Nick Yster Bester


Saturday, May 14, 2011

What is all this Comrades fuss about?


I’ve been writing about my Comrades training for a long time now and finally moved into tapering this week. But just what is all this Comrades fuss about? Over the next few weeks I will share some information about this great race.


The Comrades Marathon is the biggest ultra in the world with 14400 finishers last year, but it is much more than that. It is a race with many traditions and a part of South Africa’s history.


Here in South Africa everyone knows about the Comrades. If people hear you’re a runner there is only one question you get asked in South Africa…do you run Comrades? If you answer yes, they admire you. If you answer no, they think you’re a liar because if you don’t run Comrades you aren’t a runner. It’s as plain and simple as that.


The South African road running calendar is planned around Comrades. Marathons and ultras leading up to the end of May with shorter races after Comrades. A survey once showed that as much as 70% of South African road runners only run because of the Comrades. Just as you hear all this talk about Boston qualify in the USA, you hear about Comrades qualify in South Africa.


The race is very tough. It is about 89km (55 miles) long and run over a brutal course between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The direction changes each year, making it either an up or a down run. 2011 is an up run, Durban to Pietermaritzburg.


There is a strict 12 hour cutoff and the bulk of the runners finish the race in the last 30 minutes. At exactly 12 hours a race official stands with his back to the runners trying to reach the finish and fires a gun. That is it. Many runners have missed the cutoff with 1 second. 12:00:01 means no medal, no finishing time…DNF.


The 12 hour cutoff is gun time, there is no chip time. I will lose about 12 to 15 minutes at the start because I start close to the back. I work out my race schedule with 11:45 available to finish. The winners run between 5:20 and 5:30. This is when I hope to be at the halfway point.


The spirit of the Comrades is unlike any race or anything you will ever experience. It is truly unbelievable. I can’t describe it, you have to experience it. This is why the Comrades is known as The Ultimate Human Race…because of the spirit that makes the Comrades Marathon the fantastic event it is. I hope one day you can come and experience it.


Next post: Profile and description of the up run.

Have a super weekend everyone!

32 comments:

juanitagf said...

Sounds absolutely amazing! Can't wait to hear more!

Mike said...

Sounds like a race with alot of history. Can't wait for the "on the course" stories.

Liz said...

That 12-hour cut-off sounds pretty brutal! I didn't realise there were so many runners - sounds great.

Marlene said...

I love a race with so much history, culture and HOORAH! Wow, they sure are strict with the cut-off but I know you can do it!

Black Knight said...

Amazing race and now I know that ... I am not a runner and I will never be.
Enjoy this tapering time.

Giorgio said...

Great post about the history of that traditional race!
Nice weekend to you too!

Jennifer said...

Someday I will do this race! It sounds so exciting and I can't wait to hear your next installment of a race report! Have a great weekend!

Chris K said...

That almost gave me chills. Yes, from what I have heard, everything you write is true. Not that I would doubt you anyway Johann :-)

Jim ... 50after40 said...

Even living in Missouri, USA, I've heard of this challenging race. Best wishes to you - no doubt you'll master it!

Jill said...

I read an article about this race a couple years ago and it was instantly at the top of my across the pond list of races to do (when I win the lottery :)). I think it's just the prep work you need to do for Pikes Peak next year!! :)

Christi said...

Thanks so much for the background information on the race. This sounds very interesting and I can't wait to read more about it and your race report.

Average A said...

I have a feeling this will be on my bucket list after all of your posts about Comrades!

ajh said...

This was a nice summary of the Comrades race. It sounds unbelievably hard. Do you race it every year? How many times have you done it? Do you prefer the up or down course and why? Some questions for another post I guess.

Lauren said...

This sounds awesome Johann. Thanks so much for posting this Comrades summary. That no chip time hurts, but the guy standing with his back to the runners is brutal.

Char said...

It's reputation is spreading globally. I spent the first half hour of my long run yesterday with a SA runner talking about it. His Mum spends the entire day of Comrades set up in front of her television watching - she knows the runners and their previous times. It's obviously a race which invokes a huge sense of pride, patriotism and achievement.

ultra collie said...

really interesting to read johann
i take it its all on road and lots of aid stations?
its a lot of folk for a race so long mind!
hope the taper is going well

Staci said...

I got goose-bumps reading your post. 2 weeks to go and I'm really excited now.
Look forward to your next post about the route.

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing more about Comrades Johann! There are lots of hills...hmm, you know I am not a huge fan of hills but this one might be one to put on the books. Just to say I did it!

Happy weekend to you too!

Meg said...

Thanks J, it was so fun to read this! I just listened to the latest Marathon Talk on itunes and they are going to run Comrades. It was interesting to hear all about the water baggies and other tidbits from S. Africa, it's very different from here as far as the racing goes! I can't wait to hear more, thanks for this wonderful info. I'm excited for you and all the other Comrades runners.

Kate said...

The first time I read about Comrades was the Runner's World about Bart Yasso running it. Ditto all of ajh's questions from me as well. :)

Thanks for the information on the race. Looking forward to your next installment.

misszippy said...

Thanks for sharing some history about this amazing race. Truly the holy Grail if you ask me. You are a real stud to even attempt this one!

Christina said...

It's going to be awesome that I'll know someone who ran Comrades. I'm looking forward to hearing more.

Natalia said...

I think I would prefer the "up" year too. You are certainly ready, and I am looking forward to having a chat with you, and who knows, I might see you on telly!

The Green Girl said...

I just got butterflies in my stomach.

So excited for you, Johann.

ATTrio said...

GOOD LUCK GOOD LUCK GOOD LUCK! I have a friend who has attempted the Comrades Marathon. That is quite an amazing accomplishment. Keep up the good work and let the taper work in your favor =) -Jen

HappyTrails said...

Thanks for sharing Johann - from your buildup, it is apparent the race holds a special place for you. Have a great week and savor the taper time leading up to your big race!!!

lindsay said...

So cool! I am glad you are sharing your "insider perspective". I've always heard about the race, but never nearly as good of details! :)

Emz said...

This sounds incredible. Totally amazing. Completely awesome.

I'm happy to know YOU actually taper.

You are amazing, my friend.

Andrew Opala said...

Great post. It's so great to read these. I feel like I could run anything I every put me heart to!

Molly said...

It's interesting how you compare the hype to how Boston is for those living in the US. Thanks for giving some more details about it, now I'm looking forward to you running it even more!

Candice @ I Have Run said...

Love the insider details! So funny about not being considered a runner if you aren't doing Comrades.

Whenever I think about you running it, I get butterflies!

Sherri said...

This was an awesome post about an incredible race! Thanks for sharing!