AT A GLANCE
After a sudden collapse at home one Saturday morning in 1987 I decided to quit smoking. I will never forget the fear etched on my then toddler daughter’s (Fatima) face trying to revive me. I started running to avoid the inevitable weight gain. My first run was a disaster, I ran for about a km and I had to walk home. Over the next few months I slowly increased the distance and then I ran a few 6Km and 8Km Fun Runs (very popular in those days).
Later that year I ran my first official race, the Penny Lane 10Km, in the colours of Defence. I got to the start line rather apprehensive, kitted out in my new gear and analogue watch. The race started and I kept telling myself I must not finish last. I completed the race in a time of 38:54, feeling very sorry for myself not knowing that it was actually a very good time. What happened in the following year was quite amazing, 10Km – 37:45, 15Km – 58:20, 21Km – 1:24:35, 30Km – 2:09:35 and 42Km – 3:10:45.
During a routine check-up in 1989 my physician picked up a murmur in my heart beat and after a few tests I was diagnosed as having “Aortic Incompetence”. Simply put, it means that my aortic valve allows some blood to return to the heart after it has been pumped and it has to work twice as hard to deliver the same volume as a normal one. I was advised by my physician to take it easy while running as heart failure could result, not what I wanted to hear. Now that I could not make a career out of running it was time to look at alternatives.
I was stuck in a career that was not going anywhere and four small kids at home. I registered to study Mechanical Engineering part time to improve my future prospects. With working, studying part time and four small kids vying for my attention I sadly had to quit running. Soon after graduating I landed a dream job which afforded me the opportunity to grow. I could now focus on my running again.
It was in the mid 1990’s that I started again. It was a very slow process and I got reasonably close to where I was before, 10Km – 43:00, 15Km – 1:08:00, 21Km – 1:32:00 and 42Km – 3:25:00.
Then, in 2003 disaster struck….! After being reduced to walking with the aid of a walking stick a MRI scan revealed a tumour in my spinal canal which was causing pressure on my Sciatic nerve resulting in the severe pain in my legs. After a six hour operation and another six weeks of recovery I was told by the doctors that I could not run again, but rather to walk. Being a runner, this was a bitter pill to swallow but I diligently followed the doctor’s orders for a few years until I was encouraged by Hassiem and Zaid to try running again.
Looking back, as I approach my 60th Birthday this year….would I do it again? ….. in a heartbeat. I am now in a career that I absolutely love and I am running again albeit at a much slower pace. Now, with my retirement looming on the horizon, I could possibly invest more time into my running and, who knows…..?
My advice to all the newbies… “Don’t be too hasty to get to the Ultras…….Enjoy the ride”.
Amien Pietersen - July 2015
Good evening everyone
I’m sure most of you know by now I have a terrible fear of speaking in public. I really dread being called upon to give speeches. However, this time around, I decided to face my fears and volunteer to give a speech. I wanted to give a little bit of inspiration and motivation to our runners and I hope these few words will do the trick. I do not want to talk about logistics or how you should run. You have probably heard more than your fill of that by now and should have your own plan of action locked and loaded. If not, you really came to the right place! There are many runners here who would be eager to answer any questions you may have so take full vantage of this opportunity! Anyways, let me proceed to burden you with a few words about the reason we are gathered here today, the Ultimate Human Race, The Comrades Marathon!
There are many people, runners and non-runners alike, who are in awe of the Comrades and anyone who may attempt to conquer it but I bet few people have really thought about the reasoning behind their reverence. Why is the Comrades Marathon such an amazing feat? What is it about the race that makes it such a miraculous achievement?
Is it the course? The Comrades runs through the Valley of 1000 hills and it is aptly named! The route is hill upon hill upon hill. You get to the bottom of one hill only to begin climbing again. I often say, any 10km segment of the Comrades Marathon is the toughest 10km’s I have ever ran. You will be climbing almost 2000m in the duration of this run. Yet, does a hilly route justify the name ‘The Ultimate Human Race’? Surely, there are more difficult races, the Great Wall of China Marathon comes to mind where runners must climb over 5000 steps.
Is it the distance of the Comrades that makes it so revered? 87-89 km’s is a daunting number! There are few people in the world who have ever run so far in a day. Even more impressive, there are few creatures on the face of the Earth who could cover that distance in a day. Humans are designed for long distance running. We can outrun, km by km, almost any creature on the face of the Earth including horses, dogs, hyenas and antelope. There is no animal more suited for endurance than we. There is actually a hunting technique, sometimes called persistence hunting, used by tribesman and early humans whereby hunters would run their prey to death. God designed us to run! Our entire bodies are designed to cover large distances. We have specially designed ear canals to keep us balanced, tall thin bodies to better manage the heat, better blood flow to the brain, big BUTTS to stabilize the upper body, and lower legs that are built like rubber bands and act as springs to propel us forward. The ingenuity of our bodies is truly miraculous.
But if we are designed for endurance running that does not really give us an answer to our question, what makes the Comrades Marathon such a miraculous feat of accomplishment?
The truth is, we are designed for endurance running, and while we may be able to outrun the entire animal kingdom, we are not physically able to run the distance of the Comrades marathon. There is actually a little fun fact about the origins of the marathon I would like to share with you. Back in ancient Greece, a messenger ran from the city of Marathon to the Greek Capital of Athens with a very important message. The distance between the two cities was 42.2 km’s, your standard marathon distance. This was the birth of the marathon as we know it today. However, what most people do not know is that the messenger, upon arriving in Athens, dropped dead.
I believe what makes the Comrades such an amazing accomplishment is not the physical strength needed to get to the finish. I am sure many of you have noticed those who conquer the Comrades have a broad variation in physical build, some may not be describable as having your ‘typical runner physique’. They may not possess the most athletic figure and they may not be at the prime age of their life. You may also notice that the training of runners varies from person to person.
Yes, I believe all of the above: the difficult route, the long distance and the physical strength of the runner contribute to making the Comrades marathon such an accomplishment to finish. However, I believe there is one key element that makes the Comrades Marathon truly great, truly remarkable and indisputably ‘the Ultimate Human Race’. Because, while a horse or a dog can be considered physically stronger than the human, we surpass them in mental ability. It is not the strength of our bodies that will get us to the finish, but the strength of our minds. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be a strong runner, you need to train long and hard for this race, harder than any other race you have ever prepared for. But you can be the strongest runner in the world and not be able to finish the Comrades if your mental strength is lacking.
And why is that? Why must you be so mentally resilient? Because, while your physical strength, thanks to your training may get you to 60, 70 or 80km’s, at some point that strength is going to run out. You can only train to run so far, after that point it is willpower alone that will get you to the finish. At that point, it is no longer a battle between you and the road, it is a battle between your self-worth and your self-doubt. I will tell you right now, if you do not believe in yourself, you will not finish the Comrades. Your brain will use every reason imaginable to get you to stop running. ‘You didn’t train enough, you trained too much, you’re too old, you’re too young, you’re too thin, you’re too fat, you’re not strong enough. You. Are. Not. Enough. Every insecurity you have ever felt will be brought to the surface during this race and it will be used against you to get you to quit. You are not a quitter. You have trained hard these past months, building up not only your physical strength but your mental strength as well. How many times did you shut that voice down when it told you were too tired to train? How many times did you push through the cramps and the pain in the training marathons and continued on to the finish line. All of that was to prepare you for this day, for this moment when you will need to find the strength to push on, to tell that voice in your head that you will not quit, that you are enough and that you will finish this. This is what makes the Comrades the Ultimate Human Race. It is where we overcome all our self-doubt, all our insecurities and prove to ourselves that we truly are capable of anything we put our minds to. We just have to believe in ourselves.
We are very fortunate at ARD. We do not have to fight this battle alone. We have the entire clubs belief in our ability to finish the Ultimate Human Race. And if you think that doesn’t mean anything, you obviously have never participated in the Comrades before and I hope one day you get the opportunity. The supporters are a huge driving force to get us to the finish. Whether you are at home sending us positive thoughts or on the road with us, your support fuels our belief in ourselves. On behalf of all the runners whom you will be assisting, we Thank-You.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Comrades Runners group. To all those who contributed with support, their physical presence at training runs, sharing advice, tips and tricks as well as a couple laughs along the way. You made this journey to the Comrades easy! I never thought I would say that. Thank you for the laughs, the encouragement, words of wisdom and the comradery.
I would like to wish all the participants in the Comrades Marathon an enjoyable experience. Soak up every moment because the energy and atmosphere at the Comrades is found no other place. The air is so charged with emotions right from the walk to the shoots it is almost a tangible force you can feel. Enjoy it, have fun, be safe and go get your medal!
I remember the day my husband suggested we enter the OMTOM race like it was yesterday. I thought he was out of his mind as I only had two 10km races behind me and a 21km seemed impossible. He eventually convinced me by agreeing to run it with me.
As we were very new to running we bought lots of running material to equip us with tips and techniques of how to improve ourselves. We started aiming to cover at least 20km per week and we gradually increased it on a weekly basis, we were averaging 45-50km per week before the race. We ensured that the mileage we ran included a LSD, hill and speed training. As the weeks went by I could feel myself getting stronger in every race. Days before OMTOM I came across splits for a sub 2. The pace chart seemed doable. I decided this will be my goal.
I broke my race into 4 segments, each segment having a different average pace. I had a slow start and had to struggle to make my way through the crowd. At the 4km mark I was able to run more freely, however at that stage I was already behind schedule. I then decided to try to keep to the pacing as planned and to make up for time on the declines. While climbing Southern Cross Drive I kept telling myself I’ve trained for this and that it’s nothing new. This kept me going until I reached the top. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment, the 17 minutes it took from the bottom to the top as this was the part of the race I feared. By the time I reached the M3 I realised I still needed to make up time. Even with all the inclines I still decided to run it as hard as I could. About 200 meters to the finish I could hear the crowd counting down sub 2hrs and I realised I wasn’t going to make it.
I am not sure how it feels like to win a race, but that’s how I felt when I completed the race. Even though I missed my goal by a few seconds, the feeling of accomplishment after finishing the race made all the effort I put in worthwhile and I would do it all over again.
Ayesha Molti (April 2015)
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The comparison with a roller-coaster describes my Comrades experience both from a mental and physical perspective! In addition to the highs and lows of preparing for 2014, the impact the race had on me in 2013 weighted heavily on my shoulders.
Those who know me from a running perspective know that I plan and analyse meticulously before races to make sure I have the best chance of achieving my goal – in 2013 that planning came crashing down spec- spectacularly at the half way stage when I realized that my race was over and that 8 to 6 months of training will not end in a medal. I ran on until the 80k mark in 2013 knowing that I will not make it in time and little did I know back then that that resolve to carry on until the organizers tell me to get off the road will define my race in 2014!
It is for reason that I mentioned to my fellow Com- rades runners at the “aches and pains” party – take heart in your performance. You should train and plan for the race BUT – it all comes down to what happens on the day! That is what makes a Comrades runner lining up at the start already a CHAMPION AND WINNER – you go through this roller coaster and yet you have the COURAGE to start knowing that with all your planning it might come to nothing! So those runners that did not achieve their goals – wear your Comrades cap and sweater with PRIDE! Everyone that started deserves it as much as the winner who finished the race in 05h28 minutes.
So back to my roller-coaster...I can bore you with pages and pages of it but what stands out for me will be the last 16k’s of the race! I was really feeling the effects of the race at that stage and still had to climb (more like walk – LOL) the 2km’s of Cowies Hill. On the way up I saw runners with the C and B seedings (meaning they are the fast runners) sitting dejected along the route – so the thought crossed my mind that if they believe that there is not enough time left...what about me that is a “back runner”! This is where the experience of 2013 kicked in...you see - in analyzing my race of 2013 I realized that I lost the mental battle more than the physical battle – I gave up before my body gave up! And just as those thoughts crossed my mind the last “12 hour bus” of the infamous Vlam Pieterse came past me (in 2013 when I couldn’t keep up with it I thought my race was done!). At that point I told myself that you take whatever you have left (mental and physical) and made myself a promise that no matter what – I will not lose sight of this bus..and there were stages where the bus was about 1 km ahead of me in the last 10km’s BUT I still finished ahead of it!!! So my novice advice to anyone that will be attempting this great race (and it is true what they say! Nothing compares with Comrades) – prepare yourself mentally as well as physically for the race to me the mental preparation is just as important as the number of kilometers you will log in preparation for the race...What your mind can conceive you will indeed achieve!
Finally...Shukran/Thank you to the ARD family for all the support along the route and at the end – only when you are a runner would you truly fully understand the positive effect your mere presence have on us!
To my friends – thanks for all the support (Firozah and Yusuf – shukran for carrying my goodies and mixing my drinks - which I thought was sport’s rehydrate but it was 32Gi – guess it helped!)
And most importantly...To my family (Gadija and my 4 boys) – shukran for accommodating my grumpiness for the past two years and allowing me to the time and space to train for this race.
Abduragmaan Jacobs(July 2014)
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I was all excited before the start knowing I've done my training but every year its a different race. My mind was made up to run my sub 11:00 second at- tempt planning ahead during my training so I was in my comfort zone not to know what's still to come. You gain experience in every race: notice, pick up things you have not in your first race, mistakes you made previously and that makes all the difference. To be honest through all my ago- ny I've enjoyed my race unlike my very first one, even after my check up at the 53 km medical but not even that could bliss my spirit. I 'm running with high blood pressure and that alone puts a lot of strain on myself in such a long race but when you set your goals nothing else mat- ters but don't be selfish in your decisions. I will say it was a new experience for me and from there onwards self discipline was the key word. In situations like this for me its where your mental ability comes in and how strong you are in your way forward.
To be honest I cant speak much about a low because in my first one it was if somebody else was running the race and I'm just guiding along very weird but hard to explain. What I will advise is not to treat any minor injuries on race do it will come back to haunt you which is not a great feeling at all. When you cross the finish line ,pain does not matter or whatever happened during your race, its pure joy and happiness knowing you just accomplish one of the most cruel races the human body can take along with so many others . Advice for first timers: set your goals, make your dreams a reality, put in 70/80% of your training include mental training and go all out accomplish them. I hope this will be enough to inspire anyone.
Rita Lategan (July 2014)
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I started running when I was a teenager but nothing more than little runs here and there. I kept running, though only sporadically. After I had my son in August last year I really wanted to commit. I have wanted to run the Two Oceans full marathon since I came to South Africa but life happens and I've never made it even close to the Start line. My husband signed me up for the Two Oceans half marathon 2012 and I started training.
Running alone is extremely dull for me so I wasn't too motivated. Ayesha Khan invited me to run the Slave route awhile later and I had such a great time. I joined up with ARD and now our runs are the highlight of my day. I found the ARD team very friendly, welcoming and supportive. My first run in ARD colours was the 15km run last weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was very grateful to Boeta Achmat for all the encouragement and inspiration.
Shukran to everyone these past few weeks. I'm looking forward to hitting the road with you all very soon.
Suzie/Khadidja (July 2012)
I was out on the road early that morning supporting my sister and my two cousins running their first two oceans - one of whom was none other than ARDs very own Faldiela Shira Gassiep.
They looked so impressive on the road and seemed to move so effortlessly even after 18km, that I promised them on that day that I will be joining them in this race come 2015! There was no way that I could allow 3 female family members outdo the boys like that!!
At first, I didn’t really think that I would really do it – my idea of getting to one point from another was to get in the car and drive there – else what’s the point of a car then?
But a few weeks after OMTOM 2014, I went for my annual diabetes check-up (I was diagnosed with diabetes about 12 years ago). My doctor informed me that my medication had to be strengthened and that it will have to include high blood pressure as well as cholesterol medication. Needless to say, this came as a shock to me – I was feeling healthy!! I played squash once a week, ran around on the soccer field coaching juniors, how could this be?
I has to remind myself what diabetes really is: a silent killer that cannot be cured but it can definitely be controlled and kept in check IF I as the sufferer choose to do so – and that’s exactly what I decided to do – Fight back. There was no way that I was going to allow myself to be a sickly 50 year old and a burden to my wife and kids.
A few of my close friends (Aysha Narker, Fuad Jacobs, Rukaya Dien, Tahsheen Salie and Zulfa Hendricks) were already training at ARD at the time and I decided to give it a try…the rest, as they say is history.
The first day was scary – I started on the evening of a time trial! I can’t even remember what my time was for 2.5 km – I think it was close to 20 minutes and it took days to recover!
I always felt that, for me, running was the same as someone with arachnophobia for whom every spider appears 10 times its actual size. In my case, the longer the distance the bigger the fear. But that was soon eradicated by running with the ARD team in Grassy Park – what a fantastic group of people to share the road with!
The co-axing and coaching of Coach Marshall, the advice and encouragement of Boeta Achmat, Nasrullah and my fellow running buddies kept me motivated and I haven’t looked back since – running has become an addiction! And while my better half resents this addiction somewhat, she encourages me anyway because she can see how it’s benefiting me and the family too.
My health has improved tremendously – my diabetes is under control, running relaxes me and keeps my blood pressure down and one very exciting fact: my eyesight has improved! The white spots indicating sugar behind the eyes has diminished, decreasing the risk of blindness as a result of diabetes – how awesome is that!? My heart is strong and there’s no evidence of any past problem (I suffered a angina attack when I was 42)
I don’t think I’ve felt as full of life and energy in all of my forties as I do now. Running and preparing for races automatically made me more aware of my diet as well.
That’s where my motto for running stems from:
Run for your health and not you death!
Last, but not least – I kept my promise to my sister and Faldilah – I ran OMTOM 2015!!! What a proud achievement indeed – I wore my T shirt 2 days in a row!!
A big problem with OMTOM though – it just leaves one hungry for more…
Shamiel Shira (April 2015)
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