The Recipe for a Successful Comrades Marathon Run

Let me tell you about my special bread. I make this bread which is loved and appreciated by many. It’s delicious. It has nuts and seeds and honey and gives one an enormous sense of well being. I just went and took the recipe out of the cupboard and laughed at it. 20 years ago when I first made the bread, I used that recipe. Well, I didn’t so much use the recipe as look at it. I got the idea, added a sprinkle more of this, a touch less of those and some other pinches and globs of stuff because I felt like it. The outcome was a bread which people love and ask for. If I were to make the bread today, it would in no way resemble the recipe that I just read, in fact, it would probably be very different to the last loaf I made.

Let me also tell you about my sons. At the ripe old age of 30, I decided I wanted children. At round about the same time, two teenage boys landed on my doorstep needing (probably not really wanting) a mother. Our being a perfect match, I adopted the two boys and am now the proud mother of a beautiful grown up son, Frantz and a beautiful growing up son, Richard. I know that many people were horrified by my choice, not least of which was my family. Why were they horrified? Aside from the fact that teenagers are horrifying? They were horrified because that’s just not the recipe for becoming a parent, now is it?

Let’s just say, I don’t do recipes. I can’t. I won’t! Bread’s not as tasty and life’s not as meaningful for me if I’m following the recipe.

Today I ran a 15km race in the arse end of Joburg, where there are no trees and very few houses. Boksburg! What a shit place! The race profile says “fast and flat”. If they were referring to my post nasal drip and my chest, maybe. But the race was nothing like that for me. However, I managed to run a PB 15km, beating my previous best by 3 minutes and not running one km over 7 minutes! I hardly run 15s except for that one out in the arse end of Joburg. What a shit place!

So what was my recipe for my race today? I took the basic which I always use: Don’t die. Don’t come last. I added a bit of that which I usually use: Run as fast as you can for as long as you can. But I’m improving on the recipe. Now I allow myself a walk, but the walk is not allowed to be more than 50 paces and I can’t walk unless I have run at least 300 paces since my last walk. Count your steps on the uphills (I stole that from Leslie’s recipe). But it’s not about the measuring cups and the scales for me. I’ve added yoga into the mix and I’ve added a regular Thai massage (Holy crap! You want a great stretch which will have you sleeping like a baby for days? Visit Auddy at Puri Thai in Parkhurst. Ask for the traditional Thai massage and be prepared to be stretched in a painful, albeit most enjoyable manner. I can’t explain that in any other way.) So my recipe for Comrades success is improving.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have a plan. It just means that I have the basic structure and I’m improving on it as I go. I know all about Tom Cottrell. I know about Tim Noakes. I read Tim’s book, only to find him releasing a new edition the day I finished, refuting many of the claims in the edition I’d just bloody well read. (recipe changed!) Anyone who has trawled through or even threatened to trawl through Tim Noakes’ book will understand how pissed off I was when the new revised edition came out. (Okay, I promise. That’s the last time I’m going to tell you how pissed off I was to have, only the day before, finished reading The Lore of Running.) I’ve read Barry Holland. I’ve read Don Oliver.

In addition to all this reading, I am well educated in: homoeopathy, nutrition, psychoneuroimmunology, whole foods, foods as medicine, how the body works and so on. All of these are the taste buds, without which, my recipe would be of no use. I knew more about my body and it’s reaction to certain types of exercise and food than most people will ever know about their own bodies, long before I started running. Running has served to enhance that knowledge. So, I am in the enviable position to be better placed than anyone on the planet to formulate my own recipe for Comrades success.

Have you ever watched a Comrades marathon? Yes, to win a Comrades marathon, there’s a very real chance you have to be shortish, you have to have toothpick legs. You have to have sinewy muscles attached to those toothpicks. In many cases, you have to have a shimmering black skin and you have to have run thousands and thousands of kilometres since January that year. But even in that recipe, there are people who make the bread just as delicious, by adding to or taking away from that list. Take a day to watch a Comrades Marathon or take some time out to look around you at a race or watch a race in your area. The people running in the top 20 positions look similar to the basic recipe above. Some run 30kms per day. Some run 10kms per day. But the people behind them don’t even have the basic recipe going. They are fat, thin, tall, short, big legs, small legs, black, white, pinkinsh, orange, male, female, diabetic, blind, sighted, gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, people who had bread before they started, people who haven’t eaten in 12 hours, sober, hungover. And any mixture of those ingredients will have them doing their best. There is no real recipe for running a Comrades Marathon! You have to prepare your body to run 90 kilometres at roughly 7 minutes per kilometre for 11 hours and you have to prepare your mind to recognise that achieving that will be incredibly difficult, but you should never give up. (That’s the “preheat oven to 180°…..or 150° depending on how you want the crust to come out”!)

You need to read the books. You need to listen to others’ advice. You need to train. You need to eat properly. You need to listen to and understand your body. Those are the taste tests. You need to go to many bakeries and taste many breads and things that aren’t breads so you can know what you want in your bread and what will work well in your recipe.

Most importantly (actually, just most narcissisticly) you need to remember that because I don’t blurt my recipe out to you and tell you how to make a good, no, great loaf of bread, doesn’t mean I don’t have a recipe. Maybe my recipe is still evolving and getting better, but I’m not able to improve on a personal best time for a 15km without a recipe. It’s just not a recipe that I can write down for you right now. Maybe after my twelfth Comrades Marathon, I’ll write down the recipe, but right now, my recipe is working……for me, especially in the context of what I know my body can cope with. If I want a baker to bake my bread for me, I’ll hire one. I like my bread. And my bread is good enough for me. If you want to support me as I evolve my recipe, feel free, but don’t tell me I’ve got the recipe all wrong because it’s not the same as your recipe. We’re in this thing for different reasons. Our breads will never taste the same. Find your recipe for success in running and in life and then evolve according to what you like. Some recipes you might like, just the way they’re written down, then follow the recipe if that’s your thing. I’m not going to let someone else write my recipe and I don’t always follow the recipe. Some breads just need an extra glob of honey.

Yours in the love of running and bread-making

The Slow Coach