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#Comrades2024: ‘Start slower to avoid suffering in the second half’

“The problem with athletes is that they are fit, feel strong and want to take advantage of all the mileage and hard work they’ve done. They go out too fast but unfortunately it bites them later on.”

Two-time Comrades Marathon gold medallist Salome Cooper advised members of the Benoni Harriers taking part in this year’s up-run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on June 9, to start off conservatively to avoid suffering in the second half.

“They should start slower. All of them have got goals. They’ve got their times and know the average pace they should run. For the first 36km, they should be behind on pace because it gets easier afterwards,” she said.

Salome Cooper.

Cooper gave the keynote address during the club’s Comrades send-off breakfast at Chalk Craft Eatery in Lakefield on May 26.

She explained the up-run and down-run are completely different races despite being run on the same course, adding it’s okay to clock negative splits on the up-run if you ran conservatively in the first half.

“The problem with athletes is that they are fit, feel strong and want to take advantage of all the mileage and hard work they’ve done. They go out too fast but unfortunately it bites them later on,” said Cooper.

The Benoni Harriers Comrades runners and supporters.

She added, “When you get to 21km, it’s the highest point and you would think it’s downhill all the way to Pietermaritzburg. But it’s not the case. Rather go out too conservatively than starting off too fast”.

The ultra-runner said she was nervous, scared and her heart was pounding hard when she ran her first Comrades in the 2000 up-run. She clocked 10:39:37 to earn a bronze medal.

“I was at the start of the biggest race in SA. I didn’t know what to expect because the route is long. I was emotional. I felt special. My goal was to finish under 11 hours. I had no idea how fast I was going to run, I just wanted a sub-11. I did a 10:39:37 and felt like I’d won the race,” she said.

Salome Cooper has two Comrades Marathon gold medals.

She has since run 17, earning two bronze, seven Bill Rowan, five silver, two gold and one Isavel Roche-Kelly medals. Her first gold was in the 2014 up-run, where she finished in 07:06:03, and got her second two years later after clocking 07:01:02, finishing 11th in the women’s race and third in her category.

Cooper advised novice, Lizette Whittington to enjoy the experience, stay with her group and run alongside those going for their milestones.

Lizette Whittington will run her first Comrades Marathon.

“Nobody can prepare her for what’s going to happen on race day because we all experience it differently. If she runs alongside a person with number nine on their race number, it means they are going for their 10th. That person will do whatever it takes to finish.

“She’s going to be sore but she has to experience it. After the race she’s going to be proud of herself and will want to go back,” Cooper said.

Novice Lizette Whittington with Darienne Eigelaar, Amelda Holt and Riamari Schoombee.

Whittington will be running in honour of her husband who was injured in a motorcycle accident in 2018. She said she’s nervous but ready.

“My husband is a quadriplegic after a motorcycle accident in 2018. He tried the Comrades once but didn’t finish. I’d like to finish it in his honour. It would mean a lot to me to finish,” she said.

The Harriers will be represented by 20 runners. Caroline Collings will earn her green number while Provy Shumba will be the other novice, and Steve Hendry will go for his back to back medal.

Also Read: Makoro to complete his 30th Comrades Marathon

Also Read: BAC’s Strydom looking forward to Comrades’ milestone


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