Comrades for a cause
Thousands of South African long-distance runners and runners from around the world take part in the ultimate human race yearly, and it has become a cause for public gatherings and celebrations in communities within the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Runners don’t only sign up to test their physical capabilities or for the bragging rights; there are numerous runners who run the ultra-marathon to raise money for local charities and causes. Local non-profit organisations host annual fundraisers where runners sign up for the Comrades Marathon and encourage their friends, family and supporters to donate to the NPOs and also act as awareness billboards with some of them wearing funky outfits that relate to the charities they represent.
This is facilitated through the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) through an initiative called Amabeadibeadi. The CMA’s Amabeadibeadi Charity Drive has been raising funds through the Comrades Marathon’s various platforms and with the generosity of Comrades runners, supporters, volunteers sponsors and partners since 1996, more than R60m has been raised for worthy causes since its inception.
The current six official Amabeadibeadi charities are the Durban and Pietermaritzburg Community Chests, Childhood Cancer Foundation (CHOC), Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust, Hospice Palliative Care Association, Wildlands Conservative Trust and World Vision South Africa. Charities are selected for a three-year cycle, beginning with the build-up to Comrades 2021 until post Comrades 2023.
The charities’ respective focus is on issues of community development, care for the aged, health and wellness, and AIDS care and support of the environment. Through the Amabeadibeadi charity initiative, they gain significant resources to effect the intended meaningful change to those needy communities across South Africa.
- Stop/park on the N3 national freeway
- Leave getting into the Pietermaritzburg area too late
- Forget to wear suitable headwear – it can get warm out there
- Disregard any municipal bylaws
- Be abusive towards traffic officials they are there to ensure your safety and that of your runner
- Try an gain access to the running route or finish line area
- Go anywhere near the medical tent at the finish, a medical waiting area is provided
- Allow children to run or be carried with daddy/mommy over the finish line
- Make open fires e.g. for braaing along the route
- Get to the finish early to avoid the traffic congestion on the highway
- Obey any race officials e.g. marshals, traffic officers, referees etc.
- Enjoy the day – it’s a long one but you can!
- Make use of the litter bins
- Make use of the toilet facilities provided
- Cheer on and encourage all the runners
- Be mindful of residents and their property
- Plan your day in advance, where you want to be, when and how to get there
- Note the road closure times
- Park in designated areas
The magic behind Comrades Medals
Twelve years after the last Comrades Marathon medal was introduced, the Comrades Marathon Association has included two new special medals into The Ultimate Human Race and has increased prize money for the Top 7 finishers.
The CMA has confirmed that the women’s equivalent of the Wally Hayward Medal (which is awarded to those runners who finish outside the gold medals, but under 6 hours i.e. Position 11 to sub 6 hours) will now be a part of the race going forward.
This medal will be named the Isavel Roche-Kelly Medal and will be awarded to those Women finishing in Position 11 to sub 7 hours 30 minutes (ie outside the gold medals, but under 7½ hours).
Roche-Kelly won both the 1980 and 1981 editions of The Ultimate Human Race and was the first woman to break the 7½-hour barrier in 1980, finishing her Comrades race in 7 hours and 18 minutes. She went on to finish in 6 hours and 44 minutes the following year.
Sadly she passed away in a cycling accident in her native Northern Ireland at the age of only 24, just 3 years later.
The Robert Mtshali Medal will be the second new addition to the Comrades Medal Collection and will be awarded to those runners finishing in 9 hours to sub-10 hours.
Mtshali was the first unofficial Black runner in the 1935 Comrades Marathon, finishing his race in 9 hours and 30 minutes. This medal will be made of titanium.
Prior to 2000, only gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded. The Bill Rowan medal was introduced in 2000 and named after the winner of the first Comrades Marathon in 1921. The time limit for this medal was inspired by Rowan’s winning time in 1921 of 8hrs 59min.
A new copper medal, the Vic Clapham medal (named after the race founder), was added in 2003. This medal coincided with the increase in the time allocation for completing the event from sub 11hrs to sub 12hrs.
The Wally Hayward medal, named after five-time winner Wally Hayward, was added in 2007 for runners finishing in under 6hrs.
Ushaka Marine World
- Make the most of your time in Durban and set aside a date to visit the largest aquarium in Africa; see the magnificent dolphins in action or get Wet N’ Wild and enjoy world class entertainment. There is a Comrades special for runners so contact 031 328 8000 or visit www.ushakamarineworld.co.za
- An icon of Durban, the Moses Mabhida Stadium, offers a variety of experiences for fun-seeking couples and families. This is your chance to see Durban like you’ve never seen before. What’s available: sky car rides , big rush big swing, sky car rides, stadium tours, Segway gliding tours, adventure walks, and people’s park. From 9am to 5pm. For more Info contact: 031 322 9955 or visit www.mmstadium.com
- The KZN Sharks Board Maritime Centre of Excellence is mandated to be a global leader in bather protection against sharks while minimising environmental impact. The KZNSB protects bathers against shark attacks, conducts biological research on sharks and educates the public about the role of the sharks board and the role of sharks in the marine environment. What’s available: Audio-visual shark dissections, boat tours and a museum. For more Info contact: 031 826 6000 or visit www.shark.co.za
- With its incomparable harbour views, Wilson’s Wharf is Durban’s trendiest fusion of fun food, top shows and crafts, blended with the rustic interface of a boating marina and working slipways and including cruises, fishing, whale and dolphin watching. Sea cruises are over weekends at 12:30 and 14:30 costing R150 adults and R100 children. Harbour cruises are 30 minutes starting at 10:00 every hour on the hour until 16:00 for R80 adults and R50 children. Go to www.isleofcapri.co.za for more info or contact: 082 851 4787
Beachfront Fun World
- The beachfront Fun World Amusement Park on the Marine Parade provides entertainment for the whole family. Take the cable car to enjoy a scenic view of the beachfront from the air and then enjoy rides such as the Breakdance, Hully Gully, Tilt-a-Whirl or Swingboat. Younger children can the Elephant Ride or the Carousel to look forward to. For more Info contact: 031 3329776 or visit www.durbanfunworld.co.za
Part of the Amambeadibeadi charity drive is the Race4Charity campaign which is intended to foster wider support for charitable fundraising. Race4Charity similarly offers runners an opportunity to turn their running efforts into something great for charity, and the CMA is hoping to build on the foundation they have laid over the past decade.
An exciting facet to this campaign is that runners have the opportunity to improve their seeding batch, while raising funds for a good cause. The CMA has reserved 500 entries for runners, who need to raise R6 000 each. This will ensure that they get to start in the C-batch near the front of the field on race day. All Race4Charity runners will also be on the receiving end of an exclusive goodie bag which they can collect during registration from their chosen charity.
To donate to these charities or to support a local runner, visit www.comrades.com or visit Community Chest at www.communitychest.co.za, Childhood Cancer Foundation at https://choc.org.za/, Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust at https://www.hillaids.org.za/, Hospice Palliative Care Association at https://hpca.co.za/, Wildlands Conservative Trust at https://wildtrust.co.za/ or World Vision South Africa at https://www.worldvision.co.za/.
The importance of strength training
WHILE many athletes are putting in time on the road to train for Comrades Marathon, fitness trainer Craig George says strength training in the gym is crucial to prevent body fatigue on the track.
“When you run ultra-distance marathons, your body gets tired toward the second half. That’s where muscular strength comes in and helps you to get through,” he said.
George trains the likes of two-times gold medalist Prodigal Khumalo and rising star Nkosikhona Mhlakwana. He also helps local athletes and community members reach their potential.
“I have a few new clients training for Comrades Marathon, and they are over the moon with their results. They have noticed their recovery is much quicker, and they aren’t experiencing such sore quads after long runs. Strength training has become one of the most important aspects of successful injury-free running,” he said.
Training in the gym helps to strengthen bones, muscles and joints which is especially important for the down run.
“If your muscles are weak, it will affect your joints, ligaments and tendons. Runners who don’t have quad strength battle with pain in their legs, especially their knees. Quadriceps strength helps to protect and support the knees,” said George.
Strength training also burns more calories than cardio exercise – giving runners a leaner physique which will help them on the track.
“When you do strength training, your body will burn more calories for up to two days afterwards. During cardiovascular training, like running, you will burn more calories during training, but your metabolism will drop shortly afterwards. Strength training is like having money in the bank, earning interest – it works for you when you are resting,” he said.
Strengthening muscles will help to decrease a runner’s chance of injury, although this is not the same as bulking up.
“It’s very important to do the correct form of strength training. Bodybuilding training is not ideal for marathon running. You have to be careful with the type of weights used – it’s got to be moderate weights and high-repetition exercises,” he said.
While strengthening leg muscles is key, George said arm, back and core muscle strength is also important as runners use their arms and body to gain momentum.
“You need to have a well-balanced routine and incorporate all the muscles. Sometimes it’s the small stabilizing muscles like the abductor and adductor muscles, which are your inner and outer thigh muscles, that can help on the track. Squeezing a soccer ball or Pilates ring can make all the difference. Calf raises are also important, but you have to make sure you don’t overdo it,” he said.
He recommends runners incorporate core exercises into their training regime three times a week and hit the gym twice a week, if possible, although runners can also work out at home.
- This is a niche cut into the bank of the cutting at the site of the Wall of Honour and is reputed to have been a favourite resting spot for the legendary Arthur Newton, 5 times winner of the Comrades Marathon in the 1920’s. Legend has it that runners who pay tribute to Arthur as they pass by placing flowers in the niche and doffing their peak with the greeting “Good morning Sir”, will enjoy a strong second half of the race.
Wall Of Honour
- This wall is situated near Drummond, the halfway point, overlooking the Valley of 1000 Hills and was created to serve as a permanent landmark to commemorate the achievement of Comrades runners who have completed the epic journey between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Runners may purchase a block upon which is mounted a plaque recording their name, and number.
- The highest point on the course (820m) is situated at Umlaas Road, about 19km from Pietermaritzburg, and is unremarkable as it is not reached by any noticeable hill and probably goes unnoticed by most runners. A landmark is a concrete water tower on the other side of the freeway which passes near the route at that point.
- This named after the British 45th Regiment of Foot (Sherwood Foresters) stationed in Natal between 1843 and 1859 and who constructed a cutting through the hill near the present Mayville and is situated approx. 8km from Durban. On the up run this offers a moderately taxing ascent from the bottom of Mayville to the summit at 45th cutting.
Stepping up to the plate
LONG distance running and carbo-loading have often been synonymous, but elite athletes follow much more complex diet plans, emphasizing the importance of a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and lean protein. We spoke to Food Service Dietitian Nikita Baijnath to get the skinny on what a runner should have on their plate ahead of the Comrades Marathon.
While energy expenditure increases during physical activity, Baijnath recommends a balanced diet over a plate full of carbs.
“Carbo-loading is not a scientifically defined term and can be perceived incorrectly by the lay population. For example, a diabetic runner would need to be careful with the intake of too many carbohydrates. I would advise runners to eat a healthy, balanced diet. The main meal should consist of fat, protein and carbohydrates. In addition, plenty of water for hydration purposes,” she said.
The type of carbohydrates runners opt for is also important.
“High fibre, complex carbohydrates are the best options for a healthy diet. This is because fibre keeps us fuller for longer. Examples would be brown pasta, brown rice, wholewheat wraps, bread or pitas,” said Baijnath.
Low GI foods release energy from the food gradually, explains Baijnath.
“This could assist the runner to maintain steady blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day. Examples of low GI foods are vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes and bran-containing cereals,” explained the dietician.
Avoiding the ‘wrong’ foods is also helpful, and Baihnath emphasizes high fat food as one to avoid. “High-fat foods, especially those with saturated fat, can have a negative impact on an athlete as they increase the risk of heart disease. High GI foods (such as fast food and processed food) release energy and sugar quickly. Thereafter, the athlete is left feeling hungry sooner than expected,” she said.