After completing Comrades 2013, I knew I was coming back in 2014 and started training thereon out. I started the first six months of my training working on my speed, by doing short runs of not more than 21km and trying to improve my times on every race, which I did :).
Once a week my training partner, Insaf Kamish and I, would do leg strengthening with our personal trainer, Ridhaa Allie, at Metamorphasize, so that climbing a hill wouldn’t be so bad. These sessions were tough because I hate lunges and doing the running man and had to keep up with Insaf, who is very strong on her legs. I got a better workout doing this than hill repeats, all while wobbling down the steps from gym to get to my car.
The six months after that, I did my long runs starting with the Bay to Bay 30km and completed it in 2h48m, which was 24 minutes faster than in 2013. The Peninsula Marathon I completed in 4h19m, 40 minutes faster than 2013 and did the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in 5h48m, 1h06m faster than in 2013. So my training plan was working out well and it is something you should have when you’re planning to do a big race like Comrades.
By October 2013, we were all set for Comrades 2014, with tickets and accommodation booked. I planned to run the race with my friend and training partner, Insaf Kamish. Going into this with her, I knew that she was strong and would push me, as she accelerates at the end but is also cautious going downhill, whereas I slow down at the end of a long run and this would be a nice balance.
As the days counted down to the big day, we had many celebrations. Yes, celebrations. Getting to the start line is an achievement in itself as you have to fight many battles getting there. Your mind will play many tricks with you in the days leading up to Comrades, where you will doubt whether you can do this. It’s a matter of you overcoming this by knowing that you have put in the training and will now you reap the rewards.
We arrived in Durban three days prior to the race, collected our number and yes had a bunny chow that night. I am Indian but Durban curry is hot and spicy!!! Luckily it had no effect on me and if it did, all it meant was that I was going to have fresh carbs in me, but I would have enough time to recover. The days leading up to race day, we all just relaxed and took in Durban’s great weather whereas in Cape Town it was cold and storming.
The night before the race, Insaf Kamish, Khadija Mohamed, Neezaam Mohamed and I stayed over at the last B&B we could find in Pietermaritzburg. It was ice cold that night, so we “tried” getting an earlier night, before laying out all our stuff for the morning… we were matching with our blue caps. The room that Neezaam and I stayed in was dodge and on top of this the light couldn’t switch off, so we slept with the light on and as a result were awake by 2am. So we thought, lets rather get done, and had an ice cold shower. When we arrived to the breakfast hall, the electricity was out so we had breakfast in candle light and off to the start we went. When we arrived at the starting pens, you could feel the excitement. All of a sudden, no one was feeling cold and surprisingly the hotels around the start let you use their bathroom.
The race started. We took about six minutes getting over the start line. We were going strong and were excited about getting to the 21km mark, where we would get OUR SUPPORTERS for the first time. It is great seeing people you know on the race as it gives you that extra energy you need. Whether you’re tired or not, you will run when you see them.
This was also the first time that my parents came to a race, so for them this was new – getting up early that morning and getting us at different points along the route and getting lost along the way as well. After half way, I can remember telling Insaf, “why did I do this again? Did I not know how long this is?”
As the race went along, and doing the run walk strategy, we marked people, Saied Mohamed (Gugs) being one of them, and could only start walking once we tagged him. We had to make this exciting for ourselves.
There were times when Insaf had to push me up the hills and others where I would have a burst of energy and she’d have to slow me down. There were also times where we would be running to get to our supporters and I would count down to Insaf, 3km to Yasmin, 2km to Yasmin, 1km to Yasmin. Sorry Insaf if I irritated you, but you want to mos run with me, LOL.
At about 20km to go, I felt so disorientated. My legs were not sore but I just felt tired and then told Insaf to go ahead but she stuck with me, motivating me through this tough time. Even after passing our supporters, I had no energy to even smile (which is unlike me) but Uncle Riedwaan came with his camera and forced me J. We tried running for another 3km together but even the flats were tiring. I once again told Insaf to go ahead and when she left, I could feel my eyes rolling back in my head and I started falling over my own feet. But after taking an Eno, I felt much better and regained my composure.
The last 10km was awesome, even though I was tired. The supporters around me cheered me on by name (your name is on your number and I have an easy one). The kilometres were taking forever and as I was tired, I ran 300m, walked 200m. As I reached the final kilometre, the old man next to me said “walk to the stadium and then run it in“ and that I did.
The feeling when entering the stadium is amazing and at least this year when I came in there wasn’t any congestion, with only a few runners entering with me. But I was not on TV because SABC doesn’t listen, no ears what-so-ever. They went to an interview!!! I got my Vic Clapham medal once again, as well as my BACK TO BACK (2 for 1 special according to Tape). After that, we all sat in the finishers’ pen and celebrated as everyone came in. Well done once again to all the runners!!!
The day after the race, while everyone was wobbling and limping, my legs were normal (Tasneem Salie I saw that status) and this was due to all the strength training that I did to condition my legs for this long run and to carry my weight for 89.something km’s. I have to say thank you to all the supporters from Itheko, ARD, Top Form, Ommiedraai and Gugs along the route, those at home that watched on TV, waiting to catch a glimpse, and those tracking us via SMS or on the internet, it is much appreciated. Also, to all those who trained with us leading up to race day and not forgetting my running partner, Insaf, for having to run with me for almost 10 hours – some people don’t even work 10 hours a day – a big thank you to you.
If ever someone tells you the down run is easier, hit them behind their head and ask them if they have run one before. This was much tougher but a great challenge that we conquered. I know I said, during the race and afterwards, “never again, I have my back to back, ek is klaar!!!” but after speaking to my cousin Khadija, she got me excited again and we will (fingers crossed) tackle this beast next year again, inshallah.
Who would of thought that a person who never did sport at school would, after two years of running, run back-to-back Comrades?
So my words of encouragement to all those wanting to tackle any of the popular races is to plan well and train hard.
By Ismail Mohamed
Read more Comrades stories:
Run Comrades for more than yourself – By Fazlin McCallum
My Comrades journey – By Tape ‘Mo’ Bedford