Run Comrades, run: Of counter-revolutionary balls and extra kilos

2012-02-01 08:26

Lindor balls are seriously counter-revolutionary when it comes to Comrades training. Those chocolatey balls sweetly dissolve at mouth temperature and then go straight to your ass in the form of extra kilos.
And those slow you down.

These balls really defeat my prime reason for running – to enable me to eat what I want.

Sadly if you pop too many, the balls eventually overrule the running, and make you fat. Luckily I also run for the happy hormones and the fact that being able to run far feels good, so the extra kilo or five are usually not enough to kill the running completely.

This year on June 3 I’ll be attempting my third Comrades (which will also be the subject of this blog).
I say “attempting”, because although I have completed the almost 90km safely under the 12 hour cut-off twice before, it still scares the hell out of me.

This year I ambitiously aim to do the race in under nine hours (for a Bill Rowan medal), a feat achieved by fewer than a quarter of the runners who finish.

It’s by no means close to the speedy heels of those famous Russian twins, who polish the Durban-Pietermaritzburg route in just over six hours.

For a plodder like me, nine hours would mean slicing about 50 minutes off my first and best Comrades, in 2010, a down run like this year. Sadly I haven’t been getting faster since.

I’ve been loathe to blame the extra five or, er, eight kilos that have found their way back to my body over the past two years (after losing about 20 kilos in the year ahead of my first Comrades), but on Monday a fellow runner told me that he’d been running way faster since he’d dropped 10 kilos. He’s now doing marathons in 3 hours 20 minutes instead of 3 hours 40 minutes (still an excellent time).
He gave me two tips on speed: “Drop the weight and find some people to chase.”

Both easier said than done, especially this time of the year with the very handy Valentine’s Day Lindor special at Woolies. Comrades runners have little to no time for romance, so eating V-day chocs would be a bit like multi-tasking – celebrating love without actually having to lose precious sleep-time or expend excess energy on amorous activity.

I’m told that Comrades elites spend most of the working day running, but for mere mortals, training runs are usually between one and four hours (with a few runs even longer than that, but they only come in March and April).

When we don’t run or work, we usually eat and sleep – and we very jealously guard our right to both these activities.

Comrades training starts in December in earnest, although you already have to be running fit when you start.

My running programme for February is roughly as follows: Tuesdays – a 20 minute warm-up, then 9x2 minute “sprints” up a hill, and 20 minute cool-down; Wednesdays – an easy 1 hour 20 minute run (roughly about 13km); Thursdays – 20 minute warm-up, 8km time trial (except I still have nobody to trial with, so am racing purely against the clock), 20 minute cool-down; Saturdays – an easy 2 hour run (about 20km) and Sundays – an easy 3 to 4 hour run (30-40km).

On my days off I spin and do yoga and abs exercises, and one or two hour-long sessions of what I’ve dubbed my “J-Lo ass routine”. This aims to strengthen my thighs, hammies and core to avoid my calves and achilles from getting injured all the time.

Lately the solo three-hour runs have been difficult. The burning legs and achilles “tendencies” can really be loud when there’s no-one to talk to and distract you, and then everything is on a go-slow.

So while solitude-loving me has been resisting running in packs, perhaps it is time to find some people to chase. And while I’m at it, maybe I should share my box of Lindor with them.

That should take care of those counter-revolutionary balls and maybe the extra kilos too.

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