Brad Brown: Comrades take two

Highveld Stereo's weeknd breakfast show host Brad Brown will hit the road again this year on May 29 for his second attempt at one of the most gruelling races of the year, the Comrades.

This will be his second attempt after he managed to run an impressive 60km in last year's race before he had to give up. But this year he is back stronger, leaner and more determined than ever.

Where it all began

In 2009 Brad weighed in at a disturbing 165kg's and claims that after endless attempts at unsuccessful dieting, he joined a local running club and began the challenging journey to fitness and health.

Brad's dreams suffered a huge setback when his mum past away from breast cancer two weeks before the 89km marathon. But he went ahead with his plans anyway and, at a weight of 135kg's, he took to the road to attempt the Comrades, desperate to cross the finish line in honour of his mom. He was gutted when was forced to admit defeat at Winston Park, 29km out.

This year he's more determined than ever and, with a few half marathons and full marathons as well as an Ironman race, there is little that stands in his way. We spoke to him to find out how he trained, what he ate and why he believes you can do it too.

Q Why running?

A I grew up in a running family (my dad has done 11 Comrades Marathons) so Comrades has always been on my list of things I wanted to do. I needed to lose weight and I’ve always known running was one of the best ways to achieve this, and that’s how it all started: I set Comrades as the goal and started running.

Q. What drives you?

I have now got to the point where I actually love getting out there and running. The endorphins are amazing! In the beginning it was never like that, I had to have big goals to get me out there when I didn’t feel like it.

Comrades has always been one of them, but along the way there were others like my forst 10km, my first half and then full marathon and then for the first three months of the year it has been Ironman.

Q Do you follow a training programme?

I do, although not religiously. I have learnt to listen to my body as well. There are days when your training programme tells you to hit the road, but your body has had enough and a rest day might be more beneficial than pushing through the fatigue.

At the moment it is not that intense. I am running on average four to five times per week. Mid-week my runs will vary between 8km and 15kms, and then on the weekend I try and get two longer runs in between 20 and 40kms.

Right now I’m training once a day, five days a week. Pre Ironman though I was training twice a day six days a week.

Q Do you cross train?

I do, I did my first triathlon last November (2010) and the bug has bitten.

I cycle and swim on top of all the running. Although since Ironman I’m focusing exclusively on the running, and I’m sure after Comrades I’m going to be so sick of running that it will be a pleasure to get back into the water and onto the bike.

Q Why the Comrades?

A I met a guy by chance just after Comrades 2009 who had had a stroke in 2002, ended up in a wheelchair and was unable to walk. His mates asked him what he was going to do now and his response was that he was going to run Comrades. In 2007 he finished his first one.

I weighed in at 165kgs when I met him and knew I had to do something drastic otherwise I was destined for a stroke or a heart attack.

I went home from that meeting, joined a running club and the next day started training. My goal was to run Comrades in 2010 and I ended up missing the cut off with 29kms to go and vowed to go back in 2011 fitter, leaner and stronger to finish what I started. It is less than two weeks to go and I’m ready for the rematch!

Q What were your other races like?

I have done a few marathons this year with my best time being 4:17 for the 42kms. I have done a couple of half ironman distance triathlons this year as well, my best time being 6:12 and I completed the full Ironman in Port Elizabeth in April in 13:53

Q How do you run 89km?

Slowly! Hahaha! Seriously though, for me I need to break it up into manageable pieces. One thing I have learnt on this journey is that long distance running is very much a mental thing. Its mind over matter.

Whether you like it or not it is going to hurt and your mind gives up before your body does. I like to break the long runs up into shorter segments. So for comrades this year instead of focusing on the whole race, which is very intimidating.

All I’m doing is four half marathons and then a few extra kays - it sounds a lot easier than saying you’re running 89kms.

Q What will you do after you’ve done the Comrades?

I will take some time off from running and get back on the bike and into the pool. I have taken a bit of a break from swimming and cycling after Ironman and I am starting to look forward to getting back into that. I think that is when you know you have rested enough.

Q Do you incorporate a healthy eating plan too?

I do try and eat as healthily as possible, although some days are easier than others. For breakfast I will either have a bowl of cereal or oats and some fresh fruit or an egg-white omelette and toast. Lunch will either be a sandwich or some steamed veggies and a piece of chicken, and the dinner tends to be steamed veggies with a portion of protein.

Q What’s your biggest ‘cheat’?

I think I may have been Italian in a previous life because I could live on pasta and pizza if I had to.

Q What advice would you give to other people who feel they couldn’t possibly do this?

Anything is possible and don’t ever give up. If I can do this, anyone can. Two years ago I was bordering on being morbidly obese at 165kgs, couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting severely out of breath and I am now 55kg's lighter, have five5 marathons under my belt, a couple of ultra’s, a few half Ironman distance triathlons and I have completed a full Ironman.

Find a short race (a 5km or 10km) in a few months time and work towards that.

Q What advice do you have for others doing the Comrades for the first time?

Even though I’m considered a novice because I have yet to complete one, my race last year taught me a lot.

It’s is vital to not start to fast, run within yourself and whatever you do keep moving forward. You will go through good and bad patches on the day.

Enjoy the good ones and know that the bad ones will not last forever.

Q What time are you looking at finishing it in?

Looking at the times I’ve been running this year there is no reason why I shouldn’t dip under 11 hours this year although anything can happen on the day and I will be over the moon just to finish within the 12 hour time limit.

Health24 wishes Brad the best of luck in his efforts!

The Pink Drive, which is one of the charities under the Toyota umbrella for this year's Comrades, will be a recipient of the funds raised and remains close to Brad's heart after losing his mother to cancer.

"Anything is possible. Dont ever give up. There will be times when you fail and things don't go your way, that is not the time to throw in the towel. That is the time to get up and try again."
(Amy Froneman, Health24, May 2011)

Read more:
DJ runs Comrades for his mom
Top tips for the Comrades
Comrades: after the race

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