Comrades Fever….

22 October, 2014


Every year a strange fever grips the running community in South Africa and, more especially, here in Kwa-Zulu Natal. At every race there are mutterings of “qualifying” and “entering”. Shall I? Shan’t I? OMG I am racked with indecision!

We are entering that time of year when marathons are done as training runs, when people want to know “have you qualified yet?”, and new and marvellous plans are made to get stronger, faster, better!

Us tortoises are particularly susceptible to the fever. We have tried and failed in the past and because we are persistent, we will continue to try, because there is nothing we want more than to hang that Comrades Marathon medal on our wall.

We begin to ponder the dreaded QUALIFIER – that elusive sub-5 marathon. The last time I cracked one of those I had only 30 seconds to spare. Oh the nerves!
Walking to the car from the finish, my legs suddenly wouldn’t work anymore. Luckily a kind gentleman whipped out a deck chair and let me sit there while my brain tried to regain contact with my extremities.

We begin to scheme. Surely we can get a bit faster. We find ourselves feverishly doing more speedwork (speed being a relative term), more hills, longer long runs, tempo runs. Only one more month until entries close! Shall I? Shan’t I?


I made a long-term plan earlier this year. I told myself I will build a big base using the Maffetone method and then slowly introduce some speed or hills. I will work on a run/walk method for the long runs that keeps me improving but not injured or over-trained. I will do lots of marathons but very slowly to strengthen my chassis, so to speak.

I must not succumb to Comrades Fever and forget my plan. But I cannot ignore the lure of this seductive race. So what I will do is to carry on with my plan. I will not enter now and engage in feverish activity in order to conquer the dreaded qualifier. I will enter the Bergville-Ladysmith 52km in April and if I manage to comfortably (also a relative term as far as an ultra is concerned) run that distance in 6:30, I will look for a substitution for the Big C. If not, I will wait until 2016! I am after all a tortoise, so time is not of the essence!


Share this post