Countdown to Comrades Marathon

Chas Training 2 Comments

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d better start running.” –African Proverb

Today was the day of the expo and not much has changed from last year. Well, one thing has changed: The color of my number.

Table of Contents

    The Bib

    At the Comrades Marathon, they color-code runners depending on several factors (and you can keep your number if you run sequential races). Normally, my number would have been blue (designating me an international runner), but this year it’s orange.

    The orange signifies I am running for a back-to-back medal and last year was my novice year at Comrades.

    It wasn’t until I was pinning my bib to my shirt that the significance of that color began to sink in. This will be my one and only shot at this medal. It will be, for me, a once-in-a-lifetime event. As far as my running goes, I may run farther (I highly doubt it), and I may run more “difficult” courses, but this medal has the potential for being the most significant and glorious medal I will ever get the chance to achieve. Even if I return to Comrades, this race is the one I will be trying to get the extra and special back-to-back medal.

    The Expo

    Like every large running expo, the Comrades (Ultra)Marathon has it’s regular sets of food, vendors, and registration lines. Fortunately, as one of the few international runners, my line was short. Situated in the far right back corner, it’s easy to find and they even provide some coffee and snacks (and energade to try). I had an issue with my ChampionChip, but a quick visit to their booth and they magically re-linked my bib to my chip and all was well. Then, I wandered around for awhile, bought some socks (I was looking for some new socks, and I have some “overpronation left/right” socks to try), and picked up some disposable gloves (the starts are chilly, but you don’t want to have to carry gloves the entire distance. For $2-$3 the expo has gloves you can buy to keep your hands warm). I also entered to win a Garmin 910xt – from 3pm – 5pm Saturday – so I need to have my phone on just in case (or be at the expo).

    The People

    Last year I met Bruce Fordyce. As amiable and interesting as he was to talk to about the Comrades Marathon, I never realized just what a legend he was not only at Comrades, but within the running world. At the time, I didn’t realize the man had won not just one Comrades, but nine. Nine! But his enthusiasm and friendliness to the novice left me completely unaware of just how awesomely cool it was to really to be talking to the Bruce Fordyce.

    Of course, now I know and I miss him at the expo. Thanks Murphy.

    The Bus to the Start

    I learned at the expo that, due to construction along the route, the buses from Durban to Martizburg will be leaving at 2am. Yes, 2am. Fortunately, my body clock is a bit messed up still, so I’m hoping to sleep very early tonight and even earlier tomorrow. Okay, tomorrow I probably will not sleep, but I hope I get a good sleep tonight.

    The bus situation is the only part that has me concerned at the moment. I do not want to miss that bus for any reason so I’ll probably be overly early. The exact location is a bit fuzzy so I will need to leave time for the “getting lost”  or other potential problems.

    Fun Comrades Demographics

    Thanks to the official Souvenir Brochure included in my goodie bag, I learned some fun statistics from 2011 and 2012:

    Comrades Runner Statistics from 2011

    Entrants Int’l Total
    18304 1067 19591
    Starters Int’l Total
    11818 684 12648
    Finishers Int’l Total
    10290 642 11054


    Now here’s my segment from last year!

    2011 Novice International Runners

    Entrants 680
    Starters 417
    Finishers 400


    Here’s the fun part. In 2012, there are a total of 1378 international runners, an increase from last year. From the USA, there are 236 runners, putting the USA in second place (by 2 runners) behind the United Kingdom as the top foreign contigent. How many of those are running their first back-to-back race I may never know, or even if anyone else from the USA is attempting it this year, also But out of the 18,000+ runners, I suspect we are a very small percentage!

    Daily Comrades Video


    PS – No, I didn’t forget R Minus 3. I spent an entire day on the airplane flying to South Africa, and although I could have written a blog entry, there wouldn’t have been much to write – besides, by the time I arrived it was essentially the next day anyway.

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