As we enter the final stretch on the road to Comrades 2015 there are many preparations that a runner has to make to ensure that he is ready for the big day… These include arranging transport and accommodation, making travel plans, organising a support crew, deciding what food to eat, training for peak performance on race day and, maybe most importantly, preparing mentally for one of the greatest tests of human endurance and spirit.
Being part of the Germiston Callies Running Club makes participating in the Comrades much easier, Alfred explains. The club arranges for transport, accommodation and some meals for the club runners. On the 24th of May the Club hosts the great traditional “Comrades Breakfast” where final arrangements are made. This includes organising supporting crews to provide race snacks along the route for the runners, and collecting money from the runners to pay for the trip. The club also invites legends of the Comrades marathon to give motivational speeches to the team (past speakers have included Wally Hayward).
The race snacks are something that the runners must decide on themselves. At the moment Alfred is leaning towards having sparkling mineral water (which, for him, helps kill any cravings for fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola), boiled eggs, and either a couple of apples or bananas along the route. For the night before the race, he also plans to have a very fatty meal. Alfred says he will use the last month of training to fine-tune what works best for the race day.
With less than 4 weeks to go Alfred’s training will build him up to peak on race day at Comrades. He knows he is not as fit as he has been in previous years because of his late start to training. But with the quick recovery time and easier breathing he has been experiencing on the Banting diet, he is confident that he will be able to train enough to get that Bill Rowan medal for finishing under 9 hours.
After the Wally Hayward marathon Alfred has finished with doing any extremely long distance runs before Comrades. In these first 2 weeks of May he feels he needs to run a total of about 90km per week. He does not have a lot of time to run during weekdays so he will make up most of this distance on the weekend with back-to-back runs of 25km. He hopes that this will help him to build up his endurance.
Following this, in the final 2 weeks before the race, Alfred will start to taper off the training. This is to ensure that his body recovers and he is feeling fresh on the day of the race. During this time Alf will greatly reduce his total distance per week and will just do some speed sessions, hill sessions and try to keep his muscles loose by stretching in the morning daily and after training sessions.
During the longer runs that he will do now, Alfred hopes to tune in with what he describes as “the feeling” you get during the Comrades. This is part of the mental preparation for the race.
When Alfred was suffering from his injury during March he was beginning to doubt that he would run the Comrades Marathon this year… But with some rest and the shedding of 7 kilos on a new diet, things have changed.
Tam asked him today, “Do you feel confident about it now?”
“That I can run the Comrades?!” Alf replied
“Ahh hundred percent!!!”
But to finish the race Alfred says he still has to prepare during training for “the feeling” you reach during the Comrades. “When you are running the Comrades there’s a point when you just use your heart and your mind. Because everything else is gone. There’s no speed. Your whole body is tired and there’s only inner strength to keep you going. During training I will try get to that point so I know how to overcome it and be focused and mentally strong for the race.”
And one more thing…
A lot of preparation goes into running a 90km race and Alfred is extremely grateful to everyone that has been able to help him along the way – with planning the voyage to Comrades, dietary advice, training advice, and support both financially and spiritually.
“Anything else you want to tell us Alfred?”
“The only thing that I can say, guys, is that running the Comrades is not about me alone. It’s about the people around you. Having you around me gives me more strength to keep on going.
Sometimes when we talk like this, on the race day when all my energy is gone, muscles are sore, the whole body is sore, there are some words that I’m going to remember. What we are saying now. All the positive things we say when we talk. When we arrange. Plan. Those are the things sometimes that give us strength as runners to carry on along the road.
As runners we run on our own strength only up to a certain point. From that point onwards to the finish we rely on you. Knowing that there’s someone thinking about me, people watching me somewhere, praying for me… that on its own gives me that inner strength to keep going.”