Alfred took the daring gamble of completely changing his diet two short months before running the 90th edition of the Comrades Marathon, the ultimate human race – and it paid off. He finished! Fuelled on a low-carb and high-fat diet, Alfred completed his 14th Comrades Marathon! But did the new diet really work for him? On his return to work we asked him to share how the race went, what foods he fuelled himself with, what his overall experience of this year’s race was and finally what he plans to do next.
Running the Race
“The race was tough. Really it was,” Alfred told us earnestly as we started our final weekly interview with him.
He told us how he was quite nervous at the beginning of the race. “You receive a book at the race registration that has some advice from the experts,” Alfred explained. “And they tell you some of the reasons for people not finishing the race: not training enough, recent injuries…”
“If those things affect your mental state should you maybe avoid them?” Tamsin asked him
“No, it’s good to be cautious,” Alfred wisely stated. He knew that he was perhaps not adequately prepared or repaired going into the race. “So I made sure that I listened to my body and observed the communication between my mind and my legs.”
To help him support his troublesome knee, Alfred bandaged it up before the start of the race. Near the beginning of the race he had some trouble with how his right shoe felt on his foot. This in turn made his knee feel uncomfortable. But once this was adjusted it was smooth sailing for our Banting athlete.
After the halfway mark Alfred came across an old friend who he once used to train with. The friend was struggling, so Alf supported him by staying with him to help see him to the end of the race. “It’s not always easy to leave someone behind,” Alfred explained. “Comrades is also about helping each other.”
Alfred didn’t find the second half of the race too easy himself, as he had a few cramps and towards the end his legs were really tiring. “I could feel my upper body had more energy, just my legs were saying – You never did your work properly!”
That didn’t stop Alfred from mustering the energy to make a final sprint to the finish line to stay under the 10 hour mark.
9hr 55min 51s was Alfred’s final time – not the sub-9 hours that he had hoped to achieve. We asked him how he felt about this.
“I feel great about my time as a first Comrades on Banting. I still have a lot of work to do.”
“How has your recovery been after the race, Alfred?”
“After 3 days, besides some dehydration from the hot weather, I was recovered.”
“What about your injury?!”
“It’s feeling better after the run,” Alfred told us, somewhat perplexed. He patted the offending joint and added as an after-thought, “Maybe it was all in the mind? I don’t know?”
Fuelling a Marathon
After we heard how Alfred had found the run we needed to know what foods he used to fuel it.
He started out with his boiled eggs and boerewors for breakfast, as planned. Unfortunately there was no bacon in the hotel so he had to find another fat source – he did this with the handy little blocks of butter on the breakfast table.
“I put about 3 blocks into my coffee,” he told us with a bit of a smile. “People were surprised to see me doing this – adding blocks of butter instead of sugar! Maybe they thought there was something wrong in my head!”
“I knew what I was doing and why. But they had to be surprised!” Alfred chuckled.
On the road Alfred had biltong (stashed in his running gloves) and water which kept him going until halfway. He had some cramps after halfway so he ate some banana, pieces of orange and drank some electrolyte replacement solution. This helped ease the cramps and see him to the end.
“And what about after the race Alfred?”
“Yooo-wee-he-he….”Alfred chuckled.”After the Comrades I really messed up guys.”
In my head I started playing out images of Alfred ploughing into mountains of cake and French fries, washed down with every sugary, fizzy drink known to man.
“I ate a lot of meat”
“That seems alright?”
“And then I was also thirsty… So I ended up drinking some fruit cocktail juice,” Alfred confessed, like he had committed a cardinal sin. A glass or two of fruit juice! The man’s self discipline after running an ultra marathon is astounding!
“So what were the best memories for you from this year’s Comrades Marathon, Alfred?”
“To know that people were fully behind me – that is something that I will never forget.
“My fellow inspectors and other work colleagues who supported me financially and encouraged me, shared inspirational quotes and motivational videos. Those things got me through the race.
“And of course the interview with biznews, Tim Noakes’ words of encouragement on Twitter, hearing of the support of Nicky from The Real Meal Revolution Team and everyone else who sent messages of encouragement.
“When you are running, it is great to know that you are running the race with someone, not alone.”
“After six weeks of rest I would like to start training again.”
“Wow! So soon. Will you stay on Banting Alfred?”
“I’m not gonna go back to the old ways. I have seen what I have started can work. Now I must keep up the momentum. See where I can improve.
“Before the next Comrades, finances allowing, I’d like to run a total of four marathons and three ultras. The first two marathons to gauge myself and the next two to qualify for Comrades 2016.”
“When is the first one Alf?”
“End of August.”
Rest well before then, Alfred! It’s been a wonderful journey to reach this point with you. And we hope your future races on the Banting diet are just as exciting as this one has been. You’re an inspiration to us all!