The Comrades Marathon is an ultramarathon of approximately 89 km which is run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is the world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon race. The Comrades was run for the first time on the 24th May 1921, and with the exception of a break during World War II, has been run every year since. The direction of the race alternates each year between the “up” run (88 kms) starting from Durban and the “down” run (90 kms) starting from Pietermaritzburg.

 Mr Oaitse Ganelang, Research Analyst from the Department of Statistics, Research Development and Innovation (DSRDI) has participated in this marathon for the past three years. We conducted an interview with him to find out more about his participation in the ultimate ‘human race’.

 1. What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about running? Specifically running long distances? When I started running in 2013, I did it mainly for weight loss, I weighed more than 90kg by then. The comrades training is demanding I lost about 8kg during the preparation stage and about 2.5 kg on race day. 2. What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Long distance running in general? Long distance running is not about speed; it’s about reaching your destination within a specified time. All you need is proper planning, especially in races like comrades

where you have multiple cut off points. Another common misconception is about age; many people think that they cannot start running when they are above forty. When I went for my first Comrades marathon in 2016, the eldest participant from Botswana was 59 years and he started running in his late 50s. The average age of male Comrades runner was 42 and the average age of female runner was 40, the eldest to complete the race within a given time was 73 years old. 3. What in the world motivates a person to run long distance?

You get used to distances and you’ll want to do more next time to challenge yourself. I started in 2013 with 10kms, followed by several 21kms in 2014 before I graduated to a full marathon (42kms) in 2015. In 2016 I started doing ultra-marathons starting with Om Die Dam (50kms) and then Comrades (90kms). 4. Why did you choose the Comrades?

It is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race. Outside of a disaster, war or conflict zone the medical tent facility at the finish venue of the Comrades Marathon is the biggest temporary medical facility in the world, that’s how big the event is. 5. Describe the training process for the Comrades marathon. How did you prepare– both mentally and physically? In order to take part in the Comrades marathon one has to qualify by running a minimum distance of 42kms under 5hrs. I usually start my training in January by running a total of 1200kms until end of May. For the month of April, I run 90100kms per week including the 60kms long run from Gaborone to Lentsweletau and back to Kopong. I also do the Om die Dam Ultra marathon in March as part of the preparations. I also do a lot of hill training to get the legs strong. 6. Day of the big race…how are you feeling and what are you thinking? Running the Comrades Marathon is a daunting physical challenge: Slap two marathons together, add on another 5km, throw in some of the biggest hills in KZN and some hot and humid weather, and there’s little doubt that this race is one of the toughest single-day running events in the world. The emotional finish line is something to always remember, the body would have given up, but you have to find it somewhere deep within yourself to get over the line. I have learnt that the mind is stronger than the body, and that we can achieve anything we put our minds to. 7. Which marathon will you be participating in next?

I will not be running the Comrades marathon in 2019, however I hope to be back in 2020. I needed some time off so that I can explore other races. On the 26th January 2019, I will be doing Ottosdal Draf & Trap (42.2kms) in Ottosdal, Northwest province which is a Night race. The race will be used as a qualifier for the Two Oceans ultra-marathon (56kms) in Cape town which I’ll be doing on Easter Saturday.


News Date: 
Saturday, May 26, 2018