Thanks for all the congratulations on completing Comrades! Stephen has been asking for a race report, and after running the race – he is right, it was a pretty unique experience that should be shared. Prior to the gun, the crowd does a stirring rendition of the South African national anthem and Shosholoza. Since the vast majority of runners are South Africans the singing is LOUD and emotional. It was pretty incredible.
I ran the first 26 miles with Caroline Wostmann, the female leader, and past Comrades race winner. She is a national hero, so the crowd was particularly raucous when we passed, and she was followed by camera crew, race referee, and three police motorcade. As a result, I was in the background of the nationally televised race broadcast waving and goofing off. Miles 25 to 31 were all one steep hill, similar to running up Sullivan Canyon. For me it was at the worst possible location and by the top I had to stop, drink lots of water, put sunscreen on, and just mentally regroup. At this point it was clear my race strategy was too similar to a marathon. For the remainder of the race I adopted the routine at each 2k water station drinking 8 ounces of water, 8 ounces of “energade,” 4 ounces of Coke, and eating 1 orange slice. Not hydrating aggressively from the start was the biggest lesson I took away from my first (last?) ultra.
Two things really stood out about the race. The first being the race experience was special. It can best be equated to the Tour de France with onlookers crowding the race route, screaming directly into my face “GO EAR-REEK!!!” (Eric with an accent) and moving out of the way at the last second. The crowd’s cheers were deafening, and left me wishing I wore earplugs. The crowd support dwarfed any other race I have run (NYC, Boston, etc.) and on more then one occasion forced me to push down a hill when I really wanted to walk. The second thing was how appropriately named the Comrades Marathon is. Runners ran in packs, with someone calling out if the pace was slowing. When someone passed me they would encourage me to try to run with them. When someone cramped up, another runner would stop to help massage the cramp out of his or her leg. These were total strangers. There seemed to be an understanding that to finish the race required a team effort and the “camaraderie” was amazing.
The course is never flat, with many steep ascents and descents. The South African sun was extremely intense. I believe my uneven 2:57, 3:55 marathon splits was a reflection of inexperience with nutrition, with the course, and with ultra-marathons in general. It is no wonder that the race bibs clearly display how many Comrades each runner has completed. Those runners who had completed 3, 5, and some 25 Comrades are to be respected!
Ok that is it, congrats on reading it this far.
Average Finishing Time: 7:23:38
Averge Per Mile Pace: 8:1.3
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