Its been called The Ultimate Human Race – tough, brutal and punishing. And this year the Comrades Ultra Marathon, was all of that and more. Despite being billed as one of the most challenging races in the world, thousands of South Africa runners put their bodies on the line on Sunday, some triumphantly, and others walking away knowing they tried.
As the world’s largest and longest race, the Comrades Marathon attracts participants from across the world. The event, which covers a distance of approximately 89km between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, alternates direction each year between the “up” run (87 km) starting from Durban and the “down” run (89 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg. This year, runners braved the ‘down’ run for the ultimate endurance test.
Cape Town’s growing and vibrant running community made a huge impact at this year’s Comrades with hundreds of amateur runners taking to the Comrades. Amongst these were 107 from Lion of Africa Itheko, 38 runners from Nantes, 33 from Ommiedraai and 7 from Kenfac running club.
The Voice of the Cape family is proud to welcome home its very own Comrades Ultra Marathon runner, Achmat Jacobs. Jacobs, who is the chairperson of VOC’s Management Board, beat his previous time by an hour and 2 minutes and described the 2016 Comrades as “easier.”
He began running six years ago and quickly set his sights on the Comrades – the ultimate goal of all runners.
While Jacobs continued training as a runner, Comrades requirements meant that he would need to complete a few marathons, including the Old Mutual Two Oceans. Prior to running the Comrades, the longest distance that he ran was the 56km Ultra Marathon.
He said that his age and fitness level certainly played a role in the overall experience of the race.
Jacobs further noted that his training regimen included training six days a week through Wynberg hill, Southern Cross in Constantia, various carefully selected terrain, and completed ‘doubles’ three times a week, in which he trained twice a day. In addition, he did palates and strength training, which assisted in improving his balance and breathing.
“So you have to train tremendously and consistently, you have to have a plan to run the Comrades, and it’s very important that you eat correctly with a balanced diet,” he says.
Though he would love to run a third Comrades, Comrades 2017 is scheduled to take place one day before Ramadan.
How do you conquer mental weaknesses?
Jacobs explained that while each race has its ups and downs, the monitoring of one’s mental fatigue experienced during distance races is of utmost importance.
“When you are running, you do question whether you can continue to pursue, but you have to continue and persevere. When you reach that last 10km mark, then you know that you have it in the bag. Your mind takes over your body and sends a surge of energy back into your body – it overpowers you completely.”
He said that once he crossed the finish line all memory of the aches and pains experiences during the race was forgotten.
“To run the ultimate human race is really an achievement. You see many people walking and many who do not complete and here you cross the finish line.”
Jacobs asserted that running has had a profound holistic impact on his life, since the sport assisted him to improve his eating habits and gave him a positive outlook on life.
“This is a very powerful investment that you can make in your life and commitment to improve the quality of your life…The voices of defeat will continue to test your mental strength, but relief will come instantaneously and the pain will start to dissipate as the vision of the finish banner lurks in the distance – a great achievement,” Jacobs continued.