The Comrades Marathon is a South African institution, as much part of our history as mining and braaing. Run for the first time more than 90 years ago and 89 km long, it is considered the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon. If you’ve ever wondered where the name Comrades comes from, it was inspired by the League of Comrades of the Great War.
Begun shortly after the end of World War I, the league was a way to help families torn apart by the loss and devastation of the war, as well as a way for soldiers to rekindle the camaraderie they’d shared on the battlefield. One such soldier was Vic Clapham, who thought that a race between his home town of Pietermaritzburg and Durban would be a great way to build that spirit. Sadly not everyone agreed with him, but after campaigning for four years, the league finally chose to support him and under their dubious watch the Comrades Marathon was born. Going from strength to strength it has grown in gravitas and gained popularity ever since.
If you’re one of the athletes preparing for the race, you’ll know all about the right things to eat in the lead up to the big day. Runner’s World, the leading publication for all things marathon, suggests that you include a combination of healthier carbohydrates like sweet potato and whole grain pastas, along with rich sources of protein like eggs, fish and chicken, and a variety of fruit and vegetables to help reduce inflammation in the body. Other sage advice is to not try anything new in the run up to the race, stay with the tried and tested to ensure stability on the day.
Apart from constant training, Health24 list their top tips as: doing the course work - studying the race and the route; taking it a little easier a few days before the race; balancing your fluid intake both before and during the marathon – remember that overhydration is as dangerous as dehydration; eating at least 300 calories an hour before the gun, but make sure it’s the same food you’ve trained on before i.e. nothing new, this meal will prevent your blood sugar from dropping and stop you from feeling hungry later on in the race; not overdoing your warm-up – stretching and 15 minutes of light jogging are all you need; and lastly, but probably the most common advice – pace yourself, there’s a long way to go.
So, whether you’re participating (kudos to you!) or simply an avid spectator, here’s to a fabulous Comrades 2017 – may it be a safe and successful race day.