Oh the challenges of being a Comrades Marathon novice! In my endeavour to ensure my maiden participation in “the Ultimate Human Race” is a success - that is be in Pietermaritzburg within the allotted 12-hour period - I’ve tried to obtain every bit of advice I could get.

Yet in this information era we live in, it can all get a little too much. And right now, I don’t really know if I am coming or going. To think there’s just a little more than a month before the big day.

Oh dearie me! What have I gotten myself into?

My coach keeps telling me I will do just fine. And believe me, I believe him.

But it is hard not to check out what the other experts are saying - human nature. And, phew, they are pointing in such different directions they leave your head spinning with confusion.

There’s a renowned pacer inviting everyone to join him on his accumulated 155km run over this long weekend (he’s doing four races having started Thursday to Monday) to get information on the Sub 12 hour bus.

And then on the same page, another reputable Comrades expert threatens - very graphically - to shoot anyone who goes on a long run from now on. It was pretty good actually as he put up a picture of Madea - the lead character in Tyler Perry’s series of movies - with a flywheel gun in her hand and a look that would have had even John Wayne hesitating to draw. “I dare you to do one more long run, I dare you” - the caption simply read.

A work colleague who has closely followed my progress in my newfound pastime agrees and told me after Two Oceans I shouldn’t do any more long runs. Pssst, don’t tell him - but I ran 60km last Sunday. My excuse? It’s April still, the month of LSD’s. No, we’re not doping silly! LSD is an acronym for Long Slow Distance not the drug commonly known as acid.

My club’s whatsapp group takes the cake, with those who’ve done the race before sharing their pearls of wisdom and others similar to them giving the exact opposite tips. Us poor novices are left scratching our heads. What to do?

On Sunday morning, for instance, I will be up by 8am to watch Bonitas’ House Call on SABC 2 as per coach’s suggestion because there will be a “feature on the Comrades Marathon with inspiring wellness tips”.

Yet what I’ve picked up is that every runner must go with what works for them. Sure listen to the advice, but don’t lap it all up as gospel.

The overwhelming wisdom in road-running, I also got this from my uncle Titus Mamabolo for last year’s Soweto Marathon, is that you should take it easy early on and reserve your energy for later.

Fair enough!

But I’ve discovered I am better off flying away from the start so that by the time I feel tired, I’ve covered enough ground to can take it easy and still finish in a good time. That’s how I finished my maiden marathon in 3h43 and how I completed Two Oceans a fortnight ago in 5h08.

Will this strategy work on June 4! Probably not, given the length (87km) and difficulty (an Up Run with lots of hills) of the race.

But I am choosing to trust in what has worked for me thus far, the multitudes of advice from all over notwithstanding. After all, as the veterans say, the information is going to come in droves from May. And I cannot allow myself to get more overwhelmed than I already am.

The Star

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