David Gatebe winner of the 2016 Comrades Marathon. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - It's better to go into the Comrades Marathon "overweight and under-trained" than to be underweight and over-trained.

Having won a record nine titles at the Ultimate Human Race, Bruce Fordyce should know better than most what it takes to succeed at the famous KwaZulu-Natal run.

And with today marking 30 days before the big event, Fordyce knows only too well how many a novice is beginning to feel.

“For most, the reality of the race brings about a sense of panic and that leads to runners doing a lot of new and funny things that can actually mess up all the work they’ve already put in.”

Fordyce advises runners to stick to what has been working for them.

Bruce Fordyce 

“Don’t try anything new. Whatever you did at the previous races where you did well, be it Two Oceans, Loskop, Om die Dam, stick to it because it worked, didn’t it? Comrades is just like any other race, it is just a bit longer.”

May, he says, is a time for tapering down.

“For me, May used to be an exciting month,” the 61-year-old explained, "because it’s almost over, the race is upon us and I used to get very excited. I used to use the first week of the month to do one last hard work, maybe one last 20-25km race and then start cutting down on the mileage.

“I know that a lot of runners try to run long distances just to test themselves, but that’s over-training. Others even start eating different kinds of foods to try and build strength. That’s not the way to do it. With Comrades, you’re better off going in overweight and under-trained instead of having over-trained and being underweight."

But how does a novice know if he or she is ready for Comrades?

“I get asked that question a lot. Let me tell you a story. Back in 1988, I broke the up-run record, I did it in 5h27 and I knew before the race that I was in for a good run. I ran a 10km race in East London in 29 minutes 53. So if there’s any advice I’d give to anyone is go and try to run a short distance very fast. If you can do a PB (personal best) there, you’re ready for Comrades.”

By now, says the Comrades King, every runner should know what kit they’ll be running in.

“You can’t be buying new shoes for the race now. You have to already know what works for you. I remember back in our day we used to get our race numbers by post around this time and I used to do a dress rehearsal. I’d wear everything that I would be wearing for the race and jogged about just to see how comfortable I was.”

With many "experts" around and information galore all over the social media space, a novice can easily get confused.

“Shut the noise out,” Fordyce says. “Just don’t read it or watch it because it will only make you nervous. Trust the people you’ve been training with all this time. They got you where you are now, didn’t they? Enjoy the last few weeks of preparation and go have fun at Comrades.”

The Star