Matshelane Mamabolo.
It is tapering time. Stop doing long runs. Focus on speed work. Get to know what works for you, from nutrition to attire.

It is that time. And boy, are there experts aplenty out there.

As the Comrades Marathon draws ever closer, we find ourselves bombarded with information about what it takes to have a good run. Some of it is useful, coming as it does from people who have either completed a number of the revered KwaZulu Natal ultras or experts who have done plenty of research.

And then there is some that is spewed by individuals who use their personal experience as being applicable to all.

What is a runner to do? More so a novice, keen to just get to Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg before the 13-hour cut-off still in one piece. Switch off to it all, I say. You have done well to qualify for the race and that in itself says you have what it takes to finish the about 90km run in time  so long as you do you.

I am only going for my third run of the Ultimate Human Race and I am thus no expert. Far from it, I am a beginner. That fact notwithstanding, I do know that runners can be very negative in their outlook  with many often handing out advice based on their own experience.

A team-mate told me once not be in a hurry to achieve things, explaining that I am fairly new to the game. He reasoned that he was yet to run a silver medal time at Comrades and has been in running way longer than me.

Really? For one we are not similarly gifted when it comes to running. Two, I am way older than him and thus while he probably still has time on his side, I do not.

And so I have learnt to just focus on doing what I believe is best. Talk in social running circles is that we should not be running anything more than 25km now. This is because for most, 25km is long. But when you can do that distance in less than two hours then surely that is not a long run. I am writing this having just got back from a 24km run and I hardly feel like I was on a long run. Context my fellow runners, context. As the popular saying in this sport goes - stay in your lane and I will stay in mine.

To distract myself from all the pre-Comrades noise, I spent most of yesterday at St Alban’s College for their derby sports day against Pretoria Boys High. The passion that runs through schoolboy rugby in private and traditionally white schools in this country is incredible. And as a black man it pains me that we just cannot replicate this for our township and village schools in soccer or even road running.

Played off the field by a very polished Boys High, College’s Grey and Blues hardly ever gave up and fought for every inch right up to the final whistle.

I had also observed this spirit while watching one of the hockey games. My son is at St Alban’s and specialises in music. But at these schools, sport is a must for every student and Julio plays hockey. I’d watched him play last season and while I left the field convinced he must stick to music, I was also filled with some daddy pride at seeing him chase after every ball.

Yesterday, I saw a very different side of him. Of course I am aware of his leadership skills given he is head of the St Alban’s chamber choir  Barbershop.

But the kind of leadership he displayed upon taking to the field as a substitution pleasantly surprised me. Playing at the back on the left side of the field, he cajoled his team-mates like Itumeleng Khune does, directing his fellow defenders to stick tightly to their men and to close the spaces.

When his team scored a goal he cheered the scorer with gusto and almost immediately instructed the team to go on the offensive upon the opposition’s restart. He did not take kindly to their conceding a goal and lambasted the player he felt was at fault, telling him to “make sure you close him down”.

As a player, he fought for every ball and when he won it he'd make a pass and get into an offensive space in anticipation of a return pass. I am not a hockey fan, but my boy’s passion made me enjoy it yesterday and helped get my mind off Comrades and all the unnecessary advice.

@tshiliboy


Sunday Independent 

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