Runners getting ready for the Cape Town Marathon. Photo: @CTMarathon on Twitter
Runners getting ready for the Cape Town Marathon. Photo: @CTMarathon on Twitter
Like Frank Sinatra so famously sang, Matshelane Mamabolo will do it his way.
Like Frank Sinatra so famously sang, Matshelane Mamabolo will do it his way.

JOHANNESBURG – How do you keep going when you are continuously being told that what you’re doing is wrong?

They urge you to finish strong when what works for you is to start strong. Last mile, best mile - so the popular road running saying goes. But your best mile is almost always your first. Do you change? Oh, the pressures of being a social runner.

I’ve been living with the pressure for two years now and while I will admit to having achieved my best results doing it my way, there is a part of me that would love to test the other way.

After all, I’ve heard even the pros bragging about having run negative splits, which involves completing the second half of a race faster than the first.

My running mates are always telling me I’ll achieve better results if I hold back a little early on and open up later. But I just do not see how that can be.
How do I hold back when I am still feeling all fresh and the early morning weather is conducive to pushing hard? What guarantee do I have that by the second half of the race I will have the strength and power to push even faster?

Of course I’ve seen some of those advocating it do so. At the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon last year, a club mate who finished first ahead of all of us advised me to slow down early on so I can push later. But I went for it and I was left with about a kilometre when he overtook me.

Even top American running coach Jason Fitzgerald punts negative splits, reasoning that “it’s much easier to start slower and end faster than the other way round”.

I’ve made numerous vain attempts to run negative splits in training, my times going haywire as I failed to stick to a particular pace. But they are bound to given that I do not use a watch when I run - another of my ways that those around me feel is holding me back.

Yet, when you are running just for fun and you know that going all technical will take away that element, you stick to your way.

Matshelane Mamabolo getting some 'magic spray' during this year's Comrades. Photo: @Tshiliboy on twitter
Matshelane getting some 'magic spray' during this year's Comrades. Photo: @Tshiliboy on twitter

With this year’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon almost upon us - it takes place on Sunday, September 23 - I am again going to the Mother City with the plan to smash the initial half marathon and negotiate the second; stuff the negative splits.

After all, I’ve not fully recovered from the sore toe that kept me out for the past two weeks and what better way to work around it than to go full throttle early on so that by the time it all goes bad, I’m far into the race to still finish well.

Crazy, I hear the negative splits brigade say. Well, it works for me.

The injury notwithstanding, I've managed to clock some good mileage since last Wednesday and will use this last week to work on my speed.

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The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is a fantastic race, a world class event that boasts IAAF Gold Label status, and the best event to use as a qualifier for the Comrades Marathon.

Most of us will descend on the Mother City next week with different goals and targets. My view is that what matters is achieving those, the manner not so much. After all, wasn’t it that highly successful PSL coach Gordon Igesund who always used to tell those who criticised his teams’ route-one football that "there is no room for comment in the results column".

I concur with him so I will run my way next week.

The Star

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