Matshelane Mamabolo will go out fast in the Comrades Marathon, despite what the experts might say.

We’re going for our back-to-back! The delight with which my Fat Cats Athletics Club mates said these words left me with a serious case of FOMO.

There I was, about to make my Comrades Marathon debut, scared and surrounded by an excited bunch looking forward to their back-to-back.

Uninitiated me had it all wrong. Granted, I knew that those who were going for their second run, to complete the two routes (Down and Up) of the Ultimate Human Race, would get two medals.

Silly me, though, thought the second medal would match whatever medal any runner would get on the day.

So, I imagined people dangling either two Bronze, Bill Rowans or even Silver medals down their necks upon reaching Pietermaritzburg.

But no, sensibly so I suppose, the Comrades back-to-back medal is bronze – and everyone completing their second successive race gets the same.

I am going for my back-to-back this year, but strangely I am not as excited as some of my teammates were last year.

As it is, that second medal is neither here nor there for me.

Of course it will be nice to have two Comrades medals dangling around my neck sometime after lunch on June 10.

And for that to happen, I am going to have to do me.

As a novice last year, I found that there was way too much information coming through and that really threw me off.

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to have some knowledge of sorts regarding what you’re about to get yourself into.

After all, running 90 kilometres (and a bit this year) is not child’s play. You need to be prepared.

But I learnt that too much advice tends to distract one from their ways.

One of the reasons I did not achieve my Bill Rowan target last year – I missed it by 12 minutes – was because I ditched my normal way of starting my race like a house on fire.

After all, the experts had repeatedly advised: “Don’t burn your matches too early.”

Big mistake, at least where I am concerned, because all of my major achievements have come through my running the first half pretty fast and negotiating the remainder of the race.

Some teammates have said ‘that strategy won’t work in an ultra’. Well, I achieved PBs in both the Om Die Dam and Two Oceans this year running that way. I see no reason in changing for Comrades.

Of course it is a tough, long race and I am going to respect it, lest it humbles me. But I have no doubt that I will do pretty well if I just stick to what I’ve been doing since after my maiden Comrades last year.

As Comrades champion maker John Hamlett told me the other day, “don’t be stupid and try anything new”.

And so when I line up at the start in Pietermaritzburg central on what should be a pretty cold Sunday morning on June 10, I will do so with the plan to run just like I did when I dipped below three hours at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon last year and at the Johnson Crane Marathon earlier this year.

Just as I did when I finished as second veteran in a time of 80 minutes at the Harriers Half Marathon in the Mother City, and as I always do during all races.

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I am going to start pretty fast, capitalising on the cool early morning weather and the strength and energy I’d have in the hope that by the time fatigue creeps in, I’d have covered enough ground in enough time to be within my set target, which I’ll share later.

A pity the back-to-back medal won’t be as shiny as the medal I’m after.


The Star