I did a speed session with Comrades Marathon winners Gift Kelehe and David Gatebe and lived to tell the tale.

Surely that must mean I am ready for my maiden Comrades?

Of course it wasn’t too long a session, but for 20 good minutes I felt like a champion. It was arguably the second most exhilarating feeling I experienced since taking up running. The best being was when I completed the Two Oceans back in April.

Coach John Hamlett, aware of his athletes’ abilities, had suggested to this ‘social runner’ to ‘just go at your own pace’. No doubt the ‘Colonel’ was worried that I could be left panting or worse still being a hospital case if I tried to keep up with his superstars.

This, after all, is a man who had incredibly offered me a glass of Coca-Cola a few minutes after having told me how bad the drink is for runners. I knew for sure, when he later offered his runners protein drinks, that he only saw a journalist in me and not a runner – my having shared with him the times I did at both my Comrades qualifying marathon as well as the two ultras this year notwithstanding.

I had to show him what I was made of. After all, this Comrades novice is something of a speedster and fartleks had been a significant part of his training sessions with his club – Fat Cats.

And so it was with glee that I accepted the opportunity to go running with four of the Tom Tom Athletics Club members.

We had spend the afternoon at the team’s camp, finding out about their readiness for the 92nd edition of The Ultimate Human Race, and when we left for the road the sun was already setting and it was pretty chilly. After huddling up for a short prayer, we hit the road – Hamlett having explained what it was we had to do.

The session entailed running a short distance – three lampposts – at a very fast pace and then jogging between two before sprinting again.

Runners compete in the Comrades Marathon. Photo: Rogan Ward/Reuters

Colleagues Mbongiseni Buthelezi and Bhekikaya Mabaso wore looks of worry as they drove alongside us, no doubt concerned that they might have to go back to the office and tell them I'm at some hospital in Mpumalanga.

They were soon gasping in disbelief though as they saw me speed up with the great Comrades. "Mr Mamabolo I didn't know you were so fast," Buthelezi said afterwards.

No doubt it was the adrenalin and the excitement of being in such grand company on the road. For I found myself going at speeds I’d hitherto not done before. It was fun. It was exciting. It was beautiful.

Focused on their job, Kelehe and Gatebe hardly said a word as we pounded the streets and I knew there and then just why these men have managed to conquer the monster that is the Comrades.

I soaked it all in and hoped that this privilege will stand me in good stead come June 4, which is now incredibly just six sleeps away.

When we reached the halfway point and the team had to turn back to their camp, I thanked Hamlett for having opened his doors for me. The athletes wished me well on my maiden Comrades and advised that I take it easy and focus on finishing.

Of course I promised them I would.

But when you’ve run with the best, albeit for a short time, you can only want to be the best. And so it will be with more than just the goal to finish that I will line-up with the thousands at the Durban City Hall on Sunday. I am going for a Bill Rowan medal – that is a sub-nine hour finish. Crazy hey! But then again don’t they say anyone who runs the Comrades is crazy?

The Star

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