JOHANNESBURG - If Bruce Fordyce, the king of the Comrades Marathon, is to be believed, then I am in for a magnificent run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on Sunday.
In one of his columns, where he shares the pearls of wisdom that have helped see him win the world famous KwaZulu/Natal Ultra nine times, Fordyce had this to say.
“And by the way, it isn’t the long run which acts as a fortune teller and reads favourable cards for Comrades runners. It is our speed, in late May over a distance far shorter than the long run, which predicts the future," Fordye wrote.
"A speedy or personal best time at the club time trial or a 10km road race is the perfect answer. But that auspicious answer will only come if runners treat the long run with respect.”
Well, for most of April I did my long runs pretty respectfully - understanding that they are more about getting mileage on the legs than setting records of sorts.
I must admit though that it was a pretty hard undertaking given my propensity to fly through my runs - no matter the distance.
The mileage clocked, I then moved to doing some speedwork, running a few fartleks round my estate as well as doing short distances pretty fast in the past weeks.
I then went and put the ‘pistons and valves’ to the test on Saturday.
I ran the Discovery/94.7 Rhythm Run Speed Lap at the weekend and I must say I felt like an Audi R8 as a motored round that track.
There was about a 160 of us who lined up at the start for the two laps (about 9.47km) and having sussed out the competition, I knew that winning was going to be a hard task.
Two guys who looked like proper runners told me their 10km PBs were 29 minutes. My jaw must have dropped at my hearing this, for one of them laughed and asked: “Are you surprised?”
Surprised? I got s*** scared. The fact that there were guys with PBs almost six minutes better than mine saw my dream of a podium finish to build confidence ahead of Comrades somewhat evaporated. But I decided to give it a go.
As described by ‘MotorMedia’, the race track takes advantage of Kyalami’s naturally undulating landscape to create the challenging blend of sweeping, fast sections and tight technical corners. Of course this is in reference to the cars. But I got exactly what they meant as we ran our way through the circuit.
From the start four of us went into the lead and I knew I had to keep up with those two guys to stand any chance. I discovered very quickly though that they were way out of my league as we went down following the first incline.
Fourth position seemed okay but then one guy went past at about the 3km mark. It was a beautiful experience running on the track. I was seventh when we got through the first lap but I could tell that the two guys in front of me were beatable.
And so I persevered, pushing as hard as I could to keep up with them and then overtook them.
With the fourth-placed runner still within sight I dug deep in the hope I’d catch up but he seemed to get stronger and in the end I had to settle for fifth place.
To all those running the Vaal marathon tomorrow. Congratulations. It was my debut marathon in 1977. Finished in 2:45 running for Wits university training for my first @ComradesRace After all these years still the same finish venue. https://t.co/NZ748P9Qa8 pic.twitter.com/ITrf9hLmZn
While it would have been nice to get onto the podium places, which carried an incredible prize money that the elite road runners don’t even get in most of the top marathons and ultras, for me this was mainly about testing my speed ahead of the Big C.
To complete 9.47km in 32 minutes was pretty satisfactory. Some good speed hey, Bruce?
I am heading to KZN this week with the aim of at least getting a silver medal. To the uninitiated, it means I must complete the 90.184km within seven hours and 30 minutes of the 5.30am start.
The speed is clearly there and the endurance is there. I also believe I have the mental strength to tackle The Ultimate Human Race having completed my maiden one last year, albeit in a pretty pedestrian nine hours 12 minutes - though some said it was a good time for a novice.
God-willing I should be at Moses Mabhida by noon on Sunday.