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Behind the Race – Comrades 2012

by on August 8, 2012

After a hectic Comrades week, Saturday evening arrives, and we have less than 10 hours to the Gun. I arrived home with Claude Moshiywa after dropping Leonid Shvestov and his friend at their accommodation in Hilton. Petros Sosibo was already at home and relaxing. My wife cooked food for the guys and then they headed off to bed around 9pm. Not that they were going to get any quality sleep. Far too much nerves and thinking ahead of the race.

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I then begin the process of mixing up 60 bottles of energy drinks, 32GI in fact. Each of the athletes has their preference of flavor so each has to be labeled as well. Claude for example likes his drinks on the day to be ice cold, and others prefer just room temperature.  So these are packed in cooler boxes and some into the deep freeze. This takes about 90 minutes to do properly. My wife on the other hand is busy making food for the day.  So the kitchen is just hectic and looking like a tornado is going through it. I then check and recheck arrangements for the next day. I have all these silly check lists to go through and for real I irritate myself, as I make these lists! This race is so important that one cannot have anything out of line once we wake up, as there is just no time to rectify anything.  I want my guys to wake up and everything must be in place. As with each guy they all have their own pre race routines that they go through. So I really don’t want then to worry about the slightest thing.  My wife makes sure everything for breakfast is ready for the guys before heading for bed.

Eventually at around midnight I have a bath and climb in to bed to get a couple of hours sleep. 3am the alarm goes off and its “game day.”  I must be up early as I have to get Claude drinks out the deep freeze so they don’t actually turn to ice, but must be as cold as possible. Pack the rest of the cooler boxes with the ice water, coke (for me, as I drink this by the truck load), make flasks of coffee,  and then pack the car, which was sponsored by Peugeot PMB, a 3008 (Fantastic car).  Around 03H 20 the guys wake up and we get ready to leave. Not much time to eat but they eat a small breakfast. The smell of Deep Heat is rife around the house. Not too much talking or banter is about as the guys start to get focused and get into their thoughts. But you can feel the electricity in the air. It’s exciting!

As we head out to the start at the City Hall, one last check that nothing is left behind and we go. It’s 04H00 and it takes about 20 minutes to get to the start. We arrive and Petros and Claude opt to stay in the car for 20 minutes before going into the City Hall to warm up. I meet up with the journalist Aletta Gardner who is going to be travelling with me and my wife for the day and reporting for EWN on what happens behind the scenes whilst the guys are racing. We move into City Hall for the guys to warm up as its 04H40. Things so far are going as we wanted according to the time.  Every details is planned from where we will be at what time etc and its up to me to make sure this happens so the athletes don’t actually have to think of much.

We arrive inside the City Hall and there are all the top contenders going through their race routines. Some are sitting around, whilst others are chatting to their friends / coaches or managers. Basically inside the City Hall, the guys just run around the inside of the hall to get their legs warmed up. It’s pretty weird actually. There is also a strange vibe inside the hall but for the most part is one of excitement, but at the same time very subdued and very serious, as each athlete checks out the competitors and how they look etc etc. One cant but help looking at the athletes and thinking, from this group will be the victor, who will it be?  I take a moment to do an interview for EWN and then get back to last minute chats with the guys.  Collen Makaza is with me and he takes off his tracksuit and does a few laps around the hall, and it was pretty funny to see some of the guys look a little surprised to see him doing that, as no one had said anything of him running Comrades, so it got a few guys stirred up, as he was 3rd at Two Oceans a few weeks earlier, so was in good form. Collen also holds the record for the fastest time to halfway in the down run which he achieved in 2009.

At around 5H10 a voice shouts out, “Time Ladies and Gentleman,” which is one of the start Official from the CMA letting the athletes know its time to go to the start line. Immediately you feel the tension rise to another level. I take a brief moment and pull Claude aside for a last minute reassurance that he is awesome and that no matter what happens in the next 5H30 minutes he is a Champion.  I give him a hug and can sense that he is a bit nervous but at the same time sense that he knows he is ready and going to have a good race.

I see the other guys off in the same manner, Petros, Sandile, Paul and John.

15 minutes to start time!!!!

We get outside the Hall and the crowd of runners, all 16 000 odd are in their places, and the singing of Shosholoza is pretty moving. There is of course the customary thing that happens at Comrades Start – National Anthem of South Africa is sung, then the Chariots of Fire played, and then the Rooster Crow and then the gun goes and the race is on.

I head off about 100m from the front of the start to get some pictures; OK

I’m not that good with a camera so all the photos are being taken by my wife.  All this time whilst I have been chatting with the athletes and making sure things are all 100% my wife is working furiously taking photos and uploading to Twitter to pretty much give a live account of things on the day, not only for the athletes but one has to give back to our sponsors and the athletes sponsors. So Comrades day is very much a team effort.

It is just no possible for me to do the photos and commentary on the race as well as drive, do time splits and concentrate on the race things, so I have to throw in a HUGE thank you to Donnette for all she does for me and the athletes.

Part 2 – The Race and How it Unfolded – To Follow

  1. plustenner permalink

    you and Donette are amazing!! as are all your runners.. can’t wait for the second edition

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