Former Comrades Marathon winner weighs in on postponement

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With the postponement of this year’s Comrades Marathon, athletes are responding on how this affects their current training schedule and plans for the rest of the year.

In a statement, Athletics South Africa (ASA) announced the postponement of the marathon dubbed as the Ultimate Human Race, from June 14th to a suitable date to be determined between ASA, KZN Athletics and the Comrades Marathon Association.

The announcement of the postponement leaves athletes in a very uncertain space. The new date is yet to be announced. Several athletes are still in the process of qualifying, begging the question that, even when the lockdown is lifted, will the qualifying races be held to enable them to do so? The Two Oceans Marathon, which was scheduled for this month has also been cancelled.

2001 Comrades Marathon winner Gift Kelehe says the postponement of this year’s race is not a problem but will require a shift in training. He says he’s focused on keeping up with his training while obeying the lockdown regulations.

“We just have to soldier on and try and comply with the rules and regulations set by the government. We can run Comrades in November or December it doesn’t matter. Because I hear people are complaining if we run then it will be too hot. I don’t think it’s a problem. For us as athletes, we need to just adapt, change where you are training or change a little bit of your programme just adjust there and there,” says Kelehe.

In this video below, ASA President Aleck Skhosana talks about the decision to postpone:

Kelehe’s advice for amateur runners who may be feeling down and out is to modify, stick to the plan and keep on going.

“Other people are using skipping ropes. Just keep focused. Don’t lose hope because remember the mindset … the mind is the engine of the body. If your mind is not right, obviously your body will suffer,” says Kelehe.

For Westville Athletics club runner, Kylie Griffin, the postponement has left runners feeling very uncertain. This would have been her 8th Comrades.

Griffin is currently running laps in her small garden to keep up with her training programme. To clock four kilometers requires about sixty laps.

“Most Comrades runners had got to a fairly good level. They were stepping it up and April is supposed to be for us, a high mileage month. For many runners, Comrades is basically the first half of your year. Then in the second half you go onto something else, I know for myself that’s cross country. Possibly having comrades in September or October puts me at odds in terms of my training for cross country,” says Griffin.

She says athletes will need to accept the changing face of many races in the months to come.

“A lot of people hadn’t qualified yet and in order to do that, we need to do marathons which are by nature group events. Whether organisers now have to get creative and maybe do staggered starts and that’s going to take a lot of creative brainstorming. Runners are going to have to accept that if we want to have our events, we’re going to have to accept the changes that are going to go with the organisation of that event,” says Griffin.

Meanwhile, the Comrades Marathon Association has announced a donation of R100 000 to the Solidarity Fund and a further R150 000 to humanitarian aid organisation, the Gift of the Givers, to aid in the fight against COVID-19.