Members of the UKZN Athletics Club with other runners on 60km Bongmusa Mthembu Training Marathon which started at Impendle and ended at Bulwer on 29 December 2018.

Fresh into 2019 and the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Athletics Club is set to be the first athletics club in the country to kick off preparations for the 2019 Comrades Marathon through its Comrades Marathon Tester aimed at preparing Comrades Marathon runners both mentally and physically.

Held in partnership with Phantane Athletics Club and divided into distances of 50km and 60km, the tester run- scheduled to take place on Sunday this week (20 January 2019)- will be open to other runners external to the UKZN Athletics Club as well as members of the public who are also preparing for the grueling race which will be a 87km up-run this year. The race will be led by Mr Mduduzi Khumalo, UKZN Athletics Club Coach.

Approximately 250-300 runners are expected to participate in the preparation run which will start on the UKZN Howard college (Gate 10), past Mayville, into Jan Smuts Highway, proceeding to the Comrades route at Sherwood up to Cato Ridge, and finally finishing at the Cato Ridge based Ethembeni School for the disabled and visually impaired children. The school has partnered with the UKZN Athletics Club in providing runners with the necessary facilities upon completion of the race.

“In order to be ready for the Comrades Marathon, one must have run at least 60km,” said Mr Sanele Mbambo, UKZN Athletics Club Chair who is currently completing his PhD studies in Regional Planning at UKZN and also lectures part-time at the University. “The aim (of the tester run) is to prepare runners, especially those who will be running (the Comrades Marathon) for the first time. While this race will also prepare runners physically, the aim is to train them mentally because no matter how physically fit you are, if you aren’t mentally fit for the race, you will not survive. The human body can only run up to 60km (in terms of distance). After that, you need mental strength because the body refuses to push you any further. This year, the race is 87km and is an up-run, so the runners must be prepared,” said Mbambo, who added that runners from all corners of the globe are expected to participate on Sunday’s tester run.

“This tester run will be open to all Comrades runners internationally. It is an annual preparation session which started last year (2018). Even last year, we (UKZN Athletics Club) were the first ones to organise a preparation run and it was hugely successful. Following the one scheduled for Sunday, we’ll have exclusive preparation runs as a club which will not be open to the public,” he said.

Mbambo, who has completed two Comrades Marathons, urged runners to remain focused in their training and preparations for the 2019 Comrades Marathon. He said runners within the club are also looking forward to the race, adding that they did not rest during the festive season as well as prior to that.

“This is a critical time for training. They (runners) must be disciplined and focused. They need to look after themselves and avoid injuries. Their diet is also very important. The earlier they start training and preparing the better instead of beginning at the eleventh hour. The Comrades Marathon can only be completed if one successfully trains. If you train lighter, it’ll be harder on the day. I’m looking forward to this year’s race. It’ll be an up-run which I’m looking forward to. We’ve been doing long runs, especially on hills. We didn’t rest in December. The mood is positive in the club. We are not nervous. I’m sure that the route tester run will also improve the mood amongst the runners,” he said.

Author: Sinegugu Ndlovu