The Comrades experience - Vuvu Qokweni

As much as this article is about my Comrades marathon experience, it also is about my journey to overall wellness.  I feel it’s important that I first give a brief outline about my history so that you can fully appreciate why Comrades 2017 means so much to me.  I used to be a couch potato that used to weigh 100kgs and used to wear size 44.  I had always had the mentality that because I’m born in a family that is generally big then that’s my destiny.  It was in 2009 when I was jolted out of that mindset and didn’t like the way I looked and started doing something about it.  Initially I joined weight loss groups such as Weigh-Less, Herbalife etc so that I can find a way of changing my eating habits so as to lose the weight.  I also started running in 2010 in order to maintain the weight lost.  I did lose some of the weight but not to my satisfaction and as much as I was progressing in my running in terms of increasing distance I just felt that I’m not progressing as much as I should.

I decided to search for a professional coach because I felt that perhaps there’s something I am missing in my training hence the plateau in my running.  I then found out about My Training Day and joined the coachmanship of Richard Lawrie in July 2015.  My word, was I blown from the start.  The squad runs and professional advice that I was getting from Richard was exquisite, and really what I needed. I must admit that it was difficult at first to get into the rhythm, it felt as if it was my first time running. The quality of the training and the people I was training with were just awesome.  What I loved about Richard’s coaching was that he encourages you to push your limits while also encouraging you to compete with yourself and nobody else. 

One of the first things I mentioned to him was that I was feeling too heavy and that I’m struggling to make any of the times he was expecting from me.  He then suggested that I try out the Banting lifestyle because it had worked for him.  That was the best decision that I ever took because banting has taken me to an absolute high.  The energy levels that I am having are enormous and I will never go back to my old habits.  When I joined My Training Day I was averaging at 7.2 mins/km but now I’m easily averaging at 5.40 mins/km.  I was weighing 79kgs and wearing size 38 when I joined but now I’m weighing in at 63kgs and wearing size 32.

My last Comrades marathon in 2015 I had done a time of 11hrs 43mins.  I decided to take a break last year because I wanted to get used to the new techniques in my running ever since I joined my Training Day.  So this year Richard and I were working hard to get me to do a superb Comrades 2017.  One other thing is that we were using the Comrades marathon as my training run for the Mighty Washie 100 miler that’s in July.  So to keep it a training run, the plan was to have a conservative first half and then push on the second half since it’s the Comrades uprun.  So on the 4th June 2017 I set out on a conservative start, making sure I get into a comfortable rhythm and just take the hills easy, especially on the first 37kms until the top of Bothas Hill.  So during that period I stayed with a Sub 11hr bus, but after the 37km mark I decided to break off from that bus and move a bit faster so that I can be able to be on my own and listen to my body and my own thoughts.

 At that point it had started to get quite hot but I persevered.  I increased my pace from conservative to cruise from half-way until about the 70km mark, making sure I hydrate properly to keep cool.  It was at the 70km mark where I really started letting loose and changed my pace from cruise to fast, my legs were just responding only at that point did I realize that I was set for a clean Sub 11 hrs.  I was feeling so strong that I ran up little Pollys and up Polly shorts, hills that are notorious for being walked.  I had such a strong finish, my time was 10:39 which is a 1 hour 4 minute improvement from my last Comrades marathon.  I feel that my training and eating lifestyle really paid off on the day because I never got hungry at all on the road.  I had a good breakfast before the race and all I ate on the road were a few banana and potato bites and some oranges and then energade and water.  Coke I only got to take in the last 30kms of the race.  What an experience.  I have the utmost respect for Richard Lawrie’s coachmanship. 

I feel ready for the Washie 100 miler on the 7th July.

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