It takes perfect preparation for me to run 87km within 11 hours. 100% focus is the bare-necessity. Read Philip’s full story

I made some notes to myself about my Comrades run which may be of interest to you. I started out making these notes in an attempt to capture my initial reactions to running this race as I know from past Comrades that one forgets quickly the pain and the event itself. It was an attempt to document a list of reasons why I should never run another one, but turned out less negative than I imagined it would. Remember this was written a night after Comrades while my legs were still sore and my memory still vivid!

Here goes:
Lessons learnt from Comrades 2004:

1) Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever (a quote from Lance Armstrong’s book, but something that I kept repeating to myself every time I wanted to bail, which was frequent!)

2) You can go through a number of walls and revive yourself. I proved to myself that even when I thought my race was run, and I would have to walk the last 30kms, somehow there was still some energy that got me going again. I ran the last 6km (after Polly Shortts) in approximately 6mins a km, even though I had walked a large part of the preceding 30km, and passed 400 other runners between the top of Polly Shortts and the finish despite thinking that I was having the worst day of anybody in the race.

3) This is not just another race, and the day is much bigger than goal times or colours of a medal. It is good to have goals, but they certainly should not be the benchmark as to whether you had a good day or not, and one must be prepared to discard goals should they not be panning out on the day, without getting despondent about it. Despite missing my goal-time by an hour, I am immensely proud of my achievement and of anyone who manages to finish this race. What is of interest to me is that after running three different races, on very different levels of training (800km – 2000, 1200km – 2001 and 1800km – 2004), my times are all within 35minutes of each other (11hr15 – 2000, 10hr39-2001 and 10hr50 – 2004) for this ultra. This is despite the fact that my marathon and 21km times have improved by a great deal over the different years.

4) Doing a good deal of mileage for this year did not guarantee a great race day, but it did ensure a very speedy recovery and very little discomfort the day after the race. Recovery has been quick and damage seems to have been limited.

5) The tables for converting marathon times into Comrades times do not work for me! I wonder if this has something to do with my size (being a heavier runner) and a faster fatigue level setting in over the 50km distances.

6) It takes perfect preparation for me to run 87km within 11 hours. 100% focus is the bare-necessity and I would not like to run this race under-prepared.

7) The joy and elation at the end makes the pain and suffering worthwhile, but you will only realise this at the end, and this will be your long-term memory, you will forget the 9 odd hours of suffering!

8) The heat is my real obstacle on the day, there is no shade after midday on the up-run and it becomes a living hell!

9) The pain is halved when shared with a running companion. It is far easier to run with someone for company (in my case, I was lucky enough to share this incredible event with my wife) rather than by yourself.