Images : SMacPix & courtesy René Kalmer
supported my first Comrades Marathon back in 2012 . I travelled down to Durban with my best friend from kindergarten , also Rene , and my future father-in-law , to support my future husband , Andre , and the rest of his ‘ Hardloop is Alles ’ Whatsapp group . Andre clocked one of his “ fastest ” Comrades Marathons that year , 11:11:18 – that was when he still wanted to impress me . We only started dating later that year , after the 2012 Olympic Games in London , and as they say , the rest is history …
The following years were true relationship-testers , as Andre finished all his Comrades between seven and four minutes before the 12-hour cut-off . ( I call it “ madness ,” he calls it “ perfect timing !”) Luckily , Andre forgot to train and enter for this year ’ s Comrades , so the Murray & Roberts team had my full attention . And as a member of the ‘ Black & Yellow ’ club ’ s management team , I have new respect for all the months of planning that go on behind the scenes in preparation for a race such as Comrades .
Behind the scenes
Six weeks before this 95th Comrades Marathon , the top contenders from Murray & Roberts travelled down to KZN to do their last long run on the actual route , and it was a privilege to join the team for this dress rehearsal weekend . We stayed in Camperdown , where fellow M & R clubmates and Comrades legends , Grace and Eloi De Oliveira , shared their Comrades war stories with the team .
We were also fortunate that Comrades Race Director Rowan James could join our team-building session
Wonderful team-building with the Murray & Roberts team before the big race
to give us more insight into all the planning and organisation that goes into The Ultimate Human Race . Then on the Sunday morning , the team did a 60km long run from Polly Shortts to Pinetown , and I joined some of the ladies on the last 20km , which was the first time I had actually run on the Comrades route . To sum it up in one word : Awe-inspiring !
Off to the Comrades
After three years , two months and 20 days , it was finally time to travel to Pietermaritzburg for the start of the 89,88km ‘ Down Run .’ After a few days in Durban , our team stayed at the prestigious Maritzburg College the night before the race , and it was a quiet drive up from Durban , with a few nervous giggles and big eyes seeing the kilometres and hills tick by . The drive felt extra-long for me , and I honestly could not imagine running all the way back , but I decided to keep that thought to myself .
Andre joined me in Durban after doing the 90km Fish River Canyon hike with his varsity palls in the week before Comrades . This is also the reason he cites for not entering Comrades in 2022 . Hats off , though , to one of his friends , Abe Kempen , who did the hike , then still lined up for Comrades three days later . In spite of two huge blisters on his feet , he still comfortably completed Comrades !
It was my first experience of the start of the ‘ Down Run ’ at the Maritzburg Town Hall , and Chariots of Fire was a true “ goosebumps moment ,” but I still can ’ t imagine how it must feel to actually line up for The Ultimate Human Race . After that , our first support stop on the route was near Camperdown (+/ - 25km )
‘ Crying ugly ’ while watching Jenna Challenor crawl over the finish line in fourth place
and it was great to spot so many familiar faces going past . Our next stop was in Pinetown , before we headed to the finish at Moses Mabhida Stadium to see the leading women cross the line .
Time to Celebrate
What a performance by the ladies in Black & Yellow ! We saw an amazing podium finish for Adele Broodryk , who finished third on her Comrades debut , followed by Jenna Challenor in fourth position . Jenna had the whole of South Africa on the edge of their seats when her legs collapsed in the final metres of the race , but she finally managed to crawl over the finish line , and I ’ m sure that I was not the only one ‘ crying ugly ’ for Jenna . That opened the floodgates , and I could not help crying again when my good friend , Janie Grundling , entered the stadium in eighth position . The last time we tracked her , she was lying 12th at the Sherwood checkpoint .
Next it was very special to see Annerie Wooding bagging a gold medal , by finishing ninth on her debut . Annerie and I grew up together and attended the same church and primary school . Another inspiration , Yolande Maclean , clinched 10th place in her 10th Comrades , and earned a ninth gold medal ! Earlier , another clubmate , Lutendo Mapoto , also made history by winning the first gold medal for Murray & Roberts in the men ’ s race , coming home 10th in 5:47:20 .
About the Author
René Kalmer is a two-time Olympian , having represented SA in the 1500m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in the marathon at the 2012 London Games . She has also won more than 40 SA titles in track , road and cross country at youth , junior and senior level , in distances from 800m to the half marathon .