The sun is about to break over the Kgaswane nature reserve in Rustenburg and there is an icy cold chill in the air, but 6 athletes clad in green Nedbank tracksuits and all in the latest Nike trainers emerge for their morning run. It’s something the group is now accustomed to, as they prepare for the biggest battle of the year, the 2022 Comrades Marathon.
Under the watchful eyes of coach Dave Adams, the group consists of 5 males and 1 female, and the pedigree of the athletes in question is like none other. Defending Comrades Marathon champion Edward Mothibi leads the group with training partners Dan Matshaliwe, Joseph Manyedi, Tete Dijana, Johannes Makgetla and Galaletsang Maekgoe in tow.
Manyedi himself finished 5th in the last Comrades Marathon whilst Matshaliwe and iron lady Maekgoe will be making their Comrades debuts this year. With Matshaliwe boasting a 2:14 marathon pb, he will be one of the fastest men in the field and Maekgoe’s 7th place finish in the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km shows she has the potential to be amongst the top 10.
“All of the team are doing well, and the training has been going to plan,” says Adams of his athletes. Guiding Mothibi to a Comrades win in what was only his second Comrades after a 4th place debut the year before, Adams knows the winning formula for a race like Comrades. “We won’t be changing much from 2019 when it comes to the training although we have added a long downhill section to the end of our long runs and are also doing strength training exercises because you need the quads to be strong for those last 35km.”
At last weekends Om Die Dam 50km, the team took the race easy, using it as a training run, with Manyedi, a former winner of the race even running in a full tracksuit. “The aim for Om Die Dam was an easy 3:30 finish and that is exactly what the guys did, ending off the week with 170km in the legs. Overall, the guy will start reaching 200km a week and then we will have 4 weeks which will be over 250km.” The amount of mileage these elite athletes run over an 8-week period can sometimes double the amount of mileage many Comrades social runners will cover in a year.
“Towards the end of July, we will all go to Dullstroom for altitude training and will then finish our preparation and come to Durban ready for action,” says a confident coach Adams. Preparing specifically for Comrades since April this year, the team is dedicated to their craft and testament to the fact that talent alone doesn’t beat hard work.
With the Covid19 pandemic having cancelled both the 2020 and 2021 Comrades Marathon’s, a lot of ultra-runners turned to shorter events and honed their speed, as is the case with defending Comrades champion Mothibi who now boasts an impressive 2:13 marathon best. This year’s Comrades could have the potential to be a fast one. “We are not specifically preparing for a fast race, but we are preparing to be fast enough to win,” Adams says with a smile.