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Back into Africa

In just over a week I head back out to the fabulous South Africa for another crack at the Comrades Ultra.  It feels like it's sprung out of nowhere as the TP100 race has dominated my thoughts for the past few months but this isn't a race that deserves second billing.  

There's unfinished business after the shoe debacle last year plus the battering from the elements and, assuming there's been sufficient recovery since the 50-odd miles of the Thames Path race, I want another go at a Silver medal.  That means finishing in a gun time of under 7.5 hours.

One of the many quirks of the race is that it changes direction every year and 2014 is a Down run - starting in Pietermaritzburg and ending on the coast in Durban.  Popular opinion is divided equally as to which direction is harder which suggests to me they are both brutal.  The steep downhills you face in this direction, especially as they are all on tarmac, do legendary damage to the quads and they primarily come in the second half after you've already covered more than a standard marathon.

Having run it last year and with more and longer ultras run in preparation this time around it doesn't feel quite as daunting as it did in 2013.  There's no complacency though and I know it will be extremely hard.  I'm hoping that the crowd support will be immense in Durban and as you can see the ocean from some distance away that might draw you in  and give something to aim at.

Having followed the recent Transvulcania race - a race of similar length on La Palma - and deciding I absolutely have to run it in 2015, Comrades feels like a stepping stone to something even more challenging rather than the biggest thing on the horizon.

Course profiles always exaggerate the vertical and you can't compare races of completely different types on elevation alone but the scale of the ascent in the TV is clear.  There's a 10-mile climb of 10% gradient at the start and the long descent is around 15% by which time your legs have taken a severe pounding and are in no state to resist the pull of gravity.


I'm staying in Durban so this time the long coach journey will be before the start which concerns me. It leaves about 2am with the race starting at 5:30am which presents nutritional challenges, not to mention scheduling the essential visit(s) to the bog!

Anticipation and excitement will only build over the next couple of weeks to the world's oldest and biggest ultra when 15,000 people belt out Shosholoza and, as the cannon fires, head out towards the ocean over Pollys, Inchanga, Bothas, Fields and Cowies.

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