Comrades Marathon dream realised for Charne Bosman
06 June 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. If you followed the Comrades Marathon 2016 you’ll know what an incredible day it was. From the men’s race to the ladies race and right to the 12 hour cut-off, a day filled with drama.
A great pleasure to welcome our next guest onto the show. She is the 2016 Comrades Marathon Ladies Champion, Charné Bosman joins us. Charné, welcome, I’m sure you can’t get enough of hearing that, the 2016 Comrades Marathon Ladies Champion, it sounds good doesn’t it?
Charné Bosman: It does sound good but ja, it still feels like a dream. I can’t believe it, it’s a long life dream. I’ve been running for 24 years and I think anyone that stays in South Africa, that’s a runner, it’s a dream to win Comrades one day. It’s still like an unreal dream, I can’t believe it.
BB: Charné, you talk about how long you’ve dreamt about this and like you say, you’ve been running for 24 years. Can you remember when you first thought about it? Where you thought, I want to win the Comrades Marathon one day?
At 16 it felt like an unrealistic dream
CB: Yes, I think I started running when I was 16 and I’ve been watching Comrades since a young child. When I started running, it was just a dream. I thought I will never be able to do that because it’s such a long distance. Because when you’re 16 years old you just think about a shorter distance. You think of finishing 10km.
I always looked at Bruce Fordyce and I was always thinking, sjoe, that’s such an amazing thing, 89km, that’s quite far. I must say, that was only a dream. It was like a dream that I never thought will ever come true. On Sunday, ja, I can’t describe the feeling, it’s just unbelievable and I’m so, so happy. I think everyone could have seen my smile coming into that stadium and going over that finishing line, ja, it’s just amazing. Comrades is such an amazing race.
Since I started running Comrades in 2013, I just realised what is all this fuss about Comrades. Because when I was younger and I was running around the streets, people would ask me, are you running Comrades? Sometimes that just frustrated me because I was so young and people expected me to run, that I’m a Comrades runner. Then I just realised in 2013, running my first Comrades, I realised that running Comrades, that’s the reason why everyone is talking about Comrades. You’re only a real runner in South Africa if you run Comrades.
So, since then, I just realised with all the support, even in 2013, came in fifth, that year I came second in Two Oceans. Coming 5th was such a bigger race and position. I was so happy coming fifth and with all the support along the road, I just realised that day that Comrades is such a big race. I always thought Two Oceans was also a big race, coming second that year, I thought that’s a big position. I took, coming second, but after coming fifth I just realised that Comrades is such a bigger race.
BB: Charné, you talk about the close misses, you talk about the fifth and second at Comrades last year. It’s been a long time coming and you’ve worked so hard at this. It must be very special to be rewarded with a win like this. That particularly, and let’s talk about Old Mutual Two Oceans this year as well, you didn’t have your best of races although from a position perspective you would be happy with where you finished.
But from a racing perspective and a confidence perspective, you must have taken a bit of a knock. How sweet was this victory with everything that’s happened over the last 24 years and let’s look at the last two years? So close, but yet so far. Now you get to stand on the top step of a Comrades Marathon podium.
When all your close calls and hard work pay off
CB: Yes, you know, 2013 was such a high, coming the first South African in Comrades and second at Two Oceans. They said I’m a next ultra marathon queen. I was on such a high and after my father passed away six weeks after my first Comrades, I think that was the biggest shock of my life. I started with health problems.
I think the morning when they told me at 2:30, phone your mother, your father just passed away, that was the biggest shock of my life. I think that’s where all my problems started with my thyroid going over-active. I just decided that day after I heard my father has passed away, I’m going to run 2014 for him.
Never I thought it’s going to be such a tough year because a thyroid is such a, it’s a treatment that takes a long time. When I went into Comrades 2014, I wanted so much to run such a good race for my father and that year I didn’t finish the race because of health problems. I passed out at 60km with 29km to go. The only thing I remember was in hospital the doctor said, you were minutes away from death and that was quite a shock to me.
I had to pick myself up and tell myself, I will come back stronger, I will come back to Comrades again. 2015 I just wanted to run a good Comrades again. I didn’t expect to come second. Second place that year was also, that was always like a big win for me, coming second. Because of after what happened in 2014.
Then going into 2016, I knew Caroline was in good shape and I just decided, I can’t focus on any other athlete and that’s what I did. I just followed my race map, but before the 2016 Comrades, so many things happened. I was in good shape, running at 2:48 at the beginning of the year in a relaxing marathon, that was no effort for me. But like two days, no, I think it was one day before Two Oceans I started with a bladder infection. I didn’t realise this.
I only heard after my race. I still managed fourth position. I knew Two Oceans, I was in the best shape of my life and that was quite a big disappointment. But fourth place wasn’t so bad. But I realised that God had other plans for me because sometimes things happen for a reason.
I took a week off, easy running and then I started with a week of training again and my training went well. That Friday, I think it was the 8th of April, I was in such a hurry I did a great tempo run that morning. Like 55 minutes for 15 km and I realised I’m back on track again and Comrades, I’m looking forward to Comrades.
How a broken toe nearly side-lined Charné
That morning, just before 9:00 I ran into the bathroom and I bumped my toe against the wall and I just knew something was terribly wrong with my toe. I was in such great pain and I didn’t realise I broke my toe at that point. Then the next morning I took a rest morning and then that afternoon I went for a run. I could feel something wasn’t 100% with my toe, but I still could run 10km.
Then on that Sunday I did 48kms. I finished in first place, but I could feel in that race, when I was running, something is not 100% with my toe. After the race my toe was quite swollen and that Monday I went for my morning run because I just through maybe it’s just bruised. I could feel that my toe, I could feel something is not right. I thought my toe was just really bruised, but I could feel inside when I was running that something is not right.
Then the next morning, the Tuesday I thought let me just go for an x-ray, just to see it’s not broken, just to make sure. Because I was supposed to go on a training camp in 10 days and that Tuesday I got the biggest shock, my toe was broken. The doctor said to me, six weeks out. I was down for four hours, I was so negative and I thought Comrades is over and how can this happen.
I had a bad Two Oceans and now Comrades. Then in the next four hours I was negative and then I took my tablet and I started Googling and I phoned also Dr Org and I said to him, listen here, would I be able to train, I just broke my pinkie toe? It’s just a toe, can I make more damage and he said to me, no, you can’t do more damage, you just need to take the pain, that’s the only thing.
Then I started Googling and I came to this hospital that have the hyperbaric oxygen tanks and I read about it. I just sent a message to the doctor and I asked him, will you be able to help me. I need to run Comrades in six weeks’ time. I need to get back in training in the next 10 days at least because I’m going on my training camp on the 22nd of April.
He said to me, you can come the next day and he was such a nice doctor. He said to me he will give me four sessions for free and I went every day. I went in this hyperbaric oxygen tank for 70 minutes. Then the week before the training camp, that was for eight sessions and then I also started running on an anti-gravity treadmill. I could feel my toe but I just tried to block the pain out.
Then I did four sessions on the anti-gravity treadmill and that Friday I did my last session at 90% of my bodyweight on the anti-gravity treadmill. Then that afternoon we left for training camp and Charné didn’t train for two weeks. I did one week on that watt bike and then a few sessions on the anti-gravity treadmill. We arrived at the training camp and I knew, I don’t know what’s going to happen.
The next morning, I had to start training. I remember that morning, was walking around the house for like two hours because I was so scared to start running again. I started running with 20km and it felt okay. I did 20km and the next morning I needed to do a 40km. Lindsey said to me, if you can just do 36km that would be great, but I was feeling fine. Did 40km and I was happy because I knew I’m back now. So that’s what I did.
Then the next week we did the long 60km run and I did 200km and I went on with my training. But some mornings I could still feel my toe but after each session I iced it for 4-6 times per day. I just gave it all the attention. I put some ice on and I was just looking after my toe because I knew, just three more weeks to get through on this training camp and then I will be ready for Comrades and that’s my story.
Amazingly, I must say, it’s only a miracle, I was praying every day, just to get to Comrades. I was so scared that my toe was going to give me problems on Comrades day, but I didn’t feel my toe. So I must say, I do have a little bit of thicker toe at this moment, but that’s maybe because of all the treatment and that’s it. It’s just a miracle.
Then the cherry on top, I thought from six weeks ago, before Comrades, I just thought, I just need to go to Comrades and even if I can just finish Comrades. That’s the reason why I didn’t tell anyone. Lindsey was the only one that knew I broke my toe. He couldn’t believe it and ja, I didn’t want to tell Nick my team manager because I didn’t want to upset him. I didn’t want to tell any of my running friends because I don’t want people to ask me every day, how is your toe. That’s such a negative thing, if you have to hear every day people asking you, how’s your toe.
I just thought no, I’m not going to tell no media, I don’t want any excuses for this year’s Comrades. I’m just going to tell people after Comrades. I think that’s the best thing because when people ask me how the training has been going, I just said, no, very well. But they didn’t know what I went through. That’s why this victory is such a blessing and I’m so happy. Because with all the obstacles I went through and ja, so that’s, sometimes you need to go through all these obstacles.
I think breaking my toe, that was a blessing for me and also it made me so mentally tough. It made me so much more hungry to run Comrades and to train. Because I just realised after I didn’t run for two weeks, every day when I ran, I was so thankful to run again. I think that’s made me so hungry to do well at Comrades this year.
BB: I love it, Charné, I do not have a clue how you kept that a secret, to be honest. Lindsey and I are pretty close, we chat many times in a week and he pretty much tells me everything. I’ll say to him, how is Charné feeling, off the record and how’s Caroline feeling off the record. He tells me stuff that he wouldn’t normally tell and he did not mention one thing about the toe.
Hooking up with Coach Parry
When I found out about that on race day, following the race, I couldn’t believe it. Let’s talk about Lindsey and your relationship with him as a coach. He is a phenomenal guy and I’m not just saying that because I’m friends with him. But I just see how he deals with his athletes and how his athletes react to the work that he does with them. Your relationship with Lindsey? Tell me a little bit about that.
CB: Yes, I think that was the best move I ever made after 2014, didn’t finish Comrades. I wanted to start training with Lindsey and I must say, I just enjoy my training. He’s so professional with his programmes. I just trust Lindsey. If he tells me something, I trust him. That’s why I will do everything he says to me.
I just think the way we train and the way I used to train, it’s so different. He doesn’t try to break you down on every session. I only have two hard sessions a week and I must tell you, that’s the reason why I’m enjoying my training. I can do everything, that’s why I will be able to do 210km before Comrades, the week and didn’t take too much out of me. Because he knows how to put the programme together.
I’m so thankful for me to be training with Lindsey and I just enjoy training with him. I must tell you, I trust his programmes and he’s such a great guy. With my race plan also, I just trusted him. I know what he knows and I know when he gave me something. He tells me, listen, you’re in this shape and that’s what you need to do.
That’s why I trusted my race plan, race day, I knew I need to stay on this plan, I can’t go faster and that’s what I did in the first half. I just stuck to my race plan because I trusted Lindsey so much in my race plan and I know what he put into that.
He didn’t just give me a piece of paper and tell me this is this and that’s why I trusted the plan. That’s the reason why I trust Lindsey so much in my programme. I’m very happy with Lindsey and I must tell you, he’s the best coach. He’s the best Comrades coach and he also gives the right advice. I can ask him about what must I do with my toe, how must I approach and he just gave me the correct advice. I’m glad to have Lindsey as part of my team.
BB: Let’s talk about another important part of your team and he doesn’t like us talking about him, he likes to be in the background. But your husband Carel plays a massive part. I know he’s extremely proud of you and he’s stepped out of the limelight, the spotlights on you. But Carel plays a special part in Team Charné Bosman, doesn’t he?
Charné and Carel – there is no I in team
CB: Yes, I just gave him a card yesterday and that just thanked him because I said to him, Charné is two parts. One part is I can’t function without my husband, he’s part of me. On race day also, I just trusted him, he was on the motorcycle the whole day and what he says to me, I just trusted him. He planned everything. He went on training camp with me. He will give so much, he was there for like two weeks and then he’d come and fetch me again at the training camp. I trust my husband in everything. I can’t do anything without him.
If I had to run Comrades, I would be able to come first, this is my victory, but this is also his victory because he’s part of Charné. I just love him and I was waiting for him. I felt so sorry for him because 1km before the end I just asked him, where is Caroline? Because when I passed her, she’s chasing me and he said to me, no, she’s not near and that’s when I realised I might be winning Comrades.
At that point he needed to get into the stadium and when he wanted to get into the stadium I said to him, you can’t go through here where we went in. So he’s not a runner and he had to run all around the stadium to get inside. So, I asked him this morning, how did you feel? He said he could hear all the people and he could hear the commenters and ja, he was so happy.
He only arrived there after I crossed the finishing line and then I saw him, ag, I was so happy to see him. Because this is his victory also because we’re a team. We do everything together. He will be there, we went through a plan, he said to me, listen, you need to stay here. He’s going to give me some key words to remember.
I remember at one point he said to me, okay, after 18km there was like a flat session where you can quite make up time in Comrades. He said to me, okay, you need to fly like a butterfly. I remember this one guy said, fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee and I thought what the hell. My poor husband tells me key words and the other people that was running with me are chirping me.
He gave me some nice key words to remember and my race plan and he was telling me, you’re on race, at one point he told me, you’re looking good and I couldn’t remember. He said to me, remember what you said, you said thank you, I just thanked everyone that tells me, you’re looking good. I just said to me, I didn’t realise I said thank you. Ja, so he’s such a part of everything, he put so much effort into my running, more than he would put into his cycling. I can’t thank my husband or say enough, he’s part of me.
The importance of running your own race
BB: That’s incredible. Charné, just with regards to that win, I’m sure you’ve seen some of the footage since race day and looking how Caroline ran. You mentioned it a couple of times here today about the importance of running your own race. You obviously went into the race with a plan and time goals of what you were going to run.
Caroline did exactly the same and I think that’s a very important lesson and not just for elite runners. I think everybody in the Comrades field needs to hear this, that you need to run your own race. You can’t run with someone because Comrades is a long day. So much can go right, but so much can go wrong as well. I think Caroline’s race is probably a prime example of that.
That if what you do on race day and you run to your potential on race day, if that’s good enough to win, then fantastic. But you can’t rely on chasing someone else because you’re just then going to ruin your own race. You’ve got to run within yourself and do what you need to do and it showed perfectly in the ladies race on Sunday. That sometimes things don’t go someone’s way, but when you run your own race and things fall into place, it’s wonderful.
CB: Yes, that’s what I said before on the news and everywhere. I said to them, and that’s the advice I gave to everyone, even with the 12 hour runners. You need to have a race plan on race day. You can’t start too fast. You need to know your abilities; you need to know exactly what you want to do on Comrades day.
You can’t go into a race when some elite athlete passes you and starts telling you stuff, okay, I’m going to start chasing this one because Caroline came past me. I think after, just before 2km into the race. I was tempted to start running with her because I knew we’re almost on the same, ja, we were the same form almost.
Something inside me just said to me, stick to your race plan. I was looking at my watch and I knew, no, I need to stay on my race plan. I was already a little bit in front of my plan. That’s very important. Sometimes you get tempted, even in a race and you need to stick to your race plan.
I’m so glad I did that because ja, there was many times, then I saw the elite vehicle and I could see there Caroline goes. I didn’t start panicking because I just knew, I must just look at my watch. I knew I’m on my race plan and that’s my time target, I needed to get to that. The whole day I was not worrying because I knew I need to stick to the race plan.
I remember in 2014 Ellie Greenwood told me that people were telling her, she’s 10 minutes behind the Russians and she still managed to catch them near the end. I think that was quite a positive thing to me also because I think halfway, they were also telling me I’m 10 minutes behind Caroline.
I didn’t get panicked because I knew this is a long race and anything can happen. If she wins, it’s fine, then she’s a better athlete than me on the day, but I didn’t start panicking. I was just telling myself, stay focused and just stay on your race plan and just run your own race.
Even with 15km to go, I think she was still 11 minutes in front of me and at one point there was like a thought coming into my mind, I thought ag, it’s going to be second again. Then I said to myself, this race is not over, there’s 15km to go. I never realised that people on the television could see what emotions and what happened with Caroline, but people were telling me next to the road, Caroline is cramping.
I thought, you can’t trust too much and I didn’t take it too seriously. I was just focusing on running my own race, with 15km to go. At 10km, still people were telling me and my husband told me, she just fell, ja, but still I thought, okay, she’s walking. I know the strategy of walking and running and I thought maybe she’s just doing that.
I was just focusing on my own race and I think it was at 4km to go, it was the first time I could see, there’s the leading vehicle and that’s when I started just picking up the pace and just starting chasing. I said from the beginning to Lindsey also, the 5km, or 6km to go, I will start giving everything. That’s exactly what I did and I started picking up the pace.
Then the next moment I could see her and I could see that it was going slow and I thought, okay, maybe she’s walking at this point. Maybe it’s her strategy to walk and then she’s going to start running again. So, even coming down that hill, I started to run much faster because that’s how I approach all my races. When I pass somebody, I start to pick up the pace.
Because if you pass somebody, that they will think that’s the pace you run and when I passed her, I didn’t look left or right. I just, I was so scared, I needed to go as fast as possible. Because I was scared she was going to start running, chasing me and I didn’t want to lose Comrades, like I said you, with two seconds.
At that point I didn’t realise I was so close to it because people don’t realise, I think there was about eight motorbikes and cyclists. You don’t know where to run and it’s such a noise coming into the city. Everyone is cheering you on.
When I saw last night, I was looking at footage last night, I saw I was quite close to her. I didn’t realise I passed her so close. But at that moment, when I passed her, it’s like killer instinct, you just need to get to that finishing line. When I was standing there after finishing Comrades, I could see on the big screen that she’s struggling. When she came in, that’s why after the race I was waiting for her.
I must tell you, I felt so sorry for her, last night when I watched the footage. I don’t know if people know, but I think it’s such an accomplishment to finish Comrades. I think she was in such a lot of pain and ja, I can’t imagine. I must take my hat off to Caroline, to finish still with 17km to go, in so much pain. I must say, I’ve got so much respect for her to still finish in second place.
Maybe she went out a little bit too fast at some point, but I know Caroline and she’s a great competitor. I know, she will come back next year much stronger. She will look at this race and she will look where she made her mistakes and she will come back. She will always be a fearful competitor and she’s also very happy.
She knows me. We went for coffee just after Two Oceans and she knows what I went through at Two Oceans. She knows what happened in 2014 and she said to me she’s really happy for me. I know she means that sincerely because I know her. She didn’t just say that just for saying that because she knows I’ve been working for such a long time, also to win Comrades. I’m so glad she could finish Comrades still in second place.
Keeping it Proudly South African
BB: Charné, I could not agree more, I was going to ask you if you had seen the footage of the race and you answered the question before I even asked. It was an incredibly courageous performance from Caroline Wostmann, so you rightly say. She will bounce back from this, just like you have. It’s often the races that don’t go according to plan where you learn the biggest lessons and you bounce back from that better and stronger than before.
I’m really looking forward to Comrades 2017. I know it’s still a long way away and it’s probably not something you want to think about right now as you still recover from Comrades 2016. But thank you for the part that you played in an incredible Comrades Marathon in 2016, it was an honour to watch it. I’m sure everyone agrees with me. You are a worthy winner and we are so proud of what you’ve done in your career, but also Comrades 2016, well deserved and congratulations once again.
CB: Thank you so much and I just want to thank all the people out there, all the supporters. You know, South Africa, we have the best supporters and Comrades in the best ultra marathon in the world. I’m so glad and proud to be a South African and I’m glad that it’s a second year that it’s still a South African race.
The foreigners still came into this race and we still proved that we’re hungry, we want to keep this race in South Africa and make it a South African. I’m glad that it was a South African winner in the ladies and in the men because Comrades is a Proudly South African race, thank you.
BB: I’m going to end it like I started it, the 2016 Ladies Champion from the Comrades Marathon, Charné Bosman. Thank you so much for your time, much appreciated.
CB: Thank you, thank you so much for having me on your show.