Comrades Marathon have you covered once again in 2016
16 May 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. Not long to go now until Comrades race day. It’s almost become a bit of a tradition in the build up to Comrades where we chat to the Race Director to find out if everything on track. Some last minute instructions, if you’d like, for the runners. It’s always a great pleasure to welcome him back onto the podcast. Comrades Marathon Race Director, Rowyn James, welcome.
Rowyn James: Morning Brad, thanks, good to be back, good to have a chat to you again. Good day, greetings, good morning or goodnight or whatever to all the listeners.
BB: Rowyn, I love chatting to you, particularly around this time of the year, in the build-up, the last few days, few weeks before Comrades. You’re so cool, calm and collected. You guys at Comrades have got this thing so sussed, you could almost organise this race with your eyes closed.
RJ: That’s a very kind compliment Brad, thank you. I think what it really boils down to is we’ve got a very strong team here that’s been doing it for a very long time. They know what is required to deliver it on the day. I think while I might be in the hot seat, holding the whole thing together, I think it’s imperative that you do stay calm. If you wobble, then everybody else tends to wobble. That’s the nature of eventing and if you’ve got a strong team around you, then there’s no need or reason to panic or stress.
No detour due to Pinetown roadworks
BB: Rowyn, it was almost to the day this time last year that we spoke to you about the roadworks in Pinetown and the slight change to the route. It’s been asked a couple of times, but not too many people have asked it. Is the route sorted, are there any roadworks, any surprises we need to know about?
RJ: Brad, the roadworks in Pinetown at the moment are still ongoing. But at this stage they’re much further down the road, so to speak, if you’d pardon the pun. But just in terms of the preparation, so we’ve been working very closely with the Municipality who is responsible for the roadworks, their engineering division.
The net result is that we will run down old Main Road, now called Josiah Gumede Street in Pinetown. There’s no deviation, per se, but the building isn’t finished, but by all accounts. We will ensure that the road is a safe and runnable surface for the athletes on the day. No detour like there was last year.
BB: Fantastic, Rowyn, we also funnily enough last year spoke a little bit about ambush marketing. I think it’s important to mention it once again as well. It’s one of those things that the runners almost forget about and when race referees do clamp down on it, they tend to get irate. But it is part of the rules and it’s up to the runner, to each and every runner to make sure they are aware of all the races rules and that they do abide by them.
RJ: Very much so and one of the things we’re doing this year Brad, is in the past we always put out the final race instructions, in the envelope that the runner picks up when they’re at registration with their race number. What we’ve done this year is that the final race instructions are already on our website, online.
So it gives people more time ahead of the race to just familiarise themselves with the various final instructions and rules that there are. One of the proactive approaches that we’ve taken. The final race instructions will still be contained with their race number or bib.
But the bottom line now, it’s on the website three weeks ahead of race day. So they can go and familiarise themselves with it. I think to just summarise it for everybody is that ambush marketing is not tolerated in any means.
A lot of the listeners out there would have been preparing for the past eight months for the race. They don’t want to ruin their race over something that is rather obscure or because they were ignorant of what the rules say. So just from what you can put on your gear or your kit. Obviously everybody is encouraged to run in race club colours. But the rules of Athletics South Africa state that you don’t have to, but otherwise encouraged.
For those who choose not to run in club colours, as long as there’s a logo or a name or anything on their vest that does not exceed 4cm in height by 11cm in length, that is quite permissible in terms of the rules. Naturally it mustn’t be any offensive or political message or political slogan or anything like that, anything like that would be fine, it wouldn’t constitute ambush marketing.
All you need to know about the refreshment stations
BB: Fantastic. Rowyn, as far as what’s on course and en route from a refreshments table perspective? That’s funnily enough a question we get asked quite a bit. Is there anywhere people can go to find out exactly what’s going to be at each one of the refreshment tables?
RJ: Brad, we’ve obviously got a very strong distribution pattern and plan that we work off in terms of the refreshment portfolio now on the scene. While we don’t stipulate and break down at every single table what people are going to be getting en route, on the website. We just have the general, if I can call it, we round up to say what we’ll have.
That will be everything from oranges to bananas, to potatoes, to biscuits, to Salticrax, to Enerjellies. Naturally on the liquid side we’ve got Coca Cola, Energade, Mega Load as well, so everyone is catered for and every need is taken care of. But I just think logistically it’s not important to break it down at which water point it is on the route. Because you’ll know, being a Comrades runner yourself, you read all that, you won’t remember that Table 46 is serving this or that, you’ll only find out when you get there.
BB: Rowyn, if I can just add my 2c worth there as well. There is so much en route that if you actually stopped and ate something at every single one of the tables, you’d probably put on weight on race day.
RJ: Very much so. I think you’d be able to roll down the hill, certainly not required. What it more comes down to, Brad is it’s a long day on the road for everybody. We all know that, so I sort of equate it to like driving a car. You can’t drive a car forever, you’ve got to put petrol in. That’s pretty much exactly what the same is on Comrades race day. You will need to take in some stuff.
Just on the drinking side, we almost just say normally the rule of thumb there would be drink to thirst. But if you really have to try and break it down or equate it or something like that, you wouldn’t do more than 500ml of fluid per hour. Naturally you have to adjust according to the weather conditions on the day.
The same thing goes for the solids. In other words the foods and the various things that we offer on the day, while we’ve got everything there, as I mentioned, from biscuits to chocolates, you name it; doesn’t mean you have to pig out on the road.
But certainly if you are feeling a little bit flat or low or a little bit hungry, there is stuff there to take, but again, don’t overdo it, otherwise it’ll just be, you’ll feel a bit bloated and overweight, so to speak. It would just make the battle a bit more unpleasant for you.
Don’t judge the weather by the long term forecast
BB: Rowyn, you mentioned the weather, I have to bring it up, looking at the long term forecast, it looks like it’s probably going to be quite warm. Have you managed to organise us good weather for 2016?
RJ: Brad, what I tend to do as well, I don’t look at long term forecast in too much detail. The simple reason is that experience in the game has told me in the past, it invariably will end up moving out a few days either side of race day anyway.
What I tend to do is in the week leading up to the race, have a more accurate look because that’ll give you a far better indication. Just from an organisation point of view, we are prepared for all eventualities. If we’ve got an exceptionally hot day, we order far more water and Energade/Coke and that sort of thing. We can bump it up at short notice.
On the flip side, if it does tend to be a cold day or a wet day or something like that, granted, people aren’t going to have as much in terms of fluid. But if things like hypothermia and that kick in, we’ve increased the fleet of rescue busses en route to 62 this year.
We normally had 40, so I think the important thing is, we are prepared for all eventualities. While we discourage any of the runners from getting in the rescue busses, sanity needs to prevail. If they’re really not having a great day, if they’re injured or not feeling up to it. Rather make use of that facility and we’ll safely transport the athletes back to the finish.
BB: Rowyn, it’s something that needs to be brought up as well, I hate chatting about it, but it’s something that has reared its ugly head in the last few years. Cheating, on various aspects, from clock cheating to doping, there’s just a no-tolerance policy with Comrades.
Cheaters never prosper
RJ: Pretty much so Brad and I’m really glad that you bring it up. Because I think it’s something that needs to be addressed and is being addressed by Comrades and particularly this year is being taken very seriously. The Comrades General Manager, Chris Fisher put out a very strong statement earlier in the year regarding cheating in all matters and forms.
We’re working, very closely aligned with KZN Athletics this year and while the wheel might turn a little bit slowly at times. We will definitely take action on all people who have cheated in all matter and means. What I encourage some of the listeners out there, is that many of the information that we get in terms of who we can investigate, actually comes from the runners themselves.
We encourage any runners that if they know of any matter or form of cheating that’s going to be taking place before the race, during or after, to please advise us. One of the things that we have done this year as well, we’ve set up the club lists of every entrant into the various clubs out to the clubs this year. You’ll know that as well because you also had to get your details verified by your running club.
That’s been very beneficial as well in terms of just trying to clean up the lists where some people are, I’m almost going to call them phantom or ghost runners. Because they just go and so-call join a club, but they’re not actually a member of. We really are appreciative, the clubs have been far more proactive around that of looking through the entry lists and saying, hang on, this person is not a member of my club and that sort of thing.
That’s helped us as organisers to narrow down that field, so to speak. As well and the people who constantly want to spoil it for everybody else, which is a really small minority. That we can at least target because one of the things that was clearly stated in terms of the cheating as well, is the supplying of false or incorrect information; constitutes the same sort of form of cheating as taking dope.
BB: That also accounts for qualifying details, if you haven’t actually qualified and you submit a time that’s false or a time that’s faster. So I think that’s a very important point. Rowyn, we are rapidly running out of time, final message from the Race Director to the runners in 2016?
RJ: Thanks Brad, I think the important thing from Comrades, Team Comrades is a massive organisation, a vast organisation of volunteers. We’ve got, very important for us is that the runners have an incredible day out there. We’ve looked after and taken care of every aspect. All of us as the greater organisation, including the volunteers, the permanent staff, wish everyone a happy run on the day.
The hard graft and training is done now, stay healthy and we’ll see you in three weeks’ time, roughly at this time in three weeks. The expo would have been open for one hour and we look forward to receiving everybody there to issue them their prospective race numbers and goodie bags etc.
BB: Awesome stuff, Rowyn James, Race Director for the Comrades Marathon, thanks for your time, I’m going to let you get back to work. There are some final things that need to be put into place, but you guys do have everything under control. You’re doing a great job and we can’t wait to see you down in KZN at the end of the month.
RJ: Fantastic, thanks very much Brad and all the best.