Craig Bruinders – a serious Comrades Marathon novice
05 April 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, it’s wonderful to have you with us today. Over the last few weeks we’ve chatted to some very experienced runners, heading towards that elusive 30 Comrades. We’ve spoken to a couple who are even beyond that.
But time now to shift our focus to a Comrades novice and recently started running a bit longer than normal. We head off to Johannesburg now, Craig Bruinders joins us. Craig, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for taking the time to chat to us.
Craig Bruinders: Good morning Brad, thank you very much for the opportunity.
BB: Craig, you’re training for your first Comrades in 2016, not long to go now, how are you feeling?
CB: I’m feeling pretty good at this stage Brad, the training has gone really. I’ve just come off another solid weekend with two back to back 40km and took a rest yesterday. This morning took the legs out for another run and they felt pretty good after recovery, so I think it’s going all right.
The muscles are a little bit stiff here and there, but I suppose that’s normal for this time of the year with the amount of mileage that we’re doing. I’m trying to stretch well and to plan carefully and so ja, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic.
The novice nerves
BB: The nerves, have they kicked in yet?
CB: Absolutely yes, I’ve been reading a lot of information, trying to gather as much on the podcasts and the Comrades website has been awesome, sort of gathering as much information as possible. I’ve been trying to speak to a lot of guys that have done it before, so ja, the nerves have certainly started kicking in. But still doing the hard yard, the next couple of weeks are going to be crucial, before tapering starts, so positively optimistic at this point in time.
BB: Have you had any dreams about the race yet?
CB: Not, not quite, I’ve been told that the night before the race you probably don’t sleep at all. So I’m going to make sure that I prepare well, no dreams at this point in time. As part of the build-up, I often see a lot of flash backs with the many years back, when I started watching Comrades as a youngster, normally in the old days on June 16th. So I’ve seen flash backs of Bruce Fordyce, Charl Mattheus and Nick Bester, sort of flash backs of the route but ja, no dreams at this point in time. But lots of flash back memories.
BB: I can tell you, those dreams are coming, you’re going to have at least one night in the build up to Comrades where you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night and realise you were dreaming. But you were dreaming about being on the start line of Comrades and you looked down. You didn’t have shoes on or you had left your running vest at home. It’s going to come, just giving you a heads up, you’re going to have one of those dreams before Comrades race day.
Taking the decision to run further
Let’s take a step back though and let’s talk about how your running started. You’re fairly new to the endurance stuff, you ran your first marathon last November at Soweto. Why run a marathon, what made the penny drop that you wanted to run further than what you had been running?
CB: Okay, I’ve always been generally fit and healthy. But never really taken to road running quite seriously. The previous, in November 2014, a mate of mine challenged. We spoke about running a marathon and running through the iconic streets of Soweto was an exciting prospect.
So I did a half marathon in November 2014 and felt quite strong. I thought wow, this went fairly quickly and I think I could probably give it a go for a bit of a further distance. Then decided to register for the November 2015 race. Also felt pretty good.
Then spoke to a colleague, just post to completion of the Soweto Marathon in November, looked at the Two Oceans website, looked at some of the beautiful imagery along the route and decided. I’ve got to do this, it looks awesome. I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for after experiencing Chapman’s Peak and Constantia neck. But after November, joined a good running group and just learning from these guys and the bug just bit me after November and it’s been awesome since then.
BB: How vital has training with a group been for you, particularly as a novice?
CB: They’ve been invaluable. The guys have been brilliant in sharing their experiences. I’m running with a lot of pedigree runners, one of the guys has won at least about 11 Silver Comrade’s medals. Some of the other guys have done some pretty decent times, some sub 3 marathons.
Just, I think just learning from them and doing the morning training runs with them and seeing that I’m at least able to keep up with the pace. Give them a go on the odd occasion, it’s just been absolutely amazing. I must say, the guys have been brilliant sharing their experience. I think from that perspective, being part of a good group and people that are able to share and provide some insight has just been absolutely amazing.
The realisation of having potential
BB: I can tell you, you picked a toughie as your first one, Soweto Marathon is not the easiest of marathons around, you did pretty well, I think you dipped under 4:20 there for Soweto. But you went on and ran Johnson Crane, which is one of the easier marathons on the calendar and you absolutely smashed that. How did you go at Johnson Crane?
CB: So Johnson Crane I did 3:05, ja, it was a fairly flat route. I came off with a bit of an Achilles heel injury after Soweto Marathon, but it was tough, I must say. It was very tough and I think I had a pretty good build-up. I just joined a group, just after November, the running group and had a pretty good November/December, towards the end of November/December and January training run.
Pretty decent runs, I think I did about 351km in January only, so it was awesome. By then the legs were strong, I think learning from the guys as well, so ja, it was great. The legs felt pretty strong and I took a bit of strain the last 5km, but generally I think I was a lot better prepared.
BB: Don’t feel bad, you’re not the only one who takes strain in the last 5km of a marathon, I think most of us do, it doesn’t matter what pace you run. Tell me a little bit about your Oceans, you had a pretty decent Oceans as well first time out.
CB: Yes, that’s right, I suppose also that I made sure I did a lot of preparation in terms of studying the route. Looking at some of the visuals on YouTube and then speaking to some of the guys that have done it before. They did warn me that Chapman’s peak and Constantia neck was going to be tough. They weren’t lying about that!
I really enjoyed the first half, there was a back load as everybody knows, but I mean. I just, I didn’t have a very specific strategy. I knew it was my first one, so I wanted to just enjoy the experience. The first 30km odd I felt pretty good, so I pretty much ran on how the body felt and how the body responded. At Constantia neck and Chapman’s peak was very tough, I think Constantia neck, in a sense, was a little bit more manageable.
You can sort of see the next bit, sorry, that’s Chapman’s peak, Constantia neck was a completely different animal. You just go around the next bend and you just face another little monster, so that was really tough. Overall, an absolutely amazing experience, I always enjoy going to Cape Town to visit, so it was an amazing experience. I definitely want to be back again next year.
The Comrades mind-set
BB: I’m sure, after that race, did you sit down and think to yourself, how am I going to go another 30km after that or did you feel pretty good?
CB: The legs were a bit stiff afterwards. After the race I did go to the gym and I did a bit of stretching and I spent the time on the foam roller. The next morning the legs still felt a little bit stiff, but I think mentally I felt good. I think I said to myself the next morning when I woke up, I really enjoyed this experience. I just do not want to take so much strain up Chappies and Constantia neck next time.
So I definitely want to put in a lot more hill repeats in terms of preparation the following year. It was just an amazing experience. The people along the road, just being in CT, it was absolutely amazing. The scenery, it’s no doubt the world’s most beautiful marathon and I think all in all it was just an amazing experience.
BB: It doesn’t have that title for nothing, it’s a magnificent part of the country. Craig, you talk about the group that you train with and there are some pedigree runners. You’re obviously not half bad yourself either, to run a just over three-hour marathon for your second attempt at a marathon is superb.
What sort of ambitions are you harbouring for Comrades? Are you going in there with no pre-conceived ideas, you just want to go and finish this thing? Or have you got a time etched in the back of your mind that you’re chasing?
The Comrades Goal
CB: Brad, I’m under no illusion about the magnitude of the task ahead, but I do have some expectations. Looking at some of the mileage that I’ve done and comparing my times and tables with some of the tables available. I think I can give a pretty decent account of myself.
But I also know I have to be realistic, so it’s still very much part of a process. I think what I’ve learnt from one of the podcasts is that the race really starts from about 60/70km onwards. That’s where it really starts. So I think I want to start off and see how it goes. I’m going to definitely run within myself and see how the legs feel. I think by about 70km, make an assessment and then ja, see how it goes from there.
I also don’t want to be, I absolutely want to make sure I enjoy the first experience, but balanced with that, I do want to give a good account of myself as well. I want to balance and see how it goes and enjoy the experience and see how the legs feel at 70km.
BB: What are you most nervous about about Comrades?
CB: I think a little bit of the unknown, how much pounding the legs might take from about 70km onwards. I know they say the Down run is often a lot more strenuous than the upper run. Just, I think, nervous about how strong, how it’ll feel after 70km, I think that’s the biggest challenge for me.
BB: By the sounds of it, you’ve done the work, you’ve put in all the hard graft and it’s now sort of cruising in to Comrades day, making sure you’re fit, strong and healthy on race day. Craig, I think you’re in for a great one and enjoy it. You’re never going to be able to experience Comrades as a first time runner again, so really go out there and soak it all up because it is a magnificent race. It’s hard, there’s no two ways about it, but I think you are going to have a brilliant day out, good luck.
CB: Thanks very much Brad, really appreciate it.