Owen Hannie – another running convert
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: Welcome back onto yet another edition of Old Mutual Live it’s good to have you with us and over the last couple of months we’ve spoken to a few ex-professional cyclists who have taken up running. That trend seems to be continuing.
We spoke to Arran Brown just a few weeks ago actually, he ran his first Comrades in 2016. He seems to have roped another cyclist into this running thing. It’s a great pleasure to welcome onto the podcast former professional cyclist, also from Supersport, SuperCycling, Owen Hannie. Owen welcome, nice to chat.
Owen Hannie: Brad, thank you so much, I don’t know how I got into this running thing. But I’m in it and it looks like it’s going to be a long haul ahead of me.
BB: When I got the brief of who I needed to chat to today from my producer, David Katz. I saw your name and I phoned Dave and I said Dave, this is a running podcast, why are we chatting to Owen. He said: You’re not going to believe it, Owen has taken up running. Talk to me about the thinking behind it, is it all Arran’s fault or is this partly self-inflicted?
OH: I guess a bit of both and there’s another cyclist I need to blame, Doug Ryder. Last year I got invited to go and spend time with the team at the Tour de France and I didn’t take a bike with me. So all I had was a pair of takkies and I knew that Doug Ryder did quite a bit of running. He’s done quite a few marathons.
So he said to me: Come, we run 10km every morning before each stage just to keep fit. I thought, okay, let me join these guys and I kind of enjoyed it. Running around France is not a bad place to start with and the bug bit from there.
The allure of doing Comrades
So, I came back to South Africa, didn’t do much running. Then I saw Arran Brown, I saw his tweets about his Comrades Marathon experience. I looked at that time and I thought wow, a cyclist running that fast and finishing the Comrades, this is something I can do.
I said to myself, this is quite a few years ago, before I turn 40, I want to do the Comrades Marathon. I’m 38 this year, so I thought let me put in the bag, bank in other words. When I turn 39 I’ll do my first Comrades. Then I can do another one when I turn 40 itself. I’m planning this way in advance and I hope it doesn’t fall for me, but I’m enjoying it. I must say, it’s something different, a different kettle of fish altogether.
BB: That’s awesome and I love the South African psyche, it’s so many people and I was exactly the same. I started running because I wanted to run Comrades. If you go overseas, most people start running because they want to do a 5km Park Run, not South Africans! What is it for you that is special about Comrades and the attraction to that race?
OH: You know what, it is a suffer-fest and I think it’s that that draws me to it. When cyclists know you’re a cyclist, they come to me and say: Have you done the Argus or…have you done the Cape Epic? It’s the first question they ask you.
I guess with a runner the first thing they ask you is: Have you done the Comrades? I think that’s the fascination for me is that everybody that’s done the Comrades has at least got a war story to tell. I’d love to be able to tell my own war story. Like I said, you see so many other cyclists that have done so well in cycling and have turned to running and done well for themselves.
I think that ability to suffer for hours and hours on end is something that’s built into any endurance athlete. I think if I can tap into that, and all I need is probably about, they say 90% is mental and 10% is the ability. I’ve got, I guess, because of cycling all those years and for as many hours as we did, we’ve got the ability to do it. Whether my joints can handle it at 40, turning 40, that’s another story altogether. But they say you only reach your maturity in endurance when you get to your 40’s, so I’m looking forward to that.
BB: It’s a very different kettle of fish, cycling to running. I cycle quite a bit as well. You mentioned the suffering part of it, that obviously is common across the two. But from a physical perspective, it’s very different. Particularly running long things, like marathons and ultras and moving onto the Comrades.
Running is harder on the body
It affects the body a lot differently to possibly eight or 10 hours in the saddle. Have you found that? Is that something that you’ve taken to quite comfortably? I know you haven’t done too many long ones yet, but how is your body holding up?
OH: A couple of niggles here and there, nothing too bad, but I’m getting through it. The biggest difference between cycling and running, I guess for me, is the ability to pace yourself firstly. I’ve got no concept on how to pace myself. So I put on my heart rate monitor, I put on the strap and off I go. I’m running comfortably I think in the first couple of K’s, I look down at my watch and I’m running at a 4:18 and I think wow, this is a bit too fast and I pay for that a bit later. The other thing is, running, like you said, it’s very hard on the joints and hard on the body, but there’s no ‘give-me’ miles.
With a bicycle you can freewheel down a mountain or a hill and get to the bottom and start peddling again. With running, every little step hurts the body. It takes you from Point A to Point B. There’s no ‘give-me’ miles and I guess that’s the thing I’m trying to wrap my head around. Is that you can suffer. There’s no doubt that I can suffer.
My body is taking a bit of strain, but I’ve got good advice behind me and everybody said, take it easy, build yourself up and I guess that’s what I’m doing at the moment. I’ve done a couple of 10km races or one major 10km race. I’ve done a couple of training runs, 10km. The next thing is 21 and then I’d like to do a marathon, hopefully a qualifier by November already.
Finding my running tempo
BB: Brilliant, well on track. You talk about the major 10km, was the Pirates 10km that you ended up running with Arran Brown. Before we started recording I said to you Owen, just in passing I said: What was your time and you said oh, like blasé, 43 minutes. Holy Cow, I would dream of running a 43 minute 10km. You had ability on the bicycle, you’ve obviously got ability running as well?
OH: I tell you what Brad, when I saw some of those junior runners running past me, there were some female runners, junior, u18’s obviously, running with no shoes on. They ran away from me and I thought to myself, wow, that’s ability. My ability is nothing compared to theirs.
I started that Slow-Mag 10km race and I was up the first climb and I felt quite comfortable and the guy’s phone next to me, some guys run with phones and it barked out the pace. The average pace after the first 2km was 4:23 and I started hurting. I started walking up the first climb, got to the top and then I started running again.
Got to the next climb and I did the same, ran halfway up and then walked slightly and then went down. Then some guy came past me, he was huffing and puffing, but he looked like a decent runner. Most guys, I guess, with a pair of shorts and takkies look like decent runners and off we went down the other side and we cruised.
We were cruising into a headwind, so me and my cycling knowledge, I got into his slipstream and off we went, I was drafting him all the way to the finishing line. We got into the last kilometre and he says: Are you going to come past me? I said: No, I’m very comfortable. He says: Well, I’ve got a stitch now, so I’m walking. So I was okay, thanks buddy, cheers and I was off to the finishing line.
I felt so bad, cause I used him all the way and then I let him go at the end and that was it, 43 minutes later. I must say, it’s enjoyable, you can measure yourself up and I think looking around for people and runners of similar strength to you is quite a trick at the moment. I’m learning to find those guys and hopefully within a couple of months I’ve got a crew around me that I can latch onto and tap into their knowledge, into their ability and use that to my best advantage.
BB: I love it! Owen, you mentioned Doug Ryder who is running, also we spoke about Arran, but there seems to be quite a bit move for ex pro’s to cut across and jump across to running, particularly here in South Africa. I don’t know if it’s a global phenomenon, but it’s definitely happening big time here. We’ve mentioned those two names, but I mean there are so many more.
I think of a guy like Jock Green who is a former pro cyclist that you rode with at some stage as well. I’m sure, he’s running phenomenally well, representing South Africa at various trail events. What do you think the attraction is, what’s making the cyclist want to jump across?
OH: I’m not too sure. Graeme McCullum is another name that you have to mention there as well, a former pro-cyclist now turned trail runner, representing South Africa. I’m not too sure Brad, I can’t really put my finger on it. One thing I know for sure is that sometimes, and for me, you get not tired of a bicycle, but you’re looking for something different. You get into it by chance, the running side of things, like I said, I went to France last year and didn’t have a bike, so I ran. You kind of enjoy it. I think the enjoyment factor, doing something different is one draw card.
Running is a lot cheaper than cycling
The second draw card for me would be the cost factor. Because running, you can strap on a pair of takkies, which is relatively, much cheaper than a pair of cycling shoes; a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and there you go, you run.
With cycling, a bicycle costs so much, just carrying the spare tube which costs R60, just to put in your back pocket in case you do get a puncture, is another story. So, the cost factor in cycling is a lot more whereas running is a lot cheaper. The entry fees to races are also not too bad and then the enjoyment factor.
My wife started running with me, so we go to events together. Where when I do cycling, she stands on the side lines, waits for me to come back to the finishing line and there’s no joy factor in that. She’s enjoying herself running. She’s also picked up a couple of injuries along the way, but we’ve got something in common, we share something in common.
Like I said to you, the other factor, the suffering side of things. We’re so used to being able to go out there and suffer for ourselves for quite a few hours by ourselves and then running is a very similar feel. You’re out there by yourself and that freedom of being out on the tarmac or out on the trails, nothing equates to that. You can’t really put it into words unless you’re out there doing it. For me it’s all about fun right now.
I’m not doing any training according to heart rate or according to pace really. I’m going out there and just feeling my body and running according to how I feel. If I don’t feel up to it on the day, then I’ll rather do a 2km or a 3km run, maybe 5km. But then bank the 10km for some other day when you are feeling better.
BB: Logistically it’s also a bit easier than cycling too. You mentioned cheaper, but to get out on the road, particularly on the bike is a bit of a palaver. You’ve got to get everything together. Whereas running, it’s just slap on the shoes and off you go. Also from a time perspective, if you’re time-pressed, running is phenomenal.
Because to get a, let’s be honest, to get a really decent workout on the bike, you probably need to spend 3-4 hours out there, whereas a run, you go spend an hour on a run. You’re probably same sort of equivalent as you would as 3-4 hours on the bike.
OH: That’s so true. I spoke to a former pro teammate of mine, Danny Spence, he’s quite a good runner and also trying out in triathlons. We compared notes and running is that kind of sport. You can take your shoes with you anywhere, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, pack it in your bag. Whether you’re travelling around the country or just here at home, easy to slap on and go.
I’m the kind of cyclist though that never likes to put my bike in a vehicle and drive somewhere. I’d rather ride it from home, wherever I have to go. Where if it’s a race or just a training ride, I never like packing my bike in the car.
The ease of heading for a run is awesome
For me, the running, it is a lot easier and I must say, cycling, I still enjoy it. There’s no doubt about it, I really ride my bike, weekends I get out on my bike every now and again. If I’ve got 2.5 to 3 hours, then I’ll go riding. But if I don’t and I’m pressed for time, like you said, an hour of running is very similar to a 2-3 hour cycle. With running, you’re pushed all the way to the end.
So when you start your run and you get back home again, you’ve really put in some decent watts through those legs. You’ve hurt yourself, so you feel the pain the next day. In cycling sometimes, the recovery is a lot quicker, so you can go and do it again the following day. But I’ve lost so much weight with the running and that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most.
I started Banting about two years ago and I’ve enjoyed the journey with Tim Noakes. I’ve stuck to it religiously and yes, I’ve had a couple of cheat days. But I find the diet and the running and the CrossFit training that I’ve also been doing, it’s really come together quite nicely for me. I’m able to maintain a regular weight without having to get onto the scale and check myself, my body fat percentage is as low as when I was a pro cyclist. I’m very happy now.
BB: Brilliant, it sounds awesome Owen, I think you’re right on track, there’s still a long way to go to Comrades 2017, but just keep doing what you’re doing mate. Don’t try and do too much too soon, you’ve got a long time to get that done. But I think a marathon November and get the qualifier out of the way is probably the right sort of strategy, so best of luck.
OH: Thank you so much, I’ll be tapping into your knowledge and quite a few other people out there, just getting everything sorted before I actually attempt the Comrades 2017. But I’m really looking forward to the challenge and the journey of getting to Durban and then running up to Pietermaritzburg. Thank you very much for the time and for the interview as well Brad.