Phindi Gule – running across KZN
01 April 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. It was a fabulous weekend this past weekend at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and what an incredible festival of running it was last week. Someone who was part of our team over the four days for the live broadcast has got her own, I don’t want to say little challenge because it is enormous, coming her way, over the next month or so. It’s a great pleasure to welcome back onto Old Mutual Live Phindi Gule. Phindi, nice to touch base again and first up, congratulations this past weekend, it was a fabulous weekend, did you enjoy your Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon experience?
Phindi Ghule: Oh my gosh Brad, it was absolutely amazing. It was just a blast, just to see runners from all corners of the world coming together. I must say, Old Mutual really put up a good show. I had a wonderful time.
BB: Next big question is, are you well rested?
PG: What is that? I’ve done my best, I don’t coach Lindsey Parry will kill me because he says, rest is vital. But I’ve done my best to rest really because I do have a big challenge ahead of me and it’s the day after tomorrow, we start this challenge. I think I’ve managed to get in as much rest as I could.
BB: I ask if you’re rested because it was a hectic few days for us over the expo and race day. But as you mentioned, you’re starting a big challenge. For those of you listening in the future, as after we record this, Friday 1st of April is when it is all starting. Phindi, in a nutshell and we’ll get into why you’re doing it and the logistics. In a nutshell, what is it that you’re doing in the month of April?
900km journey across KZN
PG: The month of April, Kevin, my husband and I will be running 900km. We’re running the length of KZN. Starting from the Mozambique border all the way down to South Coast. Every day we’re running 30km, so it’s essentially it’s 900km x 30km in 30 consecutive days. That’s what it is that we’re doing.
BB: Phindi, that’s huge. When you say it like that, you say 30km and someone who comes from an endurance running background, they go, 30km isn’t that bad. You think of 30km on a couple of consecutive days, that’s doable.
But when you add it all up, over 30 days, you’re running 900km, that’s essentially the same as 10 Comrades Marathons in the month of April, if you break it down that way. It’s huge! Have you sat down and figured out the magnitude of this yet, has it hit you yet?
PG: We have. Obviously when we thought about it, we thought, no, it’s easy, we can do it. Having run Comrades, myself, and Kevin, we thought we can do it and you rightfully say. Every day we’ll be running a third of Comrades, 30km which is a third of Comrades every day.
I think as we get closer to the time, it kind of hits you. Thinking about all the preparations that we’ve done, we’re fairly confident and with the last run that we did the day before, we felt good. It was out on the road and KZN is very hot. So we’ve been running here, we’ve been doing most of our training here and we did some of the altitude training as well. It has sunk in and right now, as I speak to you, I will confess, I am nervous, but also very excited.
I think once one has done Comrades, you do understand that it’s not going to be fun. There is going to be some level of pain, uncomfortable pain, but there’s normal and there’s abnormal. We really are prepared and on the lookout for all those things and we’re fortunate in.
We’ve been working with some of the best people in the running industry. Lindsey Parry has been very instrumental in giving us really sound advice. Also Dr Kevin Subban, who is the Olympics doctor, he’s been very good. The team at Prime here has been very supportive.
We’ve tried to get as much as we can and you know, we mentioned Old Mutual Two Oceans ultra-marathon that was happening over the past weekend. I actually tried to use some of the time to get some time with Professor Ross Tucker to say, hey man, what else can we do, are we missing something here. We got some really good advice.
Why are you doing this?
BB: I love it. Phindi, the obvious question that needs to be asked is why?
PG: You know, after Comrades and I guess you have walked this path, you’ve done Comrades and you sat and you thought: what else can I do and you thought hmmm, Ironman, yes?
BB: Yes, that’s exactly it!
PG: For us, we were sitting in November, as recent as November last year, we were just watching, flipping channels on the TV. We came across a documentary when Sean Conway ran the length of Britain. That for us as runners, as people who are part of this world of endurance thought, wow, this is very exciting, this is really pushing yourself.
His was approximately 1 200km, so we thought, that’s exciting. At the back of that we watched his 27 miles to honour the late Tata Madiba. We only saw the one where he obviously managed to complete four of them.
We thought, wow, this is interesting, why don’t we then run the length of KZN and this was Kevin’s suggestion. At first I thought he was crazy, but then the more I thought about it, hmmm, that would be a very good challenge, so we thought, let’s do it.
Upon learning that South Africa, we are now sitting at number three as far as the country with the highest statistics of obesity, a lot of South Africans are obese. So we thought, well, that’s a good way to take the message across, inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t necessarily have to be running long distances; but just be active, run, do something, swim, cycle, something, just keep moving.
The second one was to showcase the beauty of KZN. When we thought about it, we thought, while we’re at it, we might as well document the whole thing, do a documentary. So we will be capturing some of the heritage sites in KZN.
We’ll also be talking to ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things. Because I’m sure that this journey is going to allow us to meet some of the most wonderful people that make this province the wonderful province it is.
The third one is just to push ourselves mentally and physically. With all those objectives, we thought, good and well, we have to have a purpose, something that is going to drive us. When we go, when we hit the wall, what is it that we’re going to refer to. We’re going to be able to pick ourselves up and say, we need to go.
We found a village that actually houses orphans who are, most of them they come in, they’re HIV positive. It’s a wonderful NPO that they’re running. Doing a stunning job. They have a school there, they have a dentist, they have a hospital, I mean it’s really well run.
We thought, well, if we can contribute towards raising some of these stars to being great leaders, why don’t we then try and raise enough money to take care of 10 children for a year. That’s the purpose really, to raise funds for the little village.
BB: Phindi, I love that and so often we donate or raise funds for charity and it’s not really tangible. We know more or less what they’re doing, but I love the fact that you’ve put a specific goal. You want to provide for 10 kids for a year. I think that’s fantastic.
Logistics behind a challenge like this
Let’s talk about the logistics of what goes into, not just running this, but planning something like that. You mentioned the seed was planted in November last year. When did the planning really start and what’s gone into this? What are some of the things behind the scenes that people don’t really think about when they think about doing these things that you guys have had to plan for?
PG: It’s quite a lot that went into it Brad. When people were on holiday during December, we did not have a holiday. Because one, we needed to make sure that we start training, luckily we had already started training for Comrades.
We had to get on with our training, but also while we were training, we had to work on the logistics. How are we going to do this and the biggest thing was when we introduced the film crew. Cause we’re going to take cameras, we’re going to take, as a crew, we’re travelling with, there are two camera people and a runner.
We have somebody who is a marketing assistant doing most of the work, the posting on social media and so on, but also the logistics in terms of the start. Getting to Kosi Bay border, I mean anyone who has been to the border post, you know that it gets very busy.
We had to consult with them and make sure that they are ready. Metro, in all the districts that we’ll be touching on, we are using public roads in some cases. So we had to make sure that we make the municipality aware that this is what’s happening.
Also accommodation, after the 30km. Because what we’re going to do is, in the morning at 6:00, we start to run. As advised by those in the know, the likes of Lindsey, the likes of Professor Tucker, we cannot, it’s easy and anyone who has run a race, you know that it’s easy to take off very fast. But you learn the hard way when you actually get to the half-way mark that you now are left with very minimal fuel.
We need to be very mindful of the fact that we’re doing this for 30 days. So we’ve actually allocated plus-minus four to four and a half hours for each 30km. Pushing it to a four and a half maybe towards the end, but four hours for every 30km, so that’s running really slow. It’s something that we had to try and adjust to.
Four hours is in the morning, and then we make a mark, like physically make a mark at that stop and then within a 2km radius, we had to find accommodation. It can be a hotel, it can be a lodge, it can be a safari, it can be a local home, local families hosting us, or we have to camp, that’s where we’re going to spend the night.
So that’s where we’ll spend the night and then during the day, in the afternoon, we then explore the area, that’s where showcasing KZN comes in.
Then the following morning we wake up and it’s exactly the same thing. It’s a lot of work that has gone into it. We’ve had to knock at various doors, some opened, some didn’t. But because we really wanted to do this and we’ve put our all into it, most of it was self-funded.
But we have people who were really kind and offered us some support, so we’re grateful to those individuals. I think with anything that one wants to do, it’s how badly you want to do it and you sacrifice whatever to make sure that it happens.
Follow the challenge
BB: That’s fabulous Phindi. As far as following the journey, I know you said you are going to be shooting a documentary, but while it’s happening, can we follow you online and track your progress? Where can we find out more?
PG: That’s right, we have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. The Facebook page is runkznwithus, which is one word, all small and then the Twitter handle is @runkznwithus. People can follow us on those platforms. We’ll also be doing daily posts or videos. Because I think it’s very important that people understand what goes into this. Particularly for people who are really into endurance sports.
I love the newly launched Old Mutual project, World of Endurance and I think people who are associated with that will be excited and will actually appreciate the content that will be coming from there. They can follow us on those two platforms. There’s also a website, www.phindigule.co.za, that’s where people can go and get more information and also if they need to donate, if they would like to donate, they can make the donation online. That website is going up on the 1st of April.
BB: Brilliant, Phindi, I was going to ask you that about donating because that, at the end of the day, is as much as you’re doing this because you want to run that distance, we want to make a difference as well. Get to www.phindigule.co.za, you can donate there as well.
Phindi, we look forward to following your progress, we’ll put the links to all three of those websites, your Twitter handle, your Facebook page and your website as well, in the show notes to this episode of Old Mutual Live. I want to wish you and Kevin all the best, have a fabulous time. KZN is a beautiful part of our country and I think you’re going to discover and see things you never knew existed, best of luck.
PG: I know, I’m going there with an open mind and open heart and ready to learn while I take on this 900km. Thank you so much for talking to me and I want to take this time to wish you all the best with your Ironman. I know that you’ve been busy, I don’t know we are going to do it Brad, because in between we’ve had to work, but also do some training. I know you’ll do it, I have no doubt you’ll do it. You’ve done it before, so all the best to you.
BB: Thank you very much Phindi, safe travels and we look forward to catching up after it’s done, possibly in between as well, to find out how it’s going. I’ll stay in touch and best of luck, I’m envious, I love things like this and I’m going to be living vicariously through you over the next 30 days.
PG: Thanks Brad, lovely chatting to you.