Stella AC women – leading the way at Comrades
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, it’s good to have you with us and as the clock ticks and we get closer and closer to Comrades Marathon race day, there’s obviously lots of nervous excitement around. But someone who has been around the race for many years, she’s going for number 21 this year, got her double green now and is going to run in it. It’s a great pleasure to welcome the Vice Chairman of Stella Athletics Club, Louise Hucklesby onto the podcast. Louise, welcome, thanks for taking the time to chat to us today.
Louise Hucklesby: Thank you for inviting me.
BB: Louise, Comrades has been a part of your life for a long time, before we get onto the club and some of the runners and the history of Stella Athletic Club around Comrades, can you remember when you first decided you wanted to run the race?
When the bug bites
LH: Actually, it was a weird thing, I just started running because I needed to lose weight. Then unfortunately once you get involved in a club situation, everybody is training for Two Oceans and training for Comrades and you just get into it. Before you know it, you’re running your first Comrades, in your first year of running.
BB: I love it and it’s such a South African thing. You say you started running to lose weight, before you knew it, you were running Comrades. Many South Africans get sucked into running Comrades that way and before you know it, you’ve run 20.
LH: Exactly, it’s exactly that. Before you know it, you’re running 10 and then before you know it, even more, so you’re running 20 and it just carries on. I think you have to draw the line somewhere. Although, as you know, we have, I mean we have a huge amount of ladies that our club, they’re running like their 25th and 26th and 27th, so it’s a crazy thing.
BB: Louise, you’re sitting in a very precarious situation now where you’re running 21, you know that you’re now closer to 30 than you are to 20, so there’s no turning back now.
LH: Well, we’ll have to see, if we can keep the injuries away, then we might start climbing the ladder. But I’m not too sure about that.
Stella and the Comrades Marathon
BB: Talk to me about the club, about Stella Athletics Club, it’s a running club that’s got a very rich Comrades history, tell us a bit more about it?
LH: Absolutely, I think, you know, we’re predominantly a Comrades Club, well, that’s what everybody says. But I just think it’s because we have such good training groups and we do a lot of Comrades training as such. The first six months of the year are just, I mean that’s what we do, we just train for Comrades.
BB: Do you think it makes a difference that you’re there, that it’s not that you’re just training for Comrades, you’re almost living it. Because you can do route testers, you can run on the route as much as you want because you live in the area.
LH: I think it’s exactly that, you know, everybody needs to have a goal. At least, you know, if you know Comrades is around the corner, every year we have 300-400 members at our club. Probably 150 of them enter Comrades, not all of them always run. But at least they’ve got a goal and they train towards that, so ja, they don’t always make it to the starting line, but at least that’s what they’re training for.
BB: Louise, you mentioned the ladies who are in their 20’s when it comes to Comrades and Pat Fischer is one of them, Pat Freeman also runs for you guys, there’s a huge, I find it interesting that there’s this big culture of female runners going for lots of them at Stella, why do you think that is?
Women rule the roost at Stella
LH: You know, I honestly can’t even tell you why because it’s quite interesting. Obviously we’ve got six ladies and I think we all sort of, besides Pat Fischer and Pat Freeman, the rest of us are sort of running around about the same time. I just, I honestly can’t even tell you the reason why.
We’ve got a lady called Gina, she is absolutely passionate about Comrades. We’ve got another lady Helen Mann that they, that’s what they do, they just love training for Comrades. But we’ve got a lady in Australia that still belongs to Stella, she’s also, I think she’s going for her 25th.
She just keeps coming back every year and honestly, it’s just because we just love the race, I think, at the end of the day. I mean I just love the training, I like the social side and the training groups and whatever. But it just adds up. Without you even realising, it just adds up.
BB: You mentioned you like the training and the social side, running clubs that sort of socialise together, stay together. You mentioned the numbers of members that you have the run and the big percentage that go on to run Comrades. The social side of it is what makes a running club like Stella really work.
A real social aspect to the club
LH: Absolutely. You know, unfortunately, as you all know, the clubs are really hard to keep going nowadays. But if you can get the running groups going and you can sort of, we have Tuesday and Thursday groups and Saturday groups and Sunday groups. People like to run in groups now, nobody likes to run on their own, really. Of course there’s the safety factor, and then obviously when you’re running in a social group, where you’re chatting away and then it just goes on from there.
BB: Louise, how many Comrades do you think you’ve still got in you?
LH: How many Comrades do I think I’ve still got in me?
LH: Probably another 10 I suppose.
BB: Would that answer change the week after Comrades 2016?
LH: Absolutely, you know, nobody wants to run Comrades again the next day, but you give us a week and everyone is on the road again and training, so it’s quite a funny thing. It’s just the actual day, it’s absolutely amazing, the support, there’s so much support and it’s just the most amazing day. I think you just keep going, as long as you can.
Best advice for novices
BB: We’ve got a lot of novices who listen to these podcasts as well, who are running their first Comrades and this time of the year in the build up to Comrades where you’ve pretty much done all the hard work. It’s almost time to really start slowing things down and sharpen things up for race day, but this is where the nerves really kick in, where you realise what you’ve got yourself into, what advice could you give to someone who is running their first Comrades Marathon down run in 2016?
LH: You know, I think the most important thing is that they’ve done the training, they know how to get to the end. I think it’s just to arrive at the start, just absolutely knowing that you’re more than capable of this. Just enjoy the day because your first Comrades is your absolute best Comrades. Just enjoy every single moment and when you’re feeling really, really bad, just know that everybody else is as well, so you’re not on your own. Honestly, you’ll enjoy every second of it.
BB: I like it when you say ‘when you’re feeling bad’ because there’s no doubt about it, everyone goes through patches on race day. The good news is, you’ll get through it, the bad news is, there’s another one coming.
LH: Absolutely, but you know what, it does go, it definitely does go and you’re not alone because everybody else is feeling exactly the same. If you’re feeling miserable, just look at the person next to you and honestly, they’re probably feeling exactly the same way. Then you can chat to each other and then you get over it quite quickly.
BB: Absolutely and high-fives, I’ve figured out that when you’re feeling rubbish, high-fives work, high-five as many people as you can, you’ll feel a lot better.
LH: Exactly, for sure, absolutely right.
BB: Louise, it’s been great catching up, thank you so much, best of luck in your final preparation run in to Comrades 2016, all the best for number 21. It must be a great feeling being able to pin that double green onto your running vest, we look forward to seeing you on race day.
LH: Super, thank you so much and all the best to all the other Comrades runners.