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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Get hold of somebody to help you, that is absolutely neutral' - Hamlett's Comrades training advice

With 4368 entries claimed in just the first hour that entries opened, excitement is building ahead of the 2022 Comrades Marathon. And while the pundits debate whether it will be defending champion Edward Mothibi, 3-time champion Bong'musa Mthembu or perhaps someone new like Nkosikhona Mhlakwana that will emerge victorious, most of the 15 000 participants that will take on The Ultimate Human Race will be social runners. But with the last race having been run in 2019 and a date change from winter to spring, there is concern about how to go about training for the 90km odyssey.

Hamlett coaching athletes during a training camp in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga. The athletes range from Comrades Marathon Bill Rowan to Gold medal hopefuls. Photo Credit: John Hamlett.

"You'll have to very careful about what you are doing and where because we've been out of shape for two years. Yes, some of the guys have been working hard but I worry because to be working this body hard all the way until August could be a problem, because when the race comes the body could be already tired. For me I'm very lucky because I have someone like John who can advice me about what we have to do," explained Gift Kelehe who won the 2015 Up-Run under coach John Hamlett's guidance.

The same is true for social runners - at least in Hamlett's mind. Having coached a number of Comrades Marathon champions including Down-Run record holder David Gatebe (5:18:19), the former policeman argues that the same training principles apply whether one is preparing to be on the road for five and a half hours or eleven hours on the 28th of August. Hamlett believes that the first obstacle to overcome on the road from Pietermartizburg to Durban is the work-from-home sedentary lifestyle that many adopted as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Hamlett in conversation with Gift Kelehe while preparing for the 2018 Comrades Marathon. Photo Credit: John Hamlett.

"We've got a bunch of social runners in our camp now that we wanna help. They are the guys at the back that make us look good. And those are the guys that make the spirit of Comrades. The best thing for them is really to start working now ASAP - get on the road and start doing your 6 kays a day. Start doing what you need to do. For three months we did nothing and that was really bad. You don't want people getting sick on race day and that can happen because of the stagnant two years that we've had," he warned.

But for Hamlett the real challenge lies in the fact that most runners (be it record-breaking or recreational) struggle to be completely objective about their fitness - hence the need for a coach. He argues that while online training programmes have their benefits, they fall short in that a runner can select a goal alone based more on ego than on an accurate assessment of his or her athletic capabilities.

"You have to be careful when looking at these generic programmes. You go onto a website and it says this is a seven and a half programme - these things are dangerous because maybe the man doesn't know his condition. I think they've gotta go back to the basics and be real. Get hold of a coach or a manager. Get hold of somebody to help you, that is absolutely neutral about your thinking because you cannot be yourself. You need to get into shape progressively," he concluded.

This is the first entry window period where only those entrants who had successfully entered the 2020 Comrades Marathon are allowed to enter the 2022 race and runs until 31 March 2022.

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