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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I didn't really think it would be possible' - 62nd at halfway to 9th. British Maths teacher Milne on his Comrades gold medal

Perhaps the reason for Alex Milne's perfect pacing is that he is a high school maths teacher. The 34-year-old top runner from Great Britain produced one of the biggest negative splits of any of the top ten men to claim a maiden Comrades Marathon gold medal on the 9th of June. Milne went from 76th position at Winston Park just before the 30km, to 62nd at halfway in Drummond and eventually completed the 85,91km race in 5:36:50 for ninth place.

"I'm very pleased with that. That was my A goal," he told #TheTopRunner the day after the race. "I had a fairly conservative first half, so I didn't really think it would be possible because at halfway I was in 62nd place so I had a lot of work to do to make the top ten. But from halfway onwards, I was gradually picking off people one by one. By the top of Polly Shortts I knew I had made it into the top ten, so I just had to wrk hard for the last 7km to maintain it."

Milne charging up the hills during the Up Run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg to finish in ninth place overall. Photo Credit: Lifutso Mabua.

Having begun his running career as a social runner during his late teens, the man who won the UK leg of the 2024 Wings for Life World Run Motivated improved gradually from a 3:30 marathon PB to a his current lifetime best of 2:16:30 which was set at last year's London Marathon. Motivated by his top twenty finish (5:31:34) achieved during his Comrades debut at last year's Down Run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, Milne threw himself into training which involved running to school and back everyday in order to rack up the necessary mileage. And even though he faced more than one setback, the Nedbank International top runner was determined to right the wrongs of 2023 as he took on his very first Up Run.

"I took fifteenth place last year. I was 1 minute and 45 seconds off tenth place, so it was frustrating to get so close to the gold medal. I had to come back and get it this year. I only had a six weeks buildup and only three or four of those weeks were high mileage. Ideally it would be about ten plus of those weeks would be high mileage. I had various injuries and illnesses on the way. It was a bit of a challenge. If anything, I'm even more pleased with my performance given the less than ideal preparation," said the man who also produced a negative split in 2023.

Milne receives his very first Comrades Marathon gold medal. Photo Credit: Nedbank Running Club.

But what informed his decision to run The Ultimate Human Race in the first place? The former steeplechaser reveals that he was fortunate to be taught by a South African expatriate whose love for the world's oldest ultra marathon was infectious and planted the seed that has now borne golden fruits. Milne who has run race in Europe and the United States of America says nothing can compare to the Comrades Marathon.

"I always wanted to do the Comrades Marathon. I actually heard about it from my physics teacher back when I was in school. He was South African and he inspired me to do it one day. I never thought I'd be competing for the top spots, so its all thanks to him. It's just an incredible race - mostly the support along the route given the distance. To have your name shouted out for 85,91km is pretty incredible which gives you motivation to keep on working. And also the depth of the field is amazing. For the first half, I was running in a pack of about sixty or seventy guys. You'll never see that in any other race. It felt like we were in the middle of a marathon pack with 3:30 or 4 hour runners. To have that in an elite race is quite a unique experience."

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