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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I'm able to make a difference in the lives of people that I coach' - Dave Adams tells us his story

After guiding Tete Dijana to a second successive Comrades Marathon victory in the fastest ever Down Run time this year, Dave Adams has written himself into the history books as one of the country's most successful ultra distance coaches. And perhaps what's even more remarkable about the 69-year-old is that he is a self taught mentor who discovered his passion for coaching through running.

"As a runner myself I used to read up on my sport," said the man who ran his last Comrades in 2011. "I was the one drawing up the programs for my group. I worked on the mines (Impala Platinum) and was involved with a relay team on the shaft where I worked. That's where I started coaching club runners from about 2006. I started helping an elite athlete at the end of 2011, a guy by the name of Phillip Molefe. Molefe won a number of races in 2012 including the Loskop 50km Marathon in 2:46:07. Towards the end of 2012 I was approached by Impala Mine to put together a team that could win The Gunga Din Trophy at Comrades. This was following an article in the mining news where a team from the shaft where I worked had achieved 4 silver medals."

Adams coaching 'The Happy Bunch' including Dijana, Mothibi, Makgetla and Manyedi in Rustenburg. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

That was to be the beginning of a decade long journey that would see the man who ran ten Comrades races himself achieve unprecedented success at The Ultimate Human Race. At the 2022 race Adams's charges achieved six gold medals as Dijana, Edward Mothibi and Dan Matshialwe swept the podium with Johannes Makgetla and Joseph Manyedi in positions five and seven, while Galaletsang Mekgoe took fifth in the women's race to became the the first black South African woman since Farwa Mentoor to earn a top five finish at the country's most celebrated ultra marathon. But for Adams it all started with David Gatebe back in 2012.

"A few weeks after I met David in 2012 we went to the Soweto marathon where David ran 2:42. Gordon Lesetedi, who also started with me in 2011, ran 2:46 in the same race. David’s first big race with me after a block of training was Two Oceans Marathon in 2013," he told #TheTopRunner. Gatebe won the 44th running of the 56km race in 3:08:54 to announce himself to the ultra distance running world.

Adams with Gatebe after his victory at the 2013 Two Oceans Marathon. Photo Credit: Supplied.

Now retired from his professional career on the mines, Adams spends most of his time coaching top runners which he says is a good way to keep himself busy and goal orientated. And even though Gatebe and Adams would part ways in 2016 before the diminutive runner broke the Comrades Down Run record, Adams still counts Gatebe's Two Oceans victory as one of the most memorable achievements of his coaching career alongside the dominant display of ultra marathon running by his Nedbank Running Club charges at Comrades 2022 and 2023.

"It is difficult to pick out one moment that is the most satisfying because there are so many of them. The most memorable have to be Edward Mothibi winning Comrades 2019, after years of hard work; Comrades 2022 and Tete Dijana and Edward Mothibi taking the Comrades marathon record from David Gatebe which was a team performance once again. The most satisfying part of coaching is that I am able to make a difference in the lives of the people that I coach. Running made a big difference in my life and coaching keeps me involved in the sport," he explained.

Mekgoe flanked by coach Dave Adams is congratulated by 2017 Comrades champion Camille Herron who took sixth place in this year's race. Photo Credit: Nedbank Running Club.

Coach Dave Adams' advice for social runners looking to excel during the 2024 ultra marathon season:

For social runners who want to improve their performance I would recommend the following:

- follow a well structured program that has a build up in March and peaks in April/May.

- get out of your comfort zone: incorporating some speed training such as fartleks or interval training will give you more benefit than slogging out endless hours at an easy pace.

- find yourself a hill 300m to 500m, medium steepness, and do hill repeats once per week in your program. Start with two hill repeats and build up to six or eight. Learn to love the hills!

- do at least one long run of more than 60km.

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