'I'm in a new season' - Wayne Spies goes from 10:54 to 5:42 at 50 years old
At 50 years old most Comrades runners are getting slower. Not Wayne Spies. The man who was born in September 1972, ran his fastest ever Comrades Marathon this year breaking six hours for the first time. What's more, for a man who never showed much athletic talent during his formative years, his achievement is made even more remarkable by the fact that he broke three-time champion and Olympian Vladimir Kotov's 11-year-old Masters record of 05:48:12 on his way to stopping the clock in 05:42:00
"I started running Comrades late in life," he told #TheTopRunner. "39 years old is when I picked it up. I did do two when I was younger, but obviously I didn't enjoy it because it was painful. But as I got older I picked it up again and then just ran it, loved it and enjoyed it and then I saw improvement come with time," said the Nedbank Running Club top runner.
His improvement was tremendous. The first Comrades medal he earned as a 23-year-old saw him cross the finish line in 10:54:19, a time which he essentially repeated when he ran again the following year to complete the race in 10:55:35 in 1997. But then he took a fifteen year break from The Ultimate Human Race, returning older and wiser in 2013 to claim his first Bill Rowan medal in 08:35:42. He would run faster almost every year until last year, Spies ran a lightening fast 06:21:57 in 2019, which planted the seed that he too could break into the elite ranks.
"About three years ago, just before Covid I had come down for Two Oceans and I had an enjoyable run. I said to myself let's try hard and Comrades and see how we go. Then I find myself at the sharp end of the field. I ran 6:20 and I met Tete (Dijana) on Polly Shortts who was running his first Comrades and he encouraged me and told me that I was looking good. He told me that with a bit more improvement I could definitely compete," explained the man who holds a standard marathon personal best of
Spies threw himself into his work and set about improving his standard marathon time, which he bettered from 2:31:20 in 2019 to a lifetime best of 2:25:47 set at the 2022 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia. Feeling he was in the shape of his life the Durban-born Australian returned to the land of his brith to prepare for the 2022 race at a high altitude camp in Dullstroom and then went on to run a 6:01:32. He then left his supportive wife and two sons behind in Oz for an eight week camp in Mzansi to prepare for an onslaught on Kotov's record.
"They said to me you can break six hours. With the workload and experience guided by coach Dave Adams, I came to Two Oceans and stayed here since Two Oceans. I got my confidence not only from coach Dave but also from my Nedbank teammates. I'm in a new season. What I'm so grateful for is these gold medalists that surround me. The attitude that these guys have is don't be afraid. Take it. That's what I learnt from them."