'Strength and mobility' - Comrades gold medalist Carla Molinaro on 2023 success
In the absence of Adele Broodryk who missed out on the competition as a result of an Athletics South Africa travel blunder, South African hopes at the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) World 50km Championships fell on Carla Molinaro. Although British by birth and running under the Union Jack, the 39-year-old spends much of the year living and training in Cape Town which has become her second home. And true to the form she has shown during the 2023 SA road running season, Molinaro did not disappoint as she delivered a memorable victory to take line honours in 3:18:22, with Andrea Pomaranski of the USA second (3:19:05) and her compatriot Sarah Webster taking third position (3:20:05).
"I did the 100km Champs in 2018 but I think I was completely out of my depth there and I didn't really know what to expect" she told #TheTopRunner. "So it was nice going into this one more mature, knowing what I'm doing and having more racing under my belt. It kinda felt like the first 100km Champs was a little bit my accident. I've been given a real opportunity to race hard at this level, so I kinda wanna see what I can do before going back to playing in the hills."
When she talks about 'playing in the hills' Molinaro is alluding to her past life as an adventure racer. In fact long before taking third place at this year's Comrades Marathon (6:00:22) and Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon (3:41:38), Molinaro first shot to prominence on the local ultra marathon road running scene when she ran from Cape Town to Durban, running 90km every day for twenty days and then on the 21st day proceeded to run a Comrades gold medal when she took eighth place in 6:50:31.
"So I started running when I was at school, but then when I went to Varsity I did triathlons. So I actually did triathlons for about ten years then in 2014 I ran a half marathon and thought to myself - this is easier than riding a bike," she laughed. "But I was doing more running adventures, like running around island and across countries just by myself. Then in 2018 we ran from Cape Town to Comrades and that's kind of when we started taking it a little more seriously."
That she has been able to transform from a decent ultra marathon performer into a world beater Molinaro puts down to a few key changes. Firstly, like she did when she trained with Gerda Steyn in the buildup to the IAU 50km World Championships, the Hoka Ambassador says group training with faster athletes has been one of her major sources of improvement. In addition to this she has also managed to remain injury free despite her punishing training regime thanks to her own brand of yoga for runners that she follows.
"Strength and mobility is such an easy win and I think everyone should be doing it. Since I started doing it three years ago, I've got quicker and haven't been injured. We've got a group in Cape Town and there's about ten of us. The main contingent is a guy called Chris and Ron and myself and we've been training together for most of this year. I think training with other people makes such a big difference. Its basically the Prom and Lion's Head in Cape Town. We do the main sessions together and then I'll do other runs with the Cape Town running community because they are just so much fun."