'The record is on' - Hamlett happy with new finish and backs Lesetedi to challenge Nedbank dominance
With The Comrades Marathon Association having announced that the 2023 edition of The Ultimate Human Race will finish at the Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Stadium for the first time in seven years, legendary Comrades coach John Hamlett is predicting a record. The last time the Down Run ended at the cricket stadium, David Gatebe who was coached by Hamlett ran an amazing 5:18:19 to set a new record on the 89.2km course from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. The 2018 and 2022 Down Runs finished at the Moses Mabhida Stadium which was 600m longer. And now that the finish venue is reverting to what it was, Hamlett believes that a new record is possible.
"The nice thing about the new finish - let's call it the old new finish is that the record could be at hand," he told #TheTopRunner. "I think that's best and I think Comrades needed to wake up about that a long time ago because you can't keep a record and then add kilometres. It took David (Gatebe) how many years to break that record and (Bruce) Fordyce ran on a course that was shorter."
And one of the athletes that he is backing to threaten that time and break the Nedbank Running Club dominance is his own Gordon Lesetedi. Now running in the colours of Hamlett's Hot Running Club, Lesetedi is a two-time Comrades gold medalist with a best of 5:39:32 for sixth position which he attained during the 2018 Down Run. Although the 37-year-old finished just outside the medals in an agonizing 11th place last year, his coach believes that he is ready for the big time.
"We came out of Covid last year and the base wasn't there - we knew. But we understand that. So what we did is that we went into camp last year and we used it as a strong base for this year. So we did that last year and we still got a gold (Helena Joubert) and nearly another gold in the men (Lesetedi). But Gordon is the calibre of guy who this year should be up there with the top three at least. He's done the homework, he's done the time and he's committed," he explained.
And with just under twelve weeks to go to the big day Hamlett says their preparation will be ramped up now with a camp in Dullstroom. The man who has coached scores of runners (almost 60) to Comrades gold medals is a believer in his high altitude training camp saying the key to performing well on June 11 is to make sure you peak at the right time. This advice is not just for elite athletes either, but will benefit social runners too who Hamlett helps to achieve their time goals.
"Now you should be thinking: 'should I be running Comrades.' You should be out of it, in a bit of a dip. You should be starting to build into the peak training for Comrades which you will maybe hold for three weeks. Our guys are in a good place and we will be ready by the time we get to Comrades. You choose you race and you do your race. If you are peaking for Two Oceans, then you sell your Comrades short. Get yourself a coach, especially if you're a social runner. I've got lots of social runners - you probably need a coach even more."