My Profile

@RorySteyn

SOUTH AFRICA Raving since 2015 IRONMAN, Seven Continents Club Active 4 months, 1 week ago

About Me

  • Running club(s):

    RAC (Rand Athletic Club), Joburg, South Africa

  • Rave race:

    Comrades

  • Race that's calling my name:

    These days: my mountain bike!

  • I run because:

    of the company, the banter and the great memories!

My Races

Organize, track & review your races and personal bests here.

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Half Marathon

Marathon

Ultramarathon

(Marathon or Ultra) + Half

Marathon + Ultra

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Future Races

Future Races (0)

Race Distance Location Date Paid

Past Races (1)

Race Distance Location Date Result My Raves My Performance
89.9K Pietermaritzburg, South Africa 2009

My Raves

THE ULTIMATE HUMAN RACE It’s been called many things but never ‘easy’. And yet the Comrades Marathon is not beyond the reach of the average ‘weekend warrior’. Unlike the Tour … MORE

THE ULTIMATE HUMAN RACE

It’s been called many things but never ‘easy’. And yet the Comrades Marathon is not beyond the reach of the average ‘weekend warrior’. Unlike the Tour de France and similar elite professional races that are unavailable to anybody but a tiny (normally male only) minority at the very top of their sport, ‘Comrades’ is about so much more than just elite athletes.
If you consider the race’s origins (and it’s all there at http://www.comrades.com under the ‘History’ tab) they lie in honouring the sacrifice, endurance and fortitude of those ‘comrades in arms’ who fell in The Great War from 1914 to 1918. The race’s founder, Vic Clapham, wanted to establish a challenge that would be suitably tough so as not to trivialise the memory of those that paid such a high price for our freedom, yet remain possible to complete successfully. So he devised a footrace of almost 90km (that’s about 56 miles for the non-metrics among us!) run alternately each year between the coastal town of Durban and the provincial capital Pietermaritzburg in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa. Because ‘Maritzburg as the locals call it, sits about 1 000m above sea level, the alternating directions are referred to as the “Up Run” and the “Down Run”. This is but one of the idiosyncrasies that makes Comrades the greatest footrace in the world. I say that unbiasedly and unashamedly. Running legend turned running writer Amby Burfoot agrees and wrote a superb article in Runner’s World on why that is so. Read it here: https://www.runnersworld.com/races/famous-comrades-marathon?page=single
The Up and Down Comrades are two very different yet similar races. At 90kg (202 pounds) I can assure you that I go down hills much faster and easier than I do up them; but I’ll take the Up Run any day! This is due to the second of the great Comrades traditions – the Big Five registered hills on the Comrades route. They are all named and just the sound of ‘Inchanga’ should terrify you! Have a look at the route profile to see what I mean! https://www.comrades.com/route-elevation Comrades has five major hills (but don’t be fooled, there are many more besides those five!) and four of the five are in one half of the race, either the first half or the second half depending on whether it’s Up or Down that particular year. Believe me, your quadriceps and calves are screaming at you in the last quarter of the Down and that is where any Comrades Down Run is won or lost – between Field’s Hill and the Finish. Some have said that if you take any 42km stretch of the Comrades route you’ll have the toughest marathon in South Africa. Well, you‘ve got to run two marathons on Comrades race day and then you’re not there yet! Still about 5 kays to go…
To me though the greatest of all Comrades traditions is its ‘gun-to-gun’ timing. Although modern-day Comrades runners run with timing chips affixed to their shoes, their official race time starts when the starter’s gun (actually it’s a cannon!) goes off and not when you cross the timing mat at the Start line; and it finishes when you cross the Finish line (obviously) with no adjustment made for your time across the Start. And that can take just over eight minutes if you start in H Batch at the back of the field! Making this beautiful tradition so dramatic are the various medal cut-off time guns that are fired by an official on the Finish line – the final 12-hour cut-off gun being the most gut-wrenching! Comrades cut-off is one of the most-watched pieces of live television annually in South Africa, as everyone tunes in shortly before 5:30 in the evening to see it. Once that gun is fired, marshals pull a tape across the Finish and the course is closed. There are many who run for just over 12 hours and go home with nothing! I personally ran 9:00:11 in 2003 and missed my Bill Rowan medal (half-bronze-half-silver) by 12 seconds and I watched that puff of smoke a mere six or seven meters from me in abject horror! I can only imagine how dreadful that must be for the poor souls who are ‘cut off’ at that final 12-hour gun. We’ve seen runners crawling on all-fours, cramping, vomiting and being carried by fellow comrades in those final few, agonising minutes before the final cut-off gun sounds the death-knell for another year. But Vic Clapham said it: we cannot trivialise Comrades and this tradition can never be changed, otherwise it won’t be ‘Comrades’!
Medals are another quirky Comrades thing – there are six of them, awarded as follows: Gold to the first ten men and women, the Wally Hayward medal (named after Comrades legend, race patriarch and five-time winner) to all runners between 11th place and 5:59:59, Silver between 6:00 and 7:29:59, the Bill Rowan medal (named after the first winner of Comrades in 1921 who won in a time of 8:59) from 7:30 to 8:59:59 (see my tale of woe above!), Bronze between 9:00 and 10:59:59 and finally the Vic Clapham medal named after the race’s founder, to those finishing in that last hour before the 12-hour cut-off. Illustrating the race’s availability to the average runner while still presenting a daunting challenge, is the fact that over half the field of anything from 16 to 23 000 runners will finish in that last hour and a half!
The last tradition that I’ll mention here is the Comrades permanent number or ‘Green Number’. If you are a Comrades Green Number, that number is yours for life. The Comrades Marathon Association retire that race number once you qualify for ‘Green’ and only you can ever run in it again, although I believe it’s possible to bequeath it to an heir in your last will and testament – it’s that special! There are three ways to earn a Green Number: win the race three times, win five Gold medals or complete ten Comrades under 12 hours. The last option is obviously the ‘easiest’(!) way for the average runner and Green Numbers are a special breed. Put that on your résumé and prospective employers will know you can pretty much stay any distance!
There is so much more to tell about Comrades, an incredible day spent in extraordinarily beautiful surroundings with massive crowd support all day long, 12 hours plus of live TV broadcasting and so much more drama and passion, but at the end of the day the only way you’ll know why it’s indeed the ‘Ultimate Human Race’ is to get down to the Zulu Kingdom and see for yourself. It’s difficult to call yourself a runner until you have done that…

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