How Claude Won 2013 Comrades

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Claude-Moshiywa-Comrades-MarathonClaude Moshiywa was the first South African to cross the finish line of the ‘Up’ Comrades since Bruce Fordyce in 1990. This is the story of a champion who knew he was destined to win.
As told to Mike Finch

I realised that I was one of the favourites was only when I got to Durban and looked at the field. I was confident, because I had tested my fitness and I knew I was in top form. I usually do a 24-kilometre route near my house. It’s very hilly, and if I do that route between 1:27 and 1:32, I know I’m in good shape. This year I did my PB on the course.

In 2011, I didn’t have enough mileage in my legs to handle the 89 kilometres, even though I finished third. In December 2012, I decided to increase my mileage, and averaged between 120 and 150 kilo-metres a week. That sort of mileage suits me – I don’t get too tired, and I recover quickly.

I knew at Two Oceans that this could be my year. I ran to 14th place in 3:15, but I reckon I was going at about 50 per cent. I surged a few times from the leading group to test my legs.

Deep down in my heart I knew I could win. I was ready for the other guys… guys like Ludwick Mamabolo (2012 champion), former Two Oceans winner Marco Mambo, and Bongmusa Mthembu. I knew that (defending ‘Up’ Run champion Stephen) Muzhingi was injured, and not a threat.

I got up at 3am, took a shower, and went to eat. I ate three slices of brown bread with jam and had some black coffee. We then made our way from our Umhlanga Ridge hotel and got to the start at 4.15.

When I warm up in the elite area I’m not much of a talker. I don’t really look at the other guys. I just do my own thing, and do some light jogging just to get ready. The only guys I talk to are some of the guys I train with, and I just advise them not to run in the front.

It was warm at the start. But in Johannesburg, where we train, it’s hot until the end of April, so the weather wasn’t a problem for me.

I got myself into the leading bunch and was with them until 30 kilometres. But the pace was very slow. Most of the guys were running with Ludwick Mamabolo and Stephen Muzhingi. That’s what happens in the race… most of the guys run with the champion and follow his pace, instead of following their own.

I was feeling strong, and six guys (including me) pulled clear of the group. I was surprised that some of the big favourites didn’t chase us.

Eventually I was running with Johannes Kekana, but I knew he didn’t have a lot of experience running in ultras. We did help each other with pace, and even gave each other water. But I knew he wasn’t going to last.

I eventually pulled clear with 20 kilometres to go, but I did get some cramp as I went up Polly Shortts. I asked the guys on the media truck to give me water, and I was scared that someone was going to come up behind me.

I really didn’t know whether I was excited or not when I entered the stadium. I guess I couldn’t process that I had won.

But once I was over Pollys I knew no-one was going to catch me – although the last two kilometres were very difficult. I was really tired by then, and my biggest fear was that I would get tripped by some of the spectators who were running excitedly next to me. That was scary.

I really didn’t know whether I was excited or not when I entered the stadium. I guess I couldn’t process that I had won. I remember my ears being blocked, and feeling so incredibly tired. All I wanted to do was sleep. I think it really only sank in much later in the day.

I only got back to my hotel at 7pm that night. It was very late, and I was being pulled left and right with interviews. I had left my wife, Jeanette, and my two boys (Themba, 6, and Nkosi, 7) there, and they had watched the whole race on TV. When I saw my wife she was emotional, but she couldn’t jump to me because she knew that I was very weak.

My family and I stayed an extra night at the Elangeni in Durban. It was nice to be able to do that.
Since then it has been very, very busy. Lots of interviews, and in the past month, since the race, I have only done two runs of 10 kilometres.

But I’ve seen a lot of Comrades champions in the past, and I’ve seen what happens to them afterwards. I have learnt from them that it is important to be grounded. Not to do anything different, and to draw a line when you need to.

I believe I can give back to my community through this – especially at schools. I think I can help uplift the community and show people what can be done.

I am excited about next year. I will go and look at my programme, and perhaps look at how I can tweak it for the ‘Down’ Run next year…

Photo credit: Jetline Action Photo 

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