Vlam Se Bus

Print page


Vlam Pieterse is a qualified horticulturalist, although these days he’s in the building industry.

Around 14 years ago, he helped members of Hartbeespoort Marathon Club break sub-1:20 for the half marathon. He prefers running in a pack, and pacesetting is the only way his body knows how; a theory he’s tried and tested in over 50 races.

He can’t imagine his life without Comrades, and neither can his wife, San. As she has supported his Comrades bus five times, Vlam counts her as one of his biggest supporters, and her Marmite sandwiches have become something of a trademark. “If you don’t run it this year, you’ll drive us all mad,” she once told him.

Passengers riding Vlam’s bus reach each kilometre marker singing Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust, climb hills chanting “Bolyfies vorentoe, borsies uit, dames ook”, and they are constantly reassured by Vlam that they are a) men looking good, and b) ladies looking even better. Over the course of just under 12 hours, his merry band of Comrades brothers become family members, comforted by the fact that they do not have to face this daunting race alone.

“I help runners who are hoping to reach the cut-off time; those who are capable, but don’t believe in themselves,” he explains. “For me, the ultra marathon is a spiritual journey – we are fortunate to be able to run it, and knowing we can do it strengthens the mind.”

He breaks ultra marathons down into smaller, more manageable goals. He’ll ask his passengers to run to the next big tree or landmark, and distract them with up-tempo songs, jokes and lively chatter. “The big distance comes around, all by itself,” he says.
He describes running a sub-12:00 Comrades as “living life on the edge” – great if you make it, heartbreaking if you don’t. One of the most poignant dilemmas he is faced with when leading the last bus over the finish line is whether to help struggling runners, or leave them behind.

Naturally, his first instinct is to help. Moments away from finishing Two Oceans 2009 he did just that, and missed the cut-off. Out of desperation, runners have even been known to offer monetary bribes, pleading with him to help them cross the finish line.
“I have learned to remember: I am a pacesetter, not a sister, and I have to keep the best interests of the group in mind,” he says. “Sticking to my pacing chart ensures everyone has enough energy to cross the finish line, but that can only take runners so far. Pacing cannot account for injury, or lack of training.”

Vlam is no stranger to injury. He once suffered a stress fracture on his sacrum bone at a Comrades qualifier, the Loskop Marathon. Although everyone on his bus qualified, he was forced to pull out of the race in 2011. His son’s dream of running his first Comrades with his father was shattered, and hundreds of athletes were left without a bus driver. He also had to pull out of the 2012 race, because of kidney stones.

Despite his setbacks, Vlam is determined to come back stronger – and will be pacing the 2013 12-hour bus with Spike Laubscher (11 Comrades medals) and Frans Campher (17 Comrades medals).

Vlam Pieterse’ 12-Hour Pace Chart

To Go              No Later         Mins/Km

82                   0:47                8

77                   1:24                7:30

72                   2:02                7:30

67                   2:40                7:30

62                   3:26                8

57                   3:58                7:30

52                   4:36                7:30

47                   5:16                8

43.5                5:45                8

37                   6:43                9

32                   7:26                8:30

27                   8:06                8

22                   8:45                8

17                   9:25                8

12                   10:05              8

7                      10:55              10

2                      11:40              9

0                      11:58              9

Download Vlam Se Pace Band Here >> For More Information On The 2013 Pace Setters, Click Here >>
Avatar of Runners World

About Runners World

Online Editor for Runner's World magazine

2 Responses to Vlam Se Bus

  1. Boitumelo June 16, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Vlam Pieterse and Runners World – Thank you for making my first-to-finish Comrades run such an enjoyable experience. I read so much online material and chose to follow Vlam.

    From Soweto township to eThekwini and a finish in uMngungudlovu – I wouldn’t have done it without the experienced runner like you….

    Finishing 6 minutes after cut-off after (I was distracted at about 3km to go) is no less of achievement because spiritually, mentally and physically I remained strong, could have done a 5km with children from finishing line if there was any:). That’s how much safe, balanced and enjoyable race I had.
    Expect invitation from me to celebrate you in my township before we start preparing for 2014 Comrades!

  2. Albert Venter May 25, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    vlam se pace chart wrist band

Leave a Reply