Sacrifice & Support
ULTRA-MARATHON STAR ANN ASHWORTH REVEALS WHAT IT TOOK TO WIN THE WOMEN’S RACE AT THE COMRADES MARATHON.
What it took for Ann Ashworth to win Comrades.
WWAS I CONFIDENT I WOULD
WIN THE COMRADES? Yes and no. On the one hand, I had undertaken serious training in the build-up to the race – my body was as lean and strong as it could be. But on the other hand, there were factors I feared had the potential to end my Comrades dream. Three weeks beforehand, I had been diagnosed with severe anaemia; and with only two weeks left to go, I picked up a stomach bug that lasted five days.
an integral part of South African running culture – it’s the ultimate human race. I planned to run it since I was a child, and achieving a gold medal was my ultimate dream.
because I have the build of an endurance runner: I’m lean, light, and I can hold a consistent pace for a long time, but I’m easily pipped over short distances. Besides, I find running in solitude for long periods of time helps to relieve stress.
THREE HOURS INTO THE COMRADES, I STOPPED THINKING ALTOGETHER. I JUST RAN.
The last two years have been
difficult. In addition to my Comrades training, I’ve also been studying to become an advocate; so I’ve had to give up a stable job and go without a salary for 15 months. But I’ve had lots of support: my mom, Carol Boniwell, loaned me money to pay my bills, as did two of my friends; my husband, David, picked up a lot of our chores and responsibilities; and my coach, John Hamlett, gave up his time and expertise. I ran the Comrades as much in honour of their hard work and sacrifice as my own.
Training for an ultra marathon
involves sacrifice, because you have to spend lots of time on your feet. You have to ask yourself: Am I willing and able to commit to a training programme that involves running for half a day every weekend? And will my family support that? If the answer is yes, then it’s all systems go! Consistency is king. On a weekly basis, you need to commit to running at least five times and cross-training three times.
It wasn’t safe to run in the
dark when I was training for the Comrades. Instead of training when I got up at 5am, I did some work. I ran later in the day, typically between 8am and 10am, and then in the afternoon between 4pm and 6pm.
Sometimes, David and I trained
together. But otherwise, I did most of my training alone. Ahead of the Comrades, I attended a training camp in Dullstroom, where I ran with the Entsika men’s team. Three hours into the Comrades, I stopped thinking altogether. I just ran. David and I ran together for the first 30km. We chatted about our upcoming holiday, work, and household matters. It was actually quite boring! When David left me at Cato Ridge, I zoned out and enjoyed the crowd support.
I needed to eat often during the race, because I’m lean and I don’t have any reserves to tap into. I carried gels in my pockets that I consumed with water. I ate a few jelly babies, and drank cream soda, an electrolyte drink and three protein shakes. Before the race, I had a banana, a protein shake and a bowl of porridge for breakfast. After the race, I indulged in a well-deserved burger and an ice-cold cooldrink.
After the race, my feet were
too sore to wear running shoes, so I plumped for slip-slops. I’m ticklish under my feet, so I wasn’t keen on a foot massage. But I do love a hot bath post-race!
Next on my bucket-list is the New York City Marathon. David and I will also travel to Spain to participate in the Valencia Marathon later this year.
left Winning smile: Ann Ashworth, tired but ecstatic after 90 gruelling kilometres.Passing the baton: Comrades legend Bruce Fordyce congratulates Ashworth at the finish. below