Sac­ri­fice & Sup­port

UL­TRA-MARATHON STAR ANN ASH­WORTH RE­VEALS WHAT IT TOOK TO WIN THE WOMEN’S RACE AT THE COM­RADES MARATHON.

Runner's World South Africa - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY: DOUG CAREW

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

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