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by Michelle Carnegie
04 August 2017

We look at them in awe: the front pack of elite runners gliding along. Do they even feel any discomfort? Do they ‘suffer’ as much as the ‘average runner?’ Oh yes, says the 2016 Comrades winner Charné Bosman. So much so that during this year’s Comrades Marathon she was ready to throw the towel in at only 20km into the grueling 87km race.

When South Africa’s sweetheart of long distance running crossed the 2017  Comrades finish line in 3rd position, very few people knew that she ran more than 60km of the race in great discomfort, and with constant thoughts of wanting to give up.
“This year’s race was the toughest Comrades I’ve ever run. When I crossed that finish line I had nothing left in my legs and I was thirsty,” says Charné, who finished the Up Run in a time of 6:34. She describes her finishing time as a 'survival' time opposed to the 6:18 or 6:20 finishing time she was hoping, and definitely in shape for. The most frustrating part of it all is that she can’t really pinpoint why her day did not go as planned.
When you know, you know
Her training was spot on, her nutrition great and she kept healthy throughout the build up to Comrades. But when Charné woke the morning of the race on June 4th, she knew something was wrong. “I just knew, but I kept on telling myself that it was probably just nerves.” Still nothing felt right. “While warming up I felt as if my body was just not responding. I didn’t have the usual kick in my legs, and believe it or not, even my shoes felt too big. I kept on telling myself it is a 87km race, it is far, and it will get better.”
Unfortunately it didn’t. Only 20km into the race Charné was ready to pack it all in. She saw her dream vanishing; the months of training, the grueling schedule, the sacrifices running brings, everything she had worked so hard for. She just wanted to give up. But the absolute amazing support of the thousands of supporters lining the roads of KwaZulu-Natal made Charné push through the discomfort she felt with every step. “I remember seeing the 67km to go marker board and wondering how I was ever going to finish the race. We suffer just as much as the average runner. We feel exactly the same emotions, and also battle with thoughts of wanting to stop. It’s a tough race for average runners, but for us too. It is not as easy as it looks, we might just show it differently,” says Charné.
She remembers battling with the heat in Durban, and whilst heading up the infamous Polly Shortts, she had to use all her willpower to just keep going. Reaching the top of Polly Shortts she literally ran from one marker to the next, pushing ahead to cross the finish line, exhausted and disappointed. “Don’t get me wrong, I am not ungrateful for my 3rd position. But I wanted to make South Africa proud by winning a back-to-back medal. That would have been amazing.”

Looking back
In looking back it is still hard to pinpoint why everything did not go her way on the day. As all other elite athletes she was under immense pressure leading up to race day, sometimes chatting to 8 different journalists on one day. But Charné believes that over the time she has learnt to handle this type of pressure.
As part of her training this year she spent 27 days in Graskop, Mpumalanga, and believes this made her mentally tougher. “I often trained on my own, because by now I know what I need to do. There are not shortcuts to success.” She focussed on eating clean. “I juiced vegetables every morning, ate Future Life Protein as well as lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and chicken. I cut all sugar from my coffee and cut all alcohol since last year November. I really felt this type of eating clean helped me physically.” Some weeks she ran up to 195km a week, and therefore made sure a chiropractor and physiotherapist helped her with the alignment of her body.

Yet, June 4th was not her day.
Moving ahead
It was a busy time leading up to and straight after Comrades: media interviews, awards, people recognizing Charné and wanting to stop for a chat and a photo. She recalls how on the flight to Durban she tried to keep to herself, but then somebody recognized her. Suddenly everyone wanted to chat, take a picture and asked for an autograph. She admits it all gets too much sometimes and it can be tiring. “But I really don’t mind it. I want to stay humble.”
Charné took a well-deserved rest after Comrades and only ran when she felt like it, and also not very far. Her main focus now is to give back to others. Charné’s idol and previous Olympic medalist Elana van Zyl-Meyer, has asked her to be part of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Captains Challenge on September 17th, where captains of different sporting codes challenge each other to take on this event. Charné will be running for Edurocad and will most probably lead the 3:00/3:15 bus across the finish line.
As race ambassador for the SPAR Women’s Challenge she is mentoring a young, up and coming, but underprivileged runner. “I want to try and make a difference this year.”
When it comes to running, Charné will soon start working on short speed sessions such as 200m and 400m and will join Nedbank’s time trials. “Running is like a drug to me. I feel free when I run.” And yes! Next year she will be back at Comrades.
If she could give any advice to novices wanting to tackle the Comrades Marathon after watching it on TV this year, she would tell them to wait for a year or two. “Give yourself at least two years. You don’t want to build up too quickly, get injured and then hate running. Rather set yourself small goals, put your clothes out the night before and just start walking. Get out the house and walk. I bet within 1km you will want to start running. Join a club or run with a friend. Take small steps to success.”
For the more experienced runners she has the following advice: “Always remember to run your own race and stick to your own plan, no matter who passes you. And always respect the Comrades Marathon. You can be very well prepared, but anything can go wrong on the day. Comrades will humble you and bring you back to Mother Earth quickly. It is not just a half marathon or even a marathon. It is very, very far!”

Article Keywordscomrades marathon charne bosman

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