Carol’s incredible journey back to Comrades

Carol’s incredible journey back to Comrades

If there is one word to describe today’s Fast Friday, it is determination. 

Carol and I started working together almost two years ago. From the first consultation we had, it was clear that although she was a gentle, soft-hearted woman, she was also fiercely determined and didn’t back down easily.


A brief background...


Carol's story is what makes this journey so special and one that I’m proud to be part of... say Carol has had a bumpy road to Comrades, is an understatement of epic proportions.

At the age of 4, she developed TB, which led to the collapse of her lungs.

As a child, running was never in the picture. 


Fast forward a few years…


At age 13, Carol reluctantly decided to try field hockey, however, the running still posed a challenge.

Her father and a fellow pupil were always on the sidelines, on standby, with her asthma pump.

Carol never gave up trying and eventually was able to play hockey and squash on a more regular basis. 

Her son Philip was born in December 1987 but, unfortunately, a couple of months before his 6th birthday in 1993 a virus left him brain damaged.

Carol decided to care for him at home, resulting in a 17-year break from sport in general.

In 2004, Carol took up running.

First, to finish an 8km.

Once she achieved that, she focused on qualifying for the Comrades Marathon. 

Carol went on to finish 6 Comrades Marathons.

Unfortunately, on her last rest day after the 2010 race, Carol and her kids were hijacked.

Luckily, she managed to get them out of the car before they sped off.


This was one too many setbacks for Carol...


...And Everything fell apart


She tried to qualify for the race in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 without any luck.

Being told by many she’s training incorrectly and she is too old, she came very close to giving up. 

In 2015, after breaking her wrist and tearing her TFL in her hip, Carol made a slow return back to running, determined to one day go back and run Comrades again.

At one of the 2017 Comrades Roadshows, Carol chatted to Lindsey who suggested she should try to qualify one more time...

...But her times were still too slow to allow her to line up for The Ulitmate Human Race.

Lindsey’s second piece of advice was for her to get in touch with me for some running and cycling coaching. 


Getting help to improve her times


Shortly after Comrades 2017, Carol and I started working together.

Upfront, we made sure a few things were non-negotiable: 

  • Consistency in her training was vital! 
  • She needed to train at the right intensities 
  • And she needed to trust the process and the programme (In other words, stick to it!)

Her 2018 Comrades prep was going really well and the time to try to qualify again had arrived...


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 Detailed descriptions of each exercise so you know how to do them

 Number of repetitions for each exercise so that you avoid overtraining & injury

 Short videos showing you EXACTLY what to do (Number 6 will turn you into the "Marathon Slayer" so that you don't hit the wall and implode later in the race)

Comrades qualification that day was not to be.


Back to the drawing board, we went...

True to form however, The Comrades Marathon Association then threw another curveball Carol's way. 


New Comrades Qualifying Criteria


In the build-up to the 2019 Comrades Marathon, the CMA announced that the qualifying standard to run Comrades was no longer 5 hours, but 4:50.

The last time Carol ran a sub 4:50 marathon was 14 years ago.

Again, Carol took this setback on her stride. 

We made a few adjustments to her programme and started to train for the 2019 up run.

We focused on building speed.

The pressure was on...

Not one to shy away from challenges, Carol set her sights on the tough Maritzburg Marathon as her qualifier.

She ran a great race and finished in 4:48:57.

She made it!

Carol was heading back to Comrades for the first time since 2010.

The perfect end to a great story.


In the months preceding Comrades Carol followed her programme religiously. On race day she followed her pacing chart to the T, which resulted in a successful build-up and execution. 

Carol finished the 2019 Comrades marathon in a time 11:31:55

An extremely hard worker, Carol gets up early at 3:30am to get training underway so that she can be done before 6:00am to give her son the medication he needs on a daily basis.

Since we've started working together, Carol has managed to do the following:

  • Firstly, her love of running has returned
  • She's run her fastest marathon since 2006 (At the age of 58!)
  • She also managed to run her second best time at Comrades and “break” her streak of 4 DNF's
  • She also run a sub-60min 10km - her third fastest time since she started running in 2004


Carol is now setting her sights on Comrades 2020 as well as the 70.3 IRONMAN East London in 2021. 

Let’s go Carol!


 About Coach Markus van Niekerk


Markus van Niekerk the athlete has qualified for ITU World Olympic Distance, ITU Long Distance and 70.3 World Champs. A sub 10hr Ironman Finisher and top 10 finish at ITU World Long Distance champs count as his highlights.

He regularly finishes on the podium at local races across all the Triathlon disciplines and understands well what it takes to achieve his goals working around a 9-5 job and raising a young Family

As a coach Markus has assisted multiple athletes qualify for 70.3 World Champs, ITU Olympic Distance World Champs and Xterra World Champs.

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