Words of a Comrades Winner

How I Beat Leonid Shvetsov in 2009

How I beat Leonid Shvetsov in 2009

I suppose without sounding arrogant, I have improved each year on my times and positions at Comrades, so I could say it was a matter of time before I was privileged enough to win the great race. I was 7th in 2007, and 3rd in 2008, so I knew that 2009 was as big year, but it would be tough to beat Leonid, as he smashed the up run record. An athlete like that will always be strong come race day, that you can guarantee.

My preparations started in October 2008. Cliff (Coach) had come up with an extensive, but very tough training programme for me. I wont lie to you, when I saw it for the first time, I thought, I am going to die, running like this but I knew if I just stuck to it, it will pay off. If you don’t try it you cant knock it!

I did a lot of strength and endurance work over December of 2008 in Zimbabwe. When I got back to SA early 2009, I did a lot of speed work on the track, and many runs on the Comrades Route. The coach also took us down to his “Rift Valley” where it is almost impossible to drive on the roads, and I had to run on these mountains. I had a good two races leading up to Comrades, and those were Chatsworth Ultra, (50km) and Two Oceans (56Km) where I did really well at both so was very confident and happy with my form.

We had started planning and strategising for the race from September 2008. I watched the 2008 race DVD pretty much 5 or 6 times a week. Looking at the top runners and how they run and their movements of their arms, legs, head, body, everything. When did runners take energy drinks from seconding teams and how they responded after taking in the supplements and energy drinks. All in all I pretty much lived Comrades for 8 months solid, non stop. (Yes you can say it – “Get a life”)

Obviously my, (and everyone else) main focus was that of Leonid as he was defending Champion and the record holder of both up and Down runs, so I knew that there would be a lot of focus on him, and that I would be able to come into the 2009 race under the radar. The underdog, dark horse or any other saying.

I slept as well as could be the night before, but I had a lot of scenarios racing through my mind. What if this and that etc, but I suppose it was to be expected as I really wanted to win. Comrades morning I woke up at 2am, and went through my pre race morning ritual – Wake up, hot shower for 20 minutes, then a 30 minute jog. Put on tracksuit, and then eat Breakfast.

The drive to Pietermaritzburg from Durban was good and all the guys were in good spirits. Everyone knew what their roles and jobs were for the day, so all was in order.
We arrived at the City Hall, and did final stretches and a little jogging to keep the muscles loose and warm. Its weird in there with all the contenders as pretty much no one really talks to each other, and it is pretty tense, as people all eye each other out and you can see in people eyes how focused they are.

An official came into the Hall and shouted “5 minutes ladies and Gentlemen.” And in an instant the tension went up a few notches. Tracksuits came off and it was GAME TIME INDEED! I was a little nervous but just wanted the race to start so we can get on with the business at hand.

Coach told me to be close to Leonid at all times, and so I lined up a few meters away from him, but I could see him. He was in the front row, and I was in the second row just off his right shoulder.
The heart rate has picked up and we are merely 1 minute to the gun. You know it is close as the officials all scatter from the front of the field, cause when the gun goes off, these guys go at one serious pace for the first couple of kilometres.

The customary cock crow sounded and Leonid was so keen to get going he though this was the gun, so he took off, and after a few steps, he realised there is a Gun that will be fired. He hurried back over the timing mat, just in seconds before the gun went off. I could see then that the man was here and meant business. The gun Fired and we got going.

To be continued – The Race – Friday 18 March


March 16, 2011 - Posted by | Athletics, Comrades, Comrades Marthon, Exercise, Fitness, Marathon Running, Running, Stephen Muzhingi, Two Oceans Marathon, Uncategorized


  1. Haa! Stev. I was glued to your story the next thing you don’t finish it. Don’t get used to not finishing things the race is in few days time.

    Nice story and well drafted. I would like to know more about the preparations, things like the kind of training, the food you eat, the supplements, the sex etc. Without giving your secretes. I will be following you in all respects.


    Comment by MaNkonzweni | March 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi, thanks for reading, and for the compliments. Ok, I hear you, I will try and give better information about the subjects you want to hear about, without giviong away my secrets. Look out for tomorrow, the second and final part of 2009.

      Comment by muzhingi5h23 | March 17, 2011 | Reply

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