Eric Ngubane (Nedbank Running Club) is considered to be one of South Africa’s best trail runners. Certainly a runner that can keep his cool under pressure but he needed a change of “scenery” that he is why he opted to make the Comrades his main focus for this year.
Actually as a Durban “boytjie” he reasons that he owes it to himself to put in one “go big or go home effort” in the world’s most famous ultra-race.
“Winning the Comrades at least once is something that has been on my bucket-list for a while. I think the up-run (Durban to Pietermaritzburg) suits me better. I have discussed it with Nick Bester (NB Sports) last year after I won the Lesotho Sky Run. He encouraged me to give it a go telling me to forgo running trail runs up until after Comrades,” said Ngubane who finished 23rd in the 2012 running a time of 5:50:29.
As a seasoned runner Ngubane knows the futility of making bold predictions especially when it comes to racing ultras. Being boastful often leads to a rude reality check. There is a just reason why many consider running marathons and further as the great leveller in sport. Nothing is a done deal up until an athlete crosses the finish line. One has just to think back to what happened in last year’s Comrades women’s race.
Still Ngubane cannot help feeling slight upbeat about how his race might play out on 4 June. His confidence sprouts from the way he raced in the built-up to the Comrades. A definite confidence booster for him was running a 1:09:12 half-marathon after doing 50km training run the day before. Being able to run 2:30:00 marathon after running 32km the day before also proved to him that he is training has been going well.
“I have also been privileged to train with the likes of Ludwick Mamabola (2012 Comrades-winner) in the Lowveld. I have learnt a lot during our long runs together. It also proved to me that I can hold my own running with some of the top Comrades contenders.”
Ngubane admits that the biggest mistake he can make on race day will be to start off to conservatively.
“It is hard playing catch-up during Comrades. It is a fact that the first 30 or so kilometres of the up-run are the most difficult but that you cannot afford to let the race-contenders open up to big a gap on you. The second half of the race suits me better. I have done a lot of training on the route I know what to do when.”
According to Ngubane he had a good endurance base due to his exploits in some of the toughest trail runs that is why this year he mostly focussed on improving his race speed.
If Ngubane had his way everybody would be running as he believes the regular clocking of kilometres helps one to survive the daily rat race.
“Running definitely works for me. After I have run my head is clear and what might have seen like an insurmountable problem suddenly seem trivial. Running helps me to have a positive outlook on life.”
Winning the Old Mutual Golden Gate Challenge (73km) and the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge is just two of last year’s highlights for him.