How running junkies find their next fix

This year’s Comrades winner, Bongmusa Mthembu, keeps his next to his bed. A running friend of mine keeps hers in the bathroom.

They’re referring to the Nedbank Runners’ Guide, an essential book for those who get up very early so they can drive somewhere, park, and then run along the streets and trails of South Africa.

Runners live by a different timetable. For many, the year is divided into pre- and post-Comrades. Before the world’s oldest and largest ultramarathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, you need to run a qualifying marathon. Your time, and the distance, determines your seeding. It also goes without saying that you can’t just pitch up and run 90km.

I’m a relatively new runner, and haven’t yet plucked up the courage to run the Comrades. Perhaps in 2016.

The astonishing thing about the Guide is the number of races going on at any time. Pick any weekend, and somewhere in South Africa there will be a race.

For those not planning on toasting in the New Year, there’s a 10km run at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens on January 1 at 7am. There’s also the popular half-marathon sponsored by Dis-Chem to look forward to on January 11 – a trail through the back roads of Bedfordview to the east of Johannesburg.

For those looking for more of a challenge, there is the Salomon Skyrun: a two-day, 100km race that starts at Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape. You have to do the “Lite” 65km version of the event before they let you do the full one. As the Guide says, it’s an epic run, and they only take 150 entrants per race.

I broke out in a light sweat while reading the entry for the Gift of the Givers Township Marathon on February 22. The race, which is also a qualifier for the Two Oceans and the Comrades, is a circular loop that starts in Eldorado Park and takes you through Walter Sisulu Square and then into Lenasia.

It’s billed as an easy course, but I have found that running 42.2km is quite hard.

For those unwilling to shell out money for the Guide itself, you can always just look at the website: www.runnersguide.co.za

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