Part 2 of our Hendrick Ramaala interview (you can find part one here)!
What’s different between a half and a full marathon?
I used to run fast half marathons [he ran 59:20 in 2000]. Then I did my first marathon. Big wakeup call! After one hour I wanted to stop. It was like a barrier for me. You feel like stopping, “This is it!”. And in the meantime you have to run another 21k. Some people have a fast first marathon but not many.
Do you find it is more of a fuel issue, to be able to drink or is it just muscular?
I don’t know, the legs just feel heavy. You don’t put the hammer down from the start, you pace yourself. You have to be efficient with your energy. It took me time to learn how to run a marathon. I was frustrated because I knew I could run a fast marathon but I didn’t deliver on race day. I did all this heavy training with long, long runs. I think it is more of a mental barrier. The first time I won when people started dropping off one after another, I thought “wow, that was easy!”.
It always feels easy if you win…
[laughs] Yeah, I could have run longer! I felt fresh and easy. But if you are with someone at 32, 33k and you are about to get dropped, you are going to hate the marathon. Then it’s really, really painful. And afterwards you just want to hide and eat and eat and not run at all. And of course you get depressed after the race if you didn’t do well. You take it personal. You can’t just do another one to rectify that. Mentally you’re finished.
How many weeks of marathon build-up do you do?
I do ten for sure.
What are your long runs like in this period?
I can go up to 40k.
These days I don’t run them too fast. I have to be really careful because I don’t recover as quick as before. 37! [laughs] I just want to be careful. I do the same quantity but the quality is different.
The Canova group (Kwambai, Duncan Kibet – both 2:04 at Rotterdam) run 40k with 30k at race pace.
Is it true? We don’t know that. I can run marathon pace for 1:30h [that would be 30k ish]. A lot of people can do it. Sometimes you read things…I don’t know. I don’t want to leave everything in training.
You’ve been running marathons for a while now…
…yeah, 25 or so!
How many years is that?
Is it at all discouraging to go to a marathon and see kids you have never seen before and then run so fast?
Last year we got like Kebede, Wanjiru. These Kenyans go straight to marathon. It’s exciting but you also know it’s gonna be tough. Guys like Wanjiru are not scared. They know they can run fast. But I know I can run fast, too. I do the training. Whenever I come into a marathon, I have to believe I can win, no matter who’s gonna run, be it a 2:03 or a 2:05 guy. At the marathon we are all equal at the starting line. The belief keeps me going. You hear like “this guy is a 58 minute half marathoner” or “a 60 minute half marathoner”. But this is the marathon! Let’s see what happens after 30k. If you don’t respect the distance, it’ll mess you up.
Tomorrow you will hear Hendrick talk about defeat and how he dislikes it.