Friday, May 21, 2010

COMRADES 2010 INTERVIEW SPECIAL: Prodigal Khumalo - "I don’t fear any hills on the course!"

Last year a fairly unknown face was leading Comrades for a long time. It was 28 year old Prodigal Khumalo hailing from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He ran as a rabbit but surprisingly finished the race in 6:01h. This year the newly dad is back for some serious damage over the classic 89k. An impressive season so far makes him a contender for the Top10 in this years race.
For he found the time to answer some questions. We are looking forward to see Prodigal leading the race again. This time a bit longer....

Hard facts - Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k and Comrades Marathon PB.
2:16:02, 65:12, 6:01 (but was a pacemaker and just decided to finish)

How would you describe the Comrades Marathon in 3 words?
Tough, competitive and challenging

What is your focus in the preparation?
To get a gold and run under 5:45

How many kilometers per week do you run on average in the last 6 weeks before the race?
Around 220km per week and cutting down from about 3 weeks to the race.

How do you prepare for the hilly course?
I have been training on hilly courses and tough routes and I have also done a couple long runs on the Comrades course.

What is your longest long run before the Comrades Marathon? How do you approach it? Race pace or easy?
It was the last 64km on the course. I started out very slow for the first 2 hours and then I increased the pace all the way through to the finish

How would you run a marathon in preparation to Comrades? Comrades Marathon race pace or flat out?
I race a marathon (he ran 2:19 with no competition winning by 6mins) and I also run a tough 52km race at Comrades pace and a bit quicker (he ran 3:05. Stephen Muzhingi the defending Comrades champ did 3:07 last year).

Do you run track workouts in preparation for the Comrades Marathon?
Yes but not too much when I’m training for Comrades. Most of my speed is done on gravel.

Downhill running is tough and tiring - how do you prepare for the long downhill stretches? Do you have a special technique?
Yes in the training when I do very hilly courses I always run hard on the downs and recover on the ups and that makes my legs stronger.

Nutrition is key to success in such a long race. What keeps you alive and loaded during the race?
I don’t eat during Comrades but I do use GU. I will take one before the race and then every 45mins I take another.

Besides running, do you do any cross training to get ready for the 89k.
I do some drills and plyometrics and also swim at the beach some times.

Are you doing specific core workouts in your preparation?
Yes, at least 3 times properly a week. When I train under 1hr 30mins I always do pushups and sit ups after the training.

Flats or cushioning? What type of shoes do you use in the race and why?
I use a racer / trainer for Comrades on the down run because of the pounding. I will be using the red Asics speedstar.

How often do you replace your shoes?
I have lots of shoes as I was sponsored before but now I just buy my shoes for cheaper in the running store I work for so my shoes are always in rotation and I don’t replace them that much.

Which is the crucial part of the Comrades Marathon course?
All of the down hills after 60km.

Which is the toughest climb on the course?
I don’t fear any hills on the course.

What are you doing to keep yourself motivated during such a long race?
I concentrate on my pace, and also getting gold.

How do you respond to early attacks in the race? Stay in the pack or go with it?
It depends. If it’s too high then I won’t go with it and I will just run my own pace.

Do you aim for kilometre splits or do you go with the flow of the competition?
I only start looking at times around the halfway mark where I will set a time that I want to be there at.

How happy were you with your race last year?
I can’t say because I was only a rabbit in the front for TV coverage for my team and I was also sick with flu and not well prepared.

What are you going to change towards this year’s race?
Yes, a lot! Because this year I have trained for it and my focus is on to finish. I was a rabbit the past 2 years. In 2008 I led far in the front to just past halfway but I decided to keep on going and with only 20km to go I was still lying 5th. Because of no mileage I started suffering and cramping and I landed up 18th.

What is key for you to run the perfect Comrades Marathon?
To stay to my plan and feel relaxed and strong and not to run other peoples races.

Who is your race favorite?
Muzhingi the last year’s winner, Mncedisi Mkhize and Fusi Nhlapo.

What do you expect from Josh Cox in this year’s race?
I don’t underrate him and he can do what Alberto Salazar did. He is fast but it’s a very different race here and a lot can happen.

How long does it take you to recover from Comrades Marathon?
3 weeks

What advice would you give a competitive Comrades Marathon first timer?
Don’t put pressure on yourself. It’s a long way.

Do you adore any of the Comrades Marathon legends? Do you have any other running role model?

Which races would you like to run before you die?
The London Marathon

Thanks Prodigal, we wish you a strong finish!

all pictures are taken by Cuan David Walker