Comrades Marathon 2021, longing to run ….
Meet the beautiful duo Comrades Marathon Runners Ross (aka Run Ross Run) & Michelle Olivier living in Ballito KZN.
Michelle & Ross from couch to Comrades, Marathon started with Park Runs and are now great fans longing to run Comrades Marathon 2021. They have 5 Comrades medals between them so far.
Watch this epic video for a journey of their Comrades Marathon 2019 and read about their journey from couch to Comrades. For them hard work + dedication, certainly is a new PB.
Ross: 2X Comrades Medals (8h54m 2018 Bill Rowan, 8h03m 2019 Bill Rowan)
Michelle: 3x Comrades Medals (9h55m 2017 Bronze, 8h54m 2018 Bill Rowan, 8h38m 2019 Bill Rowan)
From Couch to Comrades: Ross & Michelle Olivier’s story
Could you please tell us a brief overview of your background?
Ross and I both grew up moving around the world as we both come from expatriate families. We met in Nairobi Kenya during a school sports tournament; at this time I was living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Ross was living in Kampala, Uganda. A few months later, Ross’s family moved to Dar es Salaam for his father’s work and we started our journey as a couple at the International School of Tanganyika at the ages of 17 and 18. Fast forward 15 years and we are now based in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal and have been married for seven years with our first child expected this December 2020. Ross is currently working at Unilever, South Africa and I work remotely for an Interior Design Studio in JHB.
What got you started into running – was there anyone close to you that inspired you?
We were both very fond of sports growing up, but it wasn’t until we completed our studies and moved into our first home that we started running. It all started with the odd park run, which quickly grew into a bit of a Saturday tradition. The park run is the perfect platform for beginners as it allows you to track your progress and meet like-minded people in your own neighborhood. The 5km distance quickly turned into 10km and before we knew it we were signing up for our first half-marathon. What really surprised us about running was how quickly you can start achieving your goals and how good it feels when you do so. There always seems to be more that you can achieve and another level to push yourself to. Running has become our favourite form of ‘quality time’ and we continue to push and inspire one another.
How long have you been running for in general and how many Comrades Marathon’s have you done?
We began running in 2010/2011 but the bug only really bit about a year later. We were both signed up for Comrades Marathon in 2017 (our first) however, 3 months before the race, Ross picked-up a knee injury and had to pull his entry. I continued to train for Comrades 2017 with the BEST support a runner could ever wish for and completed my first Comrades in June that year in a time of 9h55m (with Ross seconding me all the way home). In 2018, Ross started training for Comrades again, and although his knee injury kept creeping up, he managed to control the injury with regular physio and bio sessions.
We trained to run a Bill Rowan (Sub-9hr) together that year and crossed the finish line hand-in-hand in a time of 8h54m. To this day that was the most special moment in our entire relationship (we joke about this because we say it even trumps our wedding day). Last year (2019) Ross set his goal to run his first Comrades silver, he had ticked all of the boxes in his training and in the lead up to the event, but unfortunately his race day didn’t go to plan and he crossed the line in 8h03m. My goal for the race was a sub-8hr45m Comrades and I decided I wanted to attempt the race solo (without a running partner), I had a phenomenal day out and managed to finish well under my target time in 8h38m.
What do you enjoy about Comrades Marathon?
Comrades is more than just a road running race, it is a display of what people can do when they step outside of themselves and come together to achieve something spectacular. There is so much that goes into this race; hours of training, preparation, hard work and dedication, yet when you are at the start line you are all one and are all there with the same purpose. The sense of togetherness and companionship is so overwhelming that you are reminded that running really isn’t a solo sport – it is when runners come together that true magic happens. The camaraderie and raw human display of determination is what makes Comrades the most magical event on the road running calendar!
How do you prepare for an event this big?
We all live within some form of a routine but training for a race like this is ALL about routine. The best thing to do is to join your local running club or start your own social club so that you have the support and motivation that comes with a training group (not to mention the amazing people you meet along the way). We like to mix up our training with speed-work, longer distance runs, trail running and a whole lot of strength work to prevent injuries. The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body – it will tell you when you can push yourself further and when you need a time-out – stick to your program but be sure to invest in rest as well.
What is your favourite food before and after a run?
Where do we begin? We are absolute foodies and always strive to fuel our bodies with wholesome nourishing foods that assist with recovery and inflammation (that can arise from excessive training). The most important thing to remember is to stick to what your body knows and what works for you – never try anything new before a race as your body may not react positively to foreign ingredients. We like to keep it relatively simple and clean before a big race so normally opt for sweet potato & butternut mash with either a grilled chicken or fish fillet and some roast vegetables or a pasta dish of some sort. After a race we ALWAYS celebrate with Pizza (our favourite)!
Do you enjoy running alone or prefer a group?
We enjoy both and tend to mix it up a bit in this regard. Most of the time we train with our running club – The Dolphin Coast Striders, but we definitely take time to enjoy some solo runs as a couple (a time for us to bond and spend some quality time together).
How has running changed your life?
Running can almost be seen as a metaphor for life- there is no single giant step that will get you closer to your goals, it’s about getting out there and taking lots of little steps. Small incremental pieces of progress that eventually lead you to the realisation that you can never stop improving. Running has taught us about the power of compounding – when you continue to work at something everyday, you begin to see the power of this accumulated positive behavior which can eventually lead to the mastering of that particular skill. It is this lesson that has changed us and we have been able to apply this to other aspects of our lives as well.
What is next for you guys?
2020 has definitely thrown us a few curve balls but we are grateful for one constant in our lives and that is our love of running. Although the race calendar has been cancelled this year, we have set ourselves personal goals that we can work towards under these new circumstances. Ross has been focusing on shorter distances (building up his speed to beat his personal 1km/1mile/5km and 10km) and my goal is simply to keep moving, keep fit and keep healthy (as I am now 25 weeks pregnant). We are optimistic that 2021 will bring us some great races with new challenges and that the sport of road running will adapt to this new thing we call “normal”.