If there is one word to describe today’s Fast Friday, it is determination. 

Carol and I started working together almost two years ago. From the first consultation we had, it was clear that although she was a gentle, soft-hearted woman, she was also fiercely determined and didn’t back down easily.

A brief background…

Carol’s story is what makes this journey so special and one that I’m proud to be part of… 

…to say Carol has had a bumpy road to Comrades, is an understatement of epic proportions.

At the age of 4, she developed TB, which led to the collapse of her lungs.

As a child, running was never in the picture. 

Fast forward a few years…

At age 13, Carol reluctantly decided to try field hockey, however, the running still posed a challenge.

Her father and a fellow pupil were always on the sidelines, on standby, with her asthma pump.

Carol never gave up trying and eventually was able to play hockey and squash on a more regular basis. 

Her son Philip was born in December 1987 but, unfortunately, a couple of months before his 6th birthday in 1993 a virus left him brain damaged.

Carol decided to care for him at home, resulting in a 17-year break from sport in general.

In 2004, Carol took up running.

First, to finish an 8km.

Once she achieved that, she focused on qualifying for the Comrades Marathon. 

Carol went on to finish 6 Comrades Marathons.

Unfortunately, on her last rest day after the 2010 race, Carol and her kids were hijacked.

Luckily, she managed to get them out of the car before they sped off.

This was one too many setbacks for Carol…

…And Everything fell apart

She tried to qualify for the race in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 without any luck.

Being told by many she’s training incorrectly and she is too old, she came very close to giving up. 

In 2015, after breaking her wrist and tearing her TFL in her hip, Carol made a slow return back to running, determined to one day go back and run Comrades again.

At one of the 2017 Comrades Roadshows, Carol chatted to Lindsey who suggested she should try to qualify one more time…

…But her times were still too slow to allow her to line up for The Ulitmate Human Race.

Lindsey’s second piece of advice was for her to get in touch with me for some running and cycling coaching. 

Getting help to improve her times

Shortly after Comrades 2017, Carol and I started working together.

Upfront, we made sure a few things were non-negotiable: 

  • Consistency in her training was vital! 
  • She needed to train at the right intensities 
  • And she needed to trust the process and the programme (In other words, stick to it!)

Her 2018 Comrades prep was going really well and the time to try to qualify again had arrived…

Comrades qualification that day was not to be.

Back to the drawing board, we went…

True to form, however, The Comrades Marathon Association then threw another curveball Carol’s way. 

New Comrades Qualifying Criteria

In the build-up to the 2019 Comrades Marathon, the CMA announced that the qualifying standard to run Comrades was no longer 5 hours, but 4:50.

The last time Carol ran a sub 4:50 marathon was 14 years ago.

Again, Carol took this setback on her stride. 

We made a few adjustments to her programme and started to train for the 2019 up run.

We focused on building speed.

The pressure was on…

Not one to shy away from challenges, Carol set her sights on the tough Maritzburg Marathon as her qualifier.

She ran a great race and finished in 4:48:57.

She made it!

Carol was heading back to Comrades for the first time since 2010.

The perfect end to a great story.

In the months preceding Comrades Carol followed her programme religiously. On race day she followed her pacing chart to the T, which resulted in a successful build-up and execution. 

Carol finished the 2019 Comrades marathon in a time 11:31:55

An extremely hard worker, Carol gets up early at 3:30am to get training underway so that she can be done before 6:00am to give her son the medication he needs on a daily basis.

Since we’ve started working together, Carol has managed to do the following:

  • Firstly, her love of running has returned
  • She’s run her fastest marathon since 2006 (At the age of 58!)
  • She also managed to run her second-best time at Comrades and “break” her streak of 4 DNF’s
  • She also ran a sub-60min 10km – her third fastest time since she started running in 2004

Shona is the former Head of Sport Science at the High-Performance Centre, University of Pretoria. She returned from Madrid, Spain, in 2013 where she completed her MBA in Sport Management with Universidad Europea de Madrid (Real Madrid FC). Shona’s current work and interest lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) conditioning and sport science working with elite ultra-endurance athletes such as Caroline Wostmann (2015 Comrades & 2Oceans winner). Aside from football strength & conditioning, Shona’s other passion and expertise lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) as well as Women in Sport. She has competed in 4 Half IronMan distance events and three 2Oceans Ultramarathons herself. She has also worked with other elite female athletes such as London 2012 bronze medallist in canoeing, Bridgitte Hartley.

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