Comrades 2012 – Dave Laithwaite’s story

Hi Bombers

Dave Laithwaite ran an incredible race at Comrades 2012. Here is his story – please share your story too:

Hi friends

Barene asked me to write and give her a full “run-down” (excuse the pun) of my Comrades run. I thought I would relive the day a little, and thought you guys may be interested enough to read it.


I was more relaxed than normal going in to the race. I wasn’t trying to carbo load hectically so felt “comfortable” and, well, normal the day before. I enjoyed a lovely roast beef and potato bake supper (thanks Jen) the night before. On the morning I was again less stressed than I have been in the past – I arrived on time at the start, spot on time (I think I am starting to work out how to do this). Being in A batch meant that I didn’t feel the need to push to the front of the batch. The only issue was that I was meant to start with Brad, and I hadn’t seen him … AT ALL … not even when the groups converged and we pushed forward to hear the Chariots tune etc etc. (I gathered at Camperdown that Brad had started at least, but started back in the field.)

The race:

Once warm, I ran fairly conservatively waiting for my mates to catch up … we had planned that Brad (Wantenaar), Doug, Iano and I would try to run as a bus, possibly including our long-distant / honourary team member, Lauren Calenborne. Well, by Camperdown they hadn’t caught me, so I carried on conservatively. The wind at Umlaas Road was unexpected and a bit worrying, but hey, my sub 3hr marathon was in the wind, so I figured I might have to dig a bit deeper again like I had on that day … I kept going, glancing over my shoulder expecting to see three cheerful runners coming up behind me anytime.

Injuries – no sign of any discomfort in the shin (yippee) – slight discomfort in the hip. An “old friend” but I knew I could run the full way with it … and it gave me something to do – stick my thumb on my hip bone and “druk” every few kms!?

Well, I got all the way to half way without the group catching me – and I got there at the tail end of our agreed ½ way pace, aiming for between 3:35 and 3:40, so I knew that it was not that I was running too fast. I kept going, still trying to be conservative until Cowies but now realizing that it was quite likely that I would have to do this on my own. A real pity – I missed my friends and wanted to be with them since we had trained so much together. I tried passing messages back via the Seconds to try and keep ‘connected’ with them … but I was hearing that the gap was not closing, but rather opening a bit.

For the first time in the three downs that I did, I really quite enjoyed the Hillcrest to Cowies sections. Normally by this stage I am already tired and stressed, but today I was comfortably holding my pace. I didn’t push the ups, but on the down-ish flats, I was doing 4:40s or so comfortably. I had planned to do my first walk 2/3s up Cowies … so I did (OK, I admit … I really needed to walk by this stage). We were all looking forward to a Cream Soda at the top of Cowies but they didn’t have any …. Oh well, I had green Energade instead. Top of Cowies was at 5:54 and my target for that point was 5:55, so I knew that Silver was firmly within my grasp – in fact, I calculated that I was right on track for a 7:20-ish at current pace.

From this point on I knew I was gonna have to work, but I was still feeling better than I ever have had at this point so just kept up the momentum. Have I mentioned the support I got … Well it was GREAT! I had seen Jen at all the agreed points and that was wonderful. I had also seen Brad and Doug’s wives and Geoff Lee who were also hopping down the route. Geoff as always was helpful and very encouraging – he always overestimates my abilities in the nicest possible way! I knew that the section from Westville through to Tollgate was my worst so had asked Jen to try be there somewhere, and my Dad said he might try to get there too. Well, I saw Jen, then my Dad, and then saw my Dad AGAIN just after 45th. That last stop was an unexpected surprise and just helped to give me another boost that I needed.

The only speed bump that I hit was just before 45th … I could feel my hammy tighten up and then down that hill it did a Mark Page on me. The nice thing was that I knew I had time so eased it up enough to start running again. Up Tollgate hill I decided just to walk a bit, had my last GU and took it easy. After that, I was back up and going.

Down into Durbs I knew the work was done. I knew the 7:20 was out of reach but was sure I was under 7:25, so thought I should see if I could go under 7:23. Again I was pleased that my legs managed to keep to my now familiar pace of around 4:50 (or there abouts) and finished strong. Overall, I think I could put this down on the very short list of races that went according to plan, basically from start to finish. The biggest regret was that I was not able to do it with my mates. I really think that if Brad had started with me we would have finished together (as he finished in 7:27), and unfortunately, Doug was not having as good a day as us and finished further back with a hard fought but frustrating 7:56.


What can I say … I was D-E-D. Although I had a great day, my body was finished (good, otherwise I might have felt cheated). But the pain and nausea didn’t come close to the internal joy and relief that I have FINALLY got that silver-medal-monkey off my back, and can now stop running that race and talk to my wife and kids … well, at least for a few more years J (I realized that I was not at the height of my mental prowess when I got an SMS from Iano once back in Maritzburg asking if I was still around the stadium and could give him a lift back up the hill like he had asked … eish, sorry Iano.


I count it a huge privilege to run. I believe this is a God-given desire within me and although Comrades is on a Sunday, I hope it gave Him pleasure (Eric Little from Chariots of Fire refers). Comrades is a worthy challenge and although individualistic in many ways, this year the journey to the start line, and even the race itself was for me a reminder of how lucky I am to have the support and friendship of so many. Thank you to all who have supported me on this adventure!


Well, thanks for listening, or at least reading the first few lines.

I am not done yet …



2 Responses

  1. As easy as that. Well done
    Retired Bomber

  2. Awesome Dave – absolutely loved reading this !! I think we need lessons in “how not to get stressed” …Well done again on an awesome run!

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