Tlhalefang went from sofa to fitness fanatic which was inspiring. That was not enough, this year he took up running as well.
Us “normal” folk would have started with a 5km walk and increased it gradually towards a 10km and maybe a 21.1km in our first year. Not this man. He skipped all the smaller distancesand went straight for distances many of us refuse to even contemplate .. ultra marathons!
Here Tlhalefang aka Mo to me shares a snippet of his journey to the Comrades 2016.
“To run an ultra marathon you have to be arrogant enough to believe that you can do it .. and stupid enough to try”
EKL – ME and TM – Tlhalefang M.
EKL – Please tell us a little about who Tlhalefang is?
TM – I’m the middle child of the family, born and raised in the Vaal. I’m extremely passionate about the arts, specifically drama, singing, and choreography. Those are what I consider my first love, closely followed by sports Athletics (obvious) and Rugby. After high school, I had to escape from the bubble in the Vaal and ventured out to TUT (Pretoria) where I completed a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. I was fortunate to get an internship in Johannesburg with Schaeffler and clearly I was great at what I did during my internship as they were brave enough to offer me a permanent position Application Engineer. When I started my internship it became extremely clear that I wasn’t looking after myself compared to my fit and lean peers. I wasn’t having any of that, so I started my journey to a healthier lifestyle. I joined the gym and literally spun myself to a fitter and leaner me by attending daily spinning classes. Half measure isn’t my thing, I’m either all in or not at all. It wasn’t too long before I was working towards becoming a spinning instructor and hosting spinning classes at Virgin Active and Planet fitness. I soon realized I enjoyed the fitness world, and it wasn’t long before I began working towards and become a personal trainer. The extra income that came with these new fitness roles came in very handy, especially for me that loves spoiling myself. I must add that amidst all this fitness focus, I’m a few months shy of obtaining my Masters in Engineering.
EKL– Have you always enjoyed running or did running find you?
TM – To be totally honest I never thought I’d ever be a runner let alone run marathons, so I guess running found me 🙂
How my running adventure began was by accident. I was planning a trip to Cape Town for early this year (2016) when I stumbled across information about the Two Oceans ultra-marathon. I thought why not run it while I’m down there? So I did! Somehow the part about needing to qualify before I could run it was totally missed by me when I read the info. This small print (in my opinion) hit me for a six! Damn! I had thought… me being as fit as I am, could run this thing and just finish! I mean, it’s not like I was running for a gold medal or anything like that!? Wits (Kudu’s), 15 km race was where my “training” for Two Oceans started. Yes, I’m blowing my horn here… I finished in a good time. Reflecting on the results that’s when as runners like to say, the “bug” bit. The following day I was out looking for when the next race was and a longer distance of course. So I skipped the 21.1km half marathon, which any sane person would see as a natural progress, but not I. No, I registered for the Johnson Crane marathon that took place on the 31st of January. Yep, this running thing is definitely me, can you believe I managed a sub4?! At the time, I didn’t realize it was a good time and actually felt I was slow. I felt like Michael Jackson trying to beat his Thriller sales record. So began my journey towards beating my last PB, it took me 5 grueling months to finally get a new one. I managed to cut 10 min off my first marathon at the MiWay Wally Hayward Marathon.
EKL – What has kept you running?
TM – Chasing a new PB keeps me running, now that I know I’m freaking good at it J but, running also gives me an opportunity to stop being so strict with my diet. Yes *hidesface* I love to stuff my face with delicious food, and run it off later allowing me to stay lean.
EKL – How do you manage to balance work, running and family commitments?
TM – Hmm balance… what’s that? 🙂
To be honest balancing my life is currently work in progress. I haven’t figured that out yet. It’s beyond me how some people manage to find balance, while still putting in running mileage, work demands and giving their family quality time. I admit, I do wear many “hats” none though as a partner or in the parental capacity. To be honest I find it very difficult to balance work, running, family and studies… Thankfully, my family has been extremely supportive so far.
EKL – Were you on a special diet before Comrades and what supplements supported you during Comrades?
TM – I was on a high protein diet. It was Chicken, chicken, chicken…and more chicken! I’m surprised that I didn’t grow wings 🙂 To complement my chicken I had a forest of green leafy veggies, that was pretty much the bulk of my diet. For a bit of variety, I would have eggs for lunch either boiled, fried, scrambled, omelet you name it I tried eggs that way!
“….never thought I’d ever be a runner let alone run marathons…”
EKL – How do you relax?
TM – Relax? What’s that? No seriously… between the demands of my job, personal training/fitness instructor, running and completing my Masters I really don’t have time to relax. All by choice of course 🙂 when I do get a gap… I enjoy take long baths and catching up with my sleep. Sleeping is quite a rare commodity, so I love sleeping when I get the chance 🙂
EKL – You ran the Two Oceans Ultra this year and a month later you just ran the Comrades, both for the first time. What prompted you to take on two big races in one year?
TM – Call it being young and carefree. Unlike my Two Oceans impromptu entrance, while trying to fill up my holiday calendar, Comrades happened by mistake. A friend changed their mind about running the Comrades this year – I don’t know what they were thinking 🙂 and offered their entry to me just days before the substitution period ended. I “pretended” to need a few days to think it through. What I farce! I was so going to take that entry!!! I’m sure having read this far you know I’m sommer mad like that 🙂 but no, I didn’t plan to run these two world-famous ultra-marathons in the same year. The races found me!
EKL – Did you deviate from your normal training for both these ultras?
TM – You gonna think I’m totally crazy, but I never really “trained” for either of the ultras per se. If we were to label it training, then it consisted of running a marathon distance every Sunday and complimented it with my spinning classes to exercise my legs during the weeks. I even transformed all my studio classes to boot camp type classes, that way we worked on all the full body. I stuck mostly to that formula, and when I confirmed my Comrades entry I begun to also run 10-15km on Saturdays. I followed this schedule until the last week before Comrades, after that, I stopped all my physical training and began my mental prep as it plays a significant role when you’re running Comrades.
EKL – How many extra KMs did you have to run to make sure that you were ready for Comrades?
TM – Before Comrades, the furthest I’d run was 56km during the Two Oceans Marathon. I had always thought that a 42km would be enough training for that. However, after I got myself into Comrades… I did two 50km marathons. I thought I was ready until I started reading blogs where other athletes mentioned the distances they had completed as part of their training for Comrades. I read some scary mileage e.g. +1000Kms. Until I had read these blogs, I had thought that the meagre mileage I’d already completed would suffice and could easily finish the comrades! I don’t know if maybe I was smoking something good … let’s just blame it on inexperience, being young and naïve shall we *hidesface*
EKL – What race time did you eventually submit as your qualifying time for Comrades and what was it?
TM – I used my first marathon time – Johnson Crane – it was approximately 3:55 hours… however, I was able to improve on it at the Miway marathon to 3:45 (it was roughly 10 minutes I’d shaved off) however I didn’t bother submitting my new time as either way I would be seeded in the same batch ( sub 4)
EKL – What was the start of Comrades like for you, was it one of those memorable moments that brought tears to your eyes?
TM – Tears to my eyes? Hmmm 🙂 Let’s just say I wanted to go back to bed at first! I felt so intimidated at first like I was so out of my depth and in the wrong place. It’s thanks to a lovely lady who had run 9 Comrades that I finally managed to calm down. She saw the fear in my eyes, reached over and gave me a hug. Looked me in the eye and said: “just relax and enjoy the race”. It worked dude, that’s when I started to find myself in the present and literally absorbing the words of our national anthem being played. It was so overwhelming. I was blown away by the never-ending flow of runners around me, all there with a common goal… to finish the 2016 Comrades. When the organizers blasted Chariots of fire, music just by the way I’d been playing all week in my car leading to this moment, I said one last prayer asking God to carry me through to the finish line. So yeah, it was very emotional at the start, and I was close to tears J as was everyone else around me. To the lady at the start, congrats on getting your Green Number!
EKL – Tell us about your race strategy for Comrades?
TM – To have fun and join the sub 10 bus as early as possible. My thinking was if I join that bus I won’t have to think about anything else. It would be a guaranteed finish. I planned to keep their set pace and stay warm during the early part of the race. A lesson learnt from running Two Oceans where I literally froze from start to finish, this time, I had two outfits one for the first half, my winter apparel inclusive of a blanket, yes it was that cold! 🙂 I threw the blanket away at the 15km mark, although still chilly it was manageable. I arranged with my parents that they wait for me at the halfway mark, where I would change into my summer gear. My awesome parents agreed and waited for me. Oh, did I mention that I also used two pairs of running shoes? Yep, I started off with a heavier but comfortable pair, then changed into my ultra-light “run flats” made by Adidas. They are super amazing running shoes, however, the flatness, I don’t believe is for everyone as you tend to lose out on the cushion.
I did manage to stick to this strategy but as with most things in life … you have your hiccups. First, my parents didn’t get to the half-way mark in time (very frustrating for me)… however, my vitality teammates boosted my spirits and encouraged me to keep moving. After another 15 km, this is now after 62kms of running, I heard someone scream my name “TLHALEFANG”. I recognized that voice. It felt like music to my spirit. It was my dad and little brother. You should have seen me… I was like a little kid in a candy store… shoo, I was so thankful they were able to spot me in the middle of all the runners in the bus. I got off the bus at this point at the 70km mark as I was starving, and listened to my body. I craved for salty food like chicken wings, there were so many fast food joints at this stretch but I didn’t even have R50.00 to grab something on the go? 🙂 I managed to score some boiled potatoes and Mageu from the water tables, but the price for this much-needed deviation was that the 10h bus left me behind. Clearly I was the only one hungry on that bus 🙂
EKL – Was Comrades all that you envisioned it to be?
TM – I think so, I generally feel that people made a bigger fuss than was necessary about the difficulty of the route and stuff, which scared the sh*t out of me, just by the way 🙂 However, I now believe that the race is just as much mental as it is about the physical. Come to think of it, it’s good that I was a bit scared going into my first Comrades because it forced me to be cautious and not rush off at my usual pace from the word go. To answer you, no it wasn’t what I expected, but definitely, an amazing learning curve for the up run in 2017!
EKL – What was it like when you realized you had made it and under 12 hours?
TM – The pain in my legs tried to keep me back from attempting any exotic moves when I saw the stadium 🙂 I literally stopped running for what felt like a minute just to compose myself. I was very much aware of all the cameras leading into the stadium, so I had to make sure I was looking strong and powerful for the cameras and audience at home *giggles* I was also filled with this sense of relief… Like I had finally arrived at the promise land. I had made it! I was super proud and made some serious effort to stand tall. I was full of gratitude for my family and I just kept giving God thanks as I saw them rush towards me before collapsing in their supporting arms. I was tired!
EKL – Did you manage to finish within the time you wanted to?
TM – Nah, missed it by 9 minutes. Eish! Thanks to the bloody cramps that hit me in Pinetown!
EKL – What was the first thing you did after finishing Comrades?
TM – I only thought “food”, and our Team Vitality lounge… 🙂 That said, every attempt to eat was futile as nothing stayed down 😦
EKL – Who has inspired you this year to strive to achieve your goals, and why?
TM – My pastor has been my biggest inspiration. God spoke to our pastor as he prepared his New Year’s message for us. The message was that 2016 would be a year of “advancing” and it is up to everyone to decide how they would advance. For me, running was one of the areas in my life I wanted to advance, so held onto God’s words shared by our pastor.
EKL – What’s next?
TM – HELLO!! I’m guessing it’s a rhetorical question right 🙂 of course I’m going for the back-to-back Comrades medal next year! This time, I’m gonna be training my butt off as I’m aiming for a silver medal in 2017. A finish time of 7 hours 29 minutes and 59 seconds or better Yes, it seems like a mammoth task … but I’ll do it!
I’m also planning to find me a swimming coach, currently I’m super afraid of the open water … I can do with a bath but nothing bigger. I just hate the taste and smell of chlorine man. Damn, can’t we just have water without all these chemicals, though? Don’t even get me started on sea water. Anyways, that’s the plan for 2018… to finish Ironman South Africa in PE. Yep, life’s for the living, after all, isn’t it?
EKL – Don’t think, Just answer –
- Last movie watched? The Blindside
- Trail or Road Running? Definitely Road
- What are you playing in the car? Neo soul
- Favourite city to run? Definitely Cape town (if it behaves with the wind)…
- Current favourite sports brand? TEAM ADIDAS baby… all the way