Former Comrades champ Charné Bosman still dreaming big

Posted on June 07, 2019

Long-distance runner Charné Bosman (43) will focus on only one thing on Sunday when she lines up to compete in the Comrades ultra marathon for the seventh time.

It is certainly not going to be Gerda Steyn, who won the Two Oceans earlier this year or Ann Ashworth, last year’s Comrades women’s champion, or any other athlete with aspirations of winning, for that matter. She is going to be keeping her eye on her stopwatch, and with good reason.

“I am not getting any younger,” says Bosman, who is based at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre (HPC) and who won the marathon in 2016. “That means I can’t race the same way I did in 2013, when I competed in my first Comrades. What I might lack in speed, I now have to make up by running cleverly.”

Bosman’s Comrades CV is impressive: in her first race she finished fifth, came second in 2015, won the marathon in 2016, crossed the line in third place in 2017 and in fifth place last year. Having won five gold medals means she will now be racing with a coveted Green Number, which means runners can reserve a chosen number for future races. That’s not the only thing that different – training for this year’s competition required a new approach too.

“I strategised with Lindsey Parry, senior coach at the HPC, in the build-up to the marathon, and one of the things she kept emphasising is that more is not better,” Bosman says. “That is why I raced a lot less than in previous years. The Johnson Crane Hire Marathon and Om die Dam were the only two occasions that I went out hard.

“Something else that changed is that not once this year did I do more than 200 km of running in a week. Lindsey’s advice was that when out on the road, I should instead focus on making every kilometre count. As part of my preparation, I spent several hours on a spin bike. Making sure I got enough sleep was also an essential part of my training regime. It needed to be – after 40 one’s recovery is not as fast as it used to be.”

Bosman knows what she would like to achieve on Sunday but prefers not to talk about it, only mentioning that if everything goes according to plan she hopes to set a new personal best on the up-run (Durban to Pietermaritzburg).

“Everything depends on how I feel after 60 km,” she explains. “That is why it is going to be so important to keep watching the times on my stopwatch. I have specific personal goals throughout the race, and the challenge is going to be to stick to them no matter what happens. I reccied part of the Comrades route in May to refresh my memory and realised that there are quite a few steep climbs on the course.”

As to what motivates her to keep coming back for more year in and year out, Bosman says she has only one remaining goal – to win an up-run.

“I genuinely want the Comrades double [winning the up- and down-runs]. Whether I will achieve it remains to be seen, but I am going to give it my all. German competitor Maria Bak won the race in 2002 when she was in her mid-40s, and proved that age is just a number.”


- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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