FOUR BROTHERS TO TACKLE COMRADES TOGETHER
by Michelle Carnegie
21 February 2018
Four brothers - all living in different parts of the world - are hoping to fulfil a long time dream of lining up together at this year’s Comrades Marathon…and finishing together…
Though all of them are runners, they have never run a race together. In fact, because they are all scattered over the world, they’ve never even trained together, the closest they are getting to ‘training together’ is following each other’s progress on Strava.
But despite of all these logistical challenges, Duncan McConnachie and his three brothers Andrew, Craig and Ross, are hoping that come 10 June, they will all complete the gruelling 90km journey between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, and cross that glorious finish line at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The McConnachie brothers, who all grew up in Edenvale on the East Rand, have over the years found their life journeys to other parts of the world.
Duncan (42) has been living in Stockholm since the age of 24 where he is currently working within the environmental planning field. His older brother Andrew lives in Orange, about 3 hours west of Sydney. Their younger brother Craig lives in Edenvale while Ross, the youngest of them all, lives in Durban North.
Growing up all four boys were sporty and active, but none of them were really runners. When they ran, it was more a means to keep fit for their chosen sport. As they all grew older, running found a definite place in their lives.
Andrew has the longest background in running, having completed two Comrades Marathons, the first in 1995 (time 08:20) and the second in 1996 (time of 07:51). Duncan, started running late in life and hasn’t run Comrades, but qualified for it at the Berlin Marathon in a PB of 3:47. Ross ran his first and only Comrades in 2005 at the age of 21, and he finished in a time of 09:55. Craig has the least amount of running experience, but plays field hockey at competitive level.
Duncan, who only started running seriously at the age of 39, says he is now addicted to running. At first he only wanted to complete at least one marathon and signed up for the 2015 Stockholm Marathon. Well, the rest as they say is history! “Running has had a profound effect on my life. It is a time when I can meditate and just be by myself without all the interruptions of everyday life. As a parent to three small kids and working full-time, I have very little time for myself. Running is something that I do for myself, so that I can disconnect for a short while from the world and reenergise. It is also a really important tool in handling work stress.”
Running and training internationally
The brothers are all training for Comrades in different ways, to fit in with their respective lives in the different countries and of course to balance it all with family and work.
“The majority of my marathon races have been run together with a friend, Kevin Bryan. He is an old school friend from Johannesburg. We’ve run Stockholm (twice) and Frankfurt together before tackling Berlin,” says Duncan, who admits that training in Sweden for a race such as Comrades can be hard. “I train predominantly by myself. Most runs are done in the evening after work. My long runs are done on the weekends and then normally in the morning. I’m fortunate to live close to two nature reserves as well as a large island (where the Swedish king and queen live) where I do a lot of my running.”
Running clubs are not really big in Sweden, says Duncan. “They do exist, but you don’t need to belong to a running club to race. Running is a really popular form of training/exercise for Swedes. Most of it is done on an individual basis, though there are are plenty of 10km races and short distances. These are mainly organised between Spring and Autumn. parkruns are fairly new but they have taken off and are growing in popularity, says Duncan”.
Craig, Ross and Andrew are fortunate in the sense that the weather in Australia and South Africa is quite favourable for training leading up to Comrades. Not so much for Duncan in Sweden though. Duncan’s obvious challenge is that a large part of his Comrades training will be done in the Swedish winter when temperatures can drop as low as -20 degrees. “There is a saying in Swedish that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes! And that is fairly accurate – with the right clothes it is possible to train in very cold temperatures. I have a pair of Icebugs (brand of Swedish running shoes which each have 18 carbide steel studs) which I run with during the coldest part of the Winter when there is a lot of ice and snow on the ground.”
Once again Craig, Ross and Andrew don’t have to look too far to find some good hills to train on in SA and Oz, but Duncan has to deal with a lot of flat courses. “Stockholm is relatively flat, so finding long steep hills is a little bit of a challenge. The darkness also presents challenges – during the winter months the sun is only up for a short period of time (in December for example the sun rises at approximately 9:30 and sets already at 15:00). That means that most training occurs in pitch darkness.”
The big decision
So how do four brothers agree to run the Comrades Marathon all together in the same year? Well, for one their father ran Comrades back in 1979 (finishing in a time of 8:55) and 1980 (9:25 finishing time) and this has been an inspiration to them all. Duncan has fond memories of watching his father as a child before in later years watching brother Andrew run his first Comrades.
“The suggestion to all run Comrades together first came from Andrew a few years back, but the timing wasn’t right. A couple of months ago I made the decision to run Comrades and heard that Ross was also planning to run it. Andrew then decided that he wanted to join. Craig was not in at this point in time, but once we had had all registered, group pressure got to him and he also signed up!”
Duncan is very realistic about his first Comrades. “The main thing is to enjoy the experience. I would be very happy to finish in a time between 10-11 hours.”
The brothers are keeping track of each other’s progress and training through the Strava App. “Ross and I are already following each other on Strava. Andrew has just recently joined, and hoping that Craig will join soon. I believe strongly in the motivational factor of apps like Strava.”
Though they haven’t discussed their race plan in depth yet, the plan is to all four start and finish together, says Duncan. And then there is the family reunion to look forward to, of course. The brothers and families all plan to stay in South Africa for a couple of days after the race, either on the South or North Coast, to catch up, and hopefully celebrate four 2018 Comrades Marathon finishers medals!
Duncan summarises his excitement towards Comrades Day as follows: “Comrades represents what it best about South Africa – it is a day on which everyone comes together with the same goal. All are equal. It doesn’t matter what social class you belong to, where you live, your level of education, etc. On that day everyone has the same goal and there is a great deal of solidarity.”
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