By: Alicia Layman Clarke

I always wanted to do Comrades.

I recall setting a personal goal to run it when I was 19 years old.

And watching the Comrades a year ago and I told myself I’m doing Comrades… next year.

Back then I had not even done a full marathon yet.

I think I only had about 2/3 half marathons under my belt.

But that did not deter me…


After a lot of sadness of losing my husband, Grant, less than 2 years ago, I realized that life is too short to wait for tomorrow.

I changed my perspective on life and in particular my view on what I wanted to achieve.

I have learnt to appreciate each day and to chase every dream and goal I have.

And so my journey to Comrades began in November 2016.

But let’s start at the beginning…

My name is Alicia Layman Clarke; born and bred in Elsies River.

My love for long distance running dates back to my Primary school days. I was a WP cross country champion in Primary school, at high school I focused on shorter distances and became a sprinter. I was a bit of a confused runner, I must say.

After school I did absolutely no running whatsoever and only got inspired exactly 2 years ago.

My passion and my love for running had returned.

Running long distances is something that really comes quite naturally to me.

When I started running again, I was in a very demanding job and running was my mechanism to cope with my work stress.

And everything else.

It was my drug.

In a state of turmoil I decided to channel my energy and focus, to things that I love and enjoy doing most.

Considering that I have only run one marathon before I registered for Comrades, I was nervous.

However, I just felt that this year was the right year for me.

The timing was right as it positively distracted me from the many things I was dealing in my personal life.

The training has also provided me with focus and purpose.

So if you have stress… my advice is… RUN.

My first half marathon was Gordon’s Bay Leapfrog in April 2015.

And my first marathon was in September last year… Cape Town Marathon 2016.

Then I slowly progressed and then the Oceans Ultra 56k.

I was on the right track.

I think.

I was a member of the Opti fit Kuils River group with THE Fabian Peter Collins, so joining Ommiedraai Friends Athletic Club was a natural progression.

They were my friends, my Orange family; the people who supported me.

Where they go, I go.

But I had my doubts…


Ready or not

Off the record, renewing my license with Ommiedraai this year has been harder than initially joining. This year I knew that if I wanted to train for comrades I needed to surround myself with runners that were doing the same thing.

I considered joining West Coast, but before I did I discussed my predicament with Fabian.

Torn, between staying with friends and family vs performance, training, Comrades.

I made the decision to stay with Ommiedraai.

The reason, well quite simple. I run because I’m passionate about it and because I enjoy doing it. I run for Ommiedraai because Ommiedraai is where I feel at home.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-20 at 10.29.55This kid hates posing for pics. He is foolish like that. Noah and I at Ushaka.

As competitive as I am, I don’t run to win, I run to challenge myself.

Then there was the training…

Boy o’ boy was this the hardest 6 months of my life!

The commitment to train despite the personal challenges I faced. The process has taught me that if I’m committed to a cause then I must have the ability to remain focused for the duration… for the whole nine yards.

Or in this case… 86.70km.

That is a 42km marathon + 2X21km half-marathon and some change.

In December/January my training was all of 2 days running in the evening during the week leaving Noah at the Planet V at the gym whilst I quickly go and run a 10K.

In February/May I realized that I would need to put some structures in place to up my training program, so I convinced my Mom (love you Mom!) to stay with me for 3 months so that I can train in the morning.

Most of my training during the week was done solo.

This was quite frustrating as I was never sure if I’m on the right track, the right level, doing the right training.

Only on the weekends would I race or join my friends in doing LSD’s. Long Slow Distance.

I also added the following variations to my training.

Speed training?

What’s that?

I’m always racing against time as I can’t leave Noah at the gym for longer than an hour.

Hill training/ Hill Repeats?

I have never done this in my life.

Blouberg is as flat as the top of Table Mountain. The only hills I would train is Wietse’s route on a Saturday or whatever hills I get to race on.

My running buddies… Naz & Ragmah, laugh when I tell them that I’ve never done hill training or I’ve never done speed work except for the hills I get whilst doing a race.

That pretty much sums up how under trained I was, and how much I can possibly improve if I just incorporate some more fundamentals to my training program.

Race week was quite weird as I anticipated nerves, as I was stressed out about my groin injury in the weeks leading up to oceans and comrades.

But I was composed.

And as cool as a cucumber raita.

And I was ready.

Durban… here I come!

I met Caroline Wöstmann at the airport, gosh… she’s my hero!

[After winning the Two Oceans Marathon earlier in 2015, Caroline Wöstmann became the first South African woman, in 14 years, to win the prestigious Comrades Marathon. Wöstmann is only the second South African woman, after Frith vd Merwe (1989) to win both the Two Oceans Marathon and Comrades Marathon in the same year.]

18835805_10209201081093399_7918104097889460920_nRoomies and I

And the first thing all the runners do… go to the Expo.

And it was absolutely phenomenal!
The vibe and scale of the Expo was mind blowing.

As a rookie I was completely overwhelmed.

Durban, felt like the pilgrimage for all runners!

Mini Mecca.

All you see wherever you look are runners!


The week of Comrades, I did not have an iota of nervousness!

Absolutely nothing!

It must have been because I was sick earlier in the week, so besides sleeping all day, my focus was to shake the flu in time for the race.


I spent a lot of time after OMTOM thinking about my Comrades race plan.

I planned to run between 10 and 10:30.

My main focus was to hold back on the first 45 km’s.

I was a tiny bit nervous only because of the unknown.

I think I achieved what I set out to do, and it all came into play for me.

Run in a Bus or not to run in a Bus?

Well, my view and verdict is still out on this one. It has its pros and cons as I have experienced in Comrades.

And so the Big Day arrived…

Unlike the other 5 ladies in our flat, everyone else had a restless night, I slept like a baby.

I think I was exhausted as I was out all day with Noah, at Ushaka…swimming.

By the time I put my head on the pillow at 2030 I was gone!

Well rested, I was excited when the alarm went off at 0200 in the morning.

Forced down my main meal of the day, 3 Weetbix before we made our way to the start at 3am.

The Start.


I can describe it in a 100 different ways!

The vibe and atmosphere was electric!

The Excitement!

The Singing!

The Noise!

I looked around me. I was surrounded by mostly male runners of all races and all ages

Everyone was excited and ready to put their bodies through the grueling 86.7kms of Comrades.

One can’t help but to absorb the ambiance.

I kept saying to myself this is it!

You’ve got this!

Then, the National Anthem, Shosholoza, and Chariots of fire!

I had tears streaming down my face as I have flashbacks of the past 6 months and all the sacrifice that I have gone through to be here.

They say… If you in the starting line-up for Comrades… you are already a winner… you qualified to line up for Comrades.

The gun goes off and the D pen is quick out of the starting blocks, I recall looking at my watch after 1.5km and then telling myself gosh I’ve got to slow down, the pace was under 6 min p/km then.

Durban city centre, went by so quickly, I think it was because it was dark, the first time I could read a road sign probably was at about 87Kms to go!

19059078_10209240331154626_2675721033242187657_nOn the Road

After the first 15km I found my rhythm…

During the race I was completely focused, with only 4603 females in the field it was tough battling to keep with the guys, they are ruthless.

No mercy!

Some of my thoughts were all the tips everyone had given me over the past few months…


Cowies hill – I eased up that hill, my legs were still relatively fresh then.

Fields Hill – This was the toughest hill out of the first 3, the first half I ran, the last km I walked/ran, by this time I was in a bus.

Botha’s hill – I kept asking where are we now? And before I knew it the hill was done!

Inchanga – Absolutely enjoyed this. I was so focused on tackling the hill, maintain my pace, I recall asking someone when are we reaching Inchanga and the person said to me, lady we’ve done Inchanga!

At that point, I was comfortable with the consistent pace, and from the 45th km to 66km I just told myself to focus and maintain, so that stretch went by quite quickly.


Cato Ridge 66km.

I spotted Uncle Shahmieg and A. Ghairoe here!

All I heard them shouting was, ‘Do you want to eat?’

Do you want to eat or drink?

I shook my head and said, ‘No Uncle I’m fine!’

At that stage I was actually a bit hungry but I was too afraid Uncle would pop a samoosa out of his cooler box!

It was here too that for a split second I lost focus as I was overwhelmed with the crowd as they were literally on top of the runners and the road was narrow and filled with potholes.

I fell just before the water station.

Rowland from Nedbank shouted, ‘Alicia stay focused, stay focused!’

At that point, I realized that I haven’t eaten, so I took my first brief walk to fuel up!

No samoosa required.

Throughout the race, not once did I think that I could not or would not make it.

I was so positive!

My mind was in the right place.

Too many people were following me.

Failure was not an option.

Stopping was not an option.

From 66km to 75km, the legs started to take strain, and I could feel my breathing becoming a bit heavier.

Whilst mostly flat, it was so, so long, I had to dig deep and the only thought I had was…

There are so many people tracking you!

They are watching out for you!

I just kept that thought on the forefront of my mind.

There ain’t no stopping now!

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-09 at 19.50.58-2Legendary in fact

Polly Shorts!

After the long stretch of flat road, I decided to hop onto a bus again to take me over Polly Shorts.
This worked for me.
The last 7km was grueling.

Downhill, legs are hurting, it felt like it was longest 7km ever!

The last 2ks I met people I know, I stop to talk and take some selfies and then I couldn’t get my legs going again.
A sneaky hill before the end felt like Polly Shorts.

I could hear the crowd in the stadium but I could not see the stadium!

Then I entered the stadium on the gravel, what I thought was the end.

Noah had been prepped all week… don’t shout Mommy… Mommy wouldn’t know it’s you…shout…

Alicia and she will look.

Precious moments to know that he was patiently waiting to see me.

I spot Noah in the crowd waving and shouting my name! Spotting him in the crowd and seeing his wave was just an experience by itself!

And miraculously my legs were revived and they were faster than my brain!

Crossing the Finish Line was a phenomenal feeling! 10h 13m 17s.

A feeling of humbleness and thankfulness.

Humbled and thankful that I’ve managed to complete Comrades.


That is the only way I can describe the post-race feeling.

You are on such a high!

And then I met up with Noah.

Absolutely amazing!

In the last 25km I kept saying to myself Noah is waiting… Noah is waiting!

And here was. His face just lit up when he saw me and he hugged me tight!

‘Mommy, are you done now?’

‘I’m proud of you Mommy!’

Pure joy…

I love him more…

Trip down to Durban was euphoric. I was on such a high until I tried to get myself out of the car and I had to get Noah to help me.

Stiff and sore, I couldn’t join my flat mates for the after party.

I just could not have been bothered.

‘Shoo! I just switch on my phone and there is literally over 500 messages from well wishes!’

Really humbled!

Today was tough for me with chest that was burning all the way probably from the flu earlier in the week!

Still very happy with my time as it was exactly on point with what I had aimed to do.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-04 at 20.45.42Raising the flag

I yearned sleep.

With my medal securely under my pillow… Sleep…


Monday morning we were up early as we had a plane to catch at 1200.

Although I was off till Wednesday… Noah had to be in school.

Coming home, to a warm welcome from my Ommie Family Welcoming Committee at the Airport was the cherry on top of my trip.

I felt like a Pro Athlete, like I’ve won a gold medal or broke an Olympic record!!

The fuss and sincere proudness of all the Ommies was overwhelming.

They all came… just for me!

I was the only successful Ommie Runner of 2017.

The reality of my support group… my Ommie Family… and the number of people following me only sank in about 2/3 days after the race.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-05 at 15.00.43Welcome home, Alicia, welcome home… who’s the man!!

People could download a software…

Fill in my race number then they could follow my progress.

Track your every step.

They could see when you slow down.

Or stop.

The pressure of knowing people are tracking you is one thing, but to learn that they were glued to their televisions all day in hope to catch a glimpse of you is another.


Looking back at this past year the highlight for me has been the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made. This is what makes this sport so special.

My dream to run this race once has been realized but it would not have been possible without the support from my friends and colleagues.

And my Ommie Family.

And my own family.

Especially my Mom and Noah.

Did I say… I love you guys?

God willing I will definitely go back next year for my back to back!

lastpic Winner all the way

23 JUne 2017


I Got This!

My first 42km  

By:Fabian Collins


What an epic feeling. I never thought that it could take so much out of me, emotionally and physically. It was never going to be easy, that’s a fact. Running PB’s in 10km and 21km distances is one thing, running a marathon is totally a different case.

All my preparation I did in the form of training, using supplements, reading articles, listening to experienced runners could not prepare me for what I experienced during the CTM 42km.

Personally it takes time and experience to run a marathon. At the dreadful 38km mark I started to cramp up, my mind started playing games but I soldiered forward. Thanks to Waleed Samsodien who ‘picked’ me up and nursed me through the final stages.

My only goal at that stage was to finish under 5 hours, and we did, with minutes to spare. We crossed the finish line in 4:47:11.

Thank you Lord. Thank you Optifit, my wife Nicky, Ommies, friends, relatives, my wife Nicky, I have to say this twice, and everybody who believed in me!

I never got to finish with the group I started with as we just could not keep running at the same pace but, that is where the experience comes in. I had no experience in marathons at the start and now I know just a little bit more.

To aspirant runners, start with 5km, then 10km and build up from there. It can be done but it takes time. Patience, Practice, Running and more running. It’s what you put in that you get out. Nothing more, nothing less. If you do not put in the time and mileage, you are not going to get the time and mileage. Never underestimate any distance whether it’s a 10km or a 42km, running will humble you. Plan your running “career” and invest in strengthening the body by cross training and various other disciplines. Be dedicated and goal driven because there is no point in just running aimlessly. Last but not least, share your experiences with novices or those who want to upgrade to tackle different distances and excel to different heights.

That’s what makes you a runner.

Today I am proud to say, I am a Marathoner!



My journey to my 1st 10km in 1H41

By:Farieda Samaai Simon


I joined OFAC on my birthday in 2015.  Yes! I know. Who runs on their birthday, right?

I wanted to make a lifestyle change and coincidentally the day I joined fell on my birthday. I took that as a sign that only good was to come from this. So I cut out the birthday bash and decided to take my first step towards becoming a “runner”.

I had no idea what to expect, but Washiela Adams (Wash-Wash) took me under her wing. She was so patient and the one thing that stuck with me was her telling me that I should run slower than I walk.  How was this even possible? I mean, I could barely walk. I attended training regularly at first and then I became lazy. I always had an excuse. My legs were burning or I had shin splints (not that I even know what that is). You name it, I had it.

Come September 2015, Aunty Moesh tried to convince me to run ARD 3 Vlei race, which was to be my first 10km race. I was hyped up. The excitement was there, but I bailed at the last minute. From there on in I did the odd 5km race and I convinced myself that being a marshal and a supporter was my thing.

Earlier this year Uncle Kashief took the beginners under his wing. He took no drama from me. My excuses fell on deaf ears. He’d listen to me go on and on about my “shin splints” and then politely tell me to train. At some point I was convinced that he’d give up on me because of all the moaning, but AI! He stuck like glue. On 04 August, for the first time the beginner’s ran towards the common, with the intermediate group ahead of us. As we approached the robot at the Common, the intermediate group was on their way back to Rosmead. The beginners were to turn around so that we were not too far behind the rest. I so much wanted to run to the Robot and convinced Uncle Kashief to let me run all the way. I was so proud of myself and I was even more determined. So I told Uncle Kashief: “Coach, I can at least run 4 poles without stopping.”  To which he replied: “let’s see.”  So I get to the 4th pole and coach shouts “DON’T STOP, CONTINUE!” and then I knew that I had just dug a hole for myself. We went from running 4 poles to 20 poles without stopping!

Fast forward to 27th August, when I had people over and they tried to convince me to run my first 10km race. I kept telling myself that it was easy for them to say, but how could I possibly run 10km? I went to bed, got up early to sugar koeksisters and rushed to meet the rest of the Ommies as we were driving to the race in convoy. While getting ready I told my son that I was going to do the race and got a big fat “NO”. He wanted me to a race in an area I was familiar with and a race that would be completely flat. I played the mom card and asked “Wie is die Ma, ek of jy?” It was settled, I was off to run my first 10Km race.  With Registration complete, I was lining up at the start line, there was no turning back.

My first walk break was not long into the race. I struggled with my breathing. I saw the ambulance behind me, then next to me, then ahead of me. The only thing that kept me going was something someone told me. If you not one of the first 3 that crossed the finished line you have nobody to beat but yourself. I was determined to finish. I ran, I walked and thought to myself “who am I doing this for?” I am doing this for MYSELF.

Before I knew it I saw the 7km board and a guy from Spartans helped me along. He could not speak and pointed to his feet meaning to keep going.  8.5km I saw my son on his way to fetch me. First thing I asked him was “Do I still have time?”He replied: “ MOM YOU’RE DOING GREAT YOU HAVE 30 MIN TO FINISH THE RACE”.

Along I went, my son, King Saeed and my friend from Spartans by my side.  When I took the last turn at the 9km I saw Uncle Kashief and the rest of the Ommies. They didn’t forget about me. Off we go into the Stadium, the siren of the Ambulance going to indicate that the last runner was approaching the finish.   I walked a bit then took my buddy’s hand from Spartan as we headed towards the finish. He let go of my hand at some point so that I could finish on my own.  I’m about to cross the finish line and I can’t see the clock. Someone was blocking my view – all I could see was “.48”. I was hoping to finish in 1h45 so I was a bit disappointed.  But then I heard “She did it in 1h41”. Then that overwhelming feeling hit me. I just finished my first 10km race. I still get goose bumps when I think about it. That feeling is unforgettable.

To those who think they cannot do a 5, 10 15, 21, 42, 56 or 89 km, YOU CAN!

Now my training really begins. ARD 10km and Sanlam Peace 10KM watch this space. I’m coming for you!

Shukran / thanks to all who motivated me, never gave up on me and told me I could do it.

You were right, I DID IT!



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