Comrades Runner

Meet our Total South Africa Comrades Champ

Comrades Champion

Sipho Mhaga is not only Total’s Customs and Excise Tax Specialist, he is also a Comrades runner who, this year, came out top of his Club’s list of 12 runners with an incredible time of 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds.

Here, Sipho gives us insight into what inspired him over the finish line and his struggle with injury, and gives some expert tips for any hopeful Comrades finishers out there.


@TOTAL: How long have you been running?

Sipho: I started in July 2007 after watching the Comrades on my sofa the whole day, eating lots of chips and junk food. At that point, my main aim was to shed weight. I ran my first Comrades in 2008.


@TOTAL: When did you start training for Comrades 2018?

Sipho: Training for Comrades starts almost immediately after you finish Comrades! First there is a month of complete rest, then you start in July with base training.


@TOTAL: Are you happy with the time you achieved this year?

Sipho: I was injured in late January when I was training for a 7 hour 30 minute finish. When I couldn’t heal, I changed my target to a sub 10 and — with a push — Sub 9, so I did beat that. I’m not all that happy with my time as I feel I could have pushed to a Sub 8, but I was conservative for the most part of the race.


@TOTAL: What was the hardest part for you?

Sipho: Getting my head around my injury was the hardest part, and I struggled on the hills. I had to stop hill sessions and speed work training after my hamstring injury. After the 60km mark, it was only my mind that carried me on because I was in pain, but so was every other runner there, so you just learn to run with it.


@TOTAL: What are the important traits to have if you want to be a long-distance runner?

Sipho: Being willing to plan and sacrifice your time to training. Visualising the route and pace; whether it’s the long, easy runs or short speed sessions. I put a lot of time into running and strength exercises.


@TOTAL: Take us through your weekly schedule.

Sipho: Combinations are carefully planned. A 10km easy run on Monday, Tuesdays — speed work (400m × 5 and 800m × 5), which increase to 10 and 15 reps from February to April. During weekends, long easy runs of 20-30km both days. In Feb to April, this increases to 50, 60, and 70km in one day sessions. In the last 3 months, I try to cover around 500km each month. 


@TOTAL: What is your next big goal?

Sipho: I’m still chasing silver at Comrades (7:30), and 4:10 at Two Oceans in Cape Town. That means I need to break 3 hours in a 42.2km marathon. I don't intend to stop until I achieve this goal.


@TOTAL: What was the best part of the race?

Sipho: Whenever I saw our support team, I got extra vigour, as they form a very important part in conquering this Ultimate Human Race. Also, at the 80km mark, by the highway close to Durban, my sister called my name with excitement as she never witnessed the race. She cried and wanted a photo. I didn’t want to slow down but I wanted to shake her hand. I didn’t know she would be there watching and it really boosted me. When I crossed that line, I was overwhelmed, especially as my podiatrists told me I had made it with severe functional injury.


Sipho’s top tips for future Comrades runners

  1. Get to small races to get used to running and attend races, you'll get a lot of motivation.
  2. Don't look for excuses not to run, every participant in Comrades are parents, or have demanding jobs.
  3. Don’t look at Comrades as the 90km distance, rather break it down and tackle it in short distances. Mingle with people who have done it, they'll motivate you and you'll curse yourself for not starting earlier in life.




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