Bongmusa Mthembu has won one for the World’s greatest endurance races, the Comrades Marathon. We catch up with the 2014 Down run champion on this episode of 32Gi Sport Nutrition. Bongamusa shares some of his secrets with us.
Welcome to this week’s addition of 32Gi Sport Nutrition I’m David Katz, Mr. Active. We continuing our build up to the Comrades Marathon such an iconic event here in South Africa. But it’s becoming quite iconic around the world as well as the word spreads. We see more and more international athletes come and race in South Africa.
But talking about South Africa we’ve had a fine couple of years from a men’s perspective. Four winners in a row coming from South Africa, one of them is Bongmusa Mthembu, who won the down run in 2014. It’s a great pleasure to welcome him onto the show today. Bongmusa thanks very much for joining us.
BM: Thanks man. Thanks for having me.
DK: First of all we getting really close to Comrades, you know it’s just couple of weeks. What are you doing in this last month before Comrades from a sort of training perspective?
BM: For now for it is in around about three weeks’ time. So we just tapering down now, my last long run was last week. So from now it’s just mostly tempo runs and mostly speed. Other than that, much work has been done. So I’m just tempering down now and doing much speed.
Not feeling the pressure on his Down run return
DK: Now you do you tend to like the Down run you had a good Down run in 2012, you then went on and won it in 2014. You now have that you not the defending Comrades champion but you the defending Down run champion. So people are gonna be looking to you are you feeling a bit of pressure?
BM: No I’m not feeling pressure because even 2014 and 2012 I ran those Down run well, but I didn’t think that I’m gonna run, how I’m gonna run. All I always do is just focus on myself. So I’m still gonna do the same thing this year.
I think it’s much better because there is the other guy who won last year. So I think most of the people will focus to him. He is the one who’s under pressure. So for me is just do whatever I want to do and exactly what I have to do. Not focusing to anybody. So I think I’m less under pressure.
DK: Bongmusa what is it about the Down run? Why do you think it sort of suits your style of running so well?
BM: No I think for me actually I don’t like the Down run. But you remember in 2009 and then 2010 we ran the Down run. So I think that’s where my body just get use of the Down run. So to train for the Down run and the Up run, it’s totally different things. So I think that’s where my body started to get use of a down run. But other than that I like Up run. I know that I’m still working on the Up run. But yes so far it seems as if Down run is working for me.
What it feels like to win Comrades Marathon
DK: Bongmusa so you originally from Bulwer which is in a beautiful part of KZN. I mean you not far from the Drakensberg and not too far from Pietermaritzburg. Which you’ve now called your home for quite a while since you sort of finished school.
This is sort of a special race not just for people who live in South Africa, but for people who live in Kwazulu Natal. What did it feel like, what did it mean to you when you crossed that line and you knew you were the Comrades champion in 2014?
DK: Sometimes you just do the thing that you thought you do it for yourself, you find out that so many people that were looking after you. Man for me it’s difficult even to explain how does it feel. But other than I’ve always thought about those people, especially from where I grew up.
You know this sport that I’m doing is not that popular where I grew up, so many people they do understand. But to see me now wherever I go, around my house around Bulwer and they really respect me now.
So I mean even like, even this year whatever I train, whatever I do I always think about those people who are supporting me. So you know it’s just that, I’ve always done exactly what I have to do.
DK: Bongmusa now looking at diet I know you in 2005 you won the Maritzburg Marathon. That’s kind of where you realised; look I’ve got some talent. Obviously progressed now to a Comrades winner.
Before that I mean as a young boy coming from rural KZN going to Maritzburg your diet I’m sure has shifted a lot. When did you sort of start from a diet perspective eating sort of as a professional athlete?
Adapting to an athlete’s diet
BM: For me I’m not gonna say that I’m following a strict diet. But I believe in my traditional food. Even years before when I grew up that’s what I was used to. That’s what I always do even right now, is just do my traditional food.
Other than that there are some other food that I am not taking as a meal. It didn’t give me any problem because I know what I want and have to give the time because of my sport. So doesn’t give me any problem and I’m happy with that.
DK: So run us through a basic diet for you on a given day during your Comrades sort of bigger training months. What would you sort of have for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
BM: If it’s close to Comrades maybe I’m not gonna take so much. But as I said, I will take whatever I used to take right now. So I’m not gonna change because the Comrades is close or the Comrades has passed.
So at least for now at the morning I will just I’ll have a maybe two slices of brown bread and during the day I will just nibble with my fruits and vegetables. Then afterwards I always do, I love my pap and white meat.
How Bongmusa fuels during training
DK: Bongmusa what I love about what you saying is; Willy Matola there’s a famous story when he went and won the New York marathon of the night before in the hotel. He took his own pap and everything with him and he was making it in his hotel room and he set off the fire alarm.
But as you said that worked for him his whole life and he continued to do it. He went and won New York marathon on that. The other thing I wanted to ask you, when you out on a long run. What kind of nutrition are you taking in? Are you just drinking water or are you supplementing what you taking?
BM: No I’ve always used 32Gi. I mean it’s been a pleasure from me to working with those guys. They’ve been patient with me whatever even my result doesn’t go well. But they still with me I think it’s for the past five years now. So I’m very, very happy with them.
So I’ve always used 32Gi. Even now I can just finish my session and I also took my 32Gi so that’s the supplement that I use. They’ve got all the stuff that they always give me some recovery, endurance and racer…and also the gels also the fruit bar. So I mean I’ve always using, my long run I’ve used even recovery during my long run. So I and it’s even working for me so much.
Nutritional plan on Comrades Race Day
DK: Bongmusa looking at the morning of I know some runners can’t eat on the morning of. You guys at a top level you need to be getting something in. What would you eat on race day for breakfast?
BM: For breakfast I would just take maybe some couple of potatoes and a little bit of my pap. As I’ve said I’ve always tried to use my recovery. So I will also take my recovery before the start also during the race.
DK: Now once the race gets under way, I mean the 89 /90 kilometres is a hell of a long way. How do you fuel then during the race, what’s your strategy?
BM: It’s difficult but as I’m saying during my long runs as I’m doing right now I always take my recovery 32Gi. So I’ve also I will also take my recovery maybe at halfway. Also close to maybe 70ks, then I’ll take my recovery.
Other than that you don’t think about getting hungry, you just think about the road. Once you think about the hunger you would get hunger. So for me I’ve just take as much as I can the day before then. The morning I’m not gonna eat so much.
DK: You do have a slight advantage over the average person, you only out there for just over 6 hours generally. So very different nutritional needs from the guys running and just making cut off.
Who to look out for in 2016
Bongmusa the last little thing I wanna before we wrap up and ask you is going now into 2016. I mean of course you wanna go win another Comrades. Are you in good shape for this year. Who do you think if there is anyone is gonna be out there and a strong contender as well?
BM: Man it’s always difficult to say talk about the contenders in Comrades. Because there are so many guys who are really, really training right now. But we didn’t know about them. But other than that those guys who are mostly in the top 20, the first top 10. I know the guys like Ludwick Mamabolo.
I think for now it’s not like the past four years where we used to see those guys from other countries like Russia or so or where we say there is like they always come year by year to come and win the Comrades. So for now especially this year is anybody’s race.
Because the guy who won last year is not that good in the Down run. He was the first time who ran from the first bunch in 2014 so he end up in top three. So if he can run like he ran in 2014 this year, that’s where I can maybe consider him.
Other than that it’s anybody’s race, whoever will run well and go at the right time, it can be dangerous. I can’t forget about Mambo, Mambo he’s a good guy. He knows how to run Comrades now. You remember 2014 he was probably he was far away from us.
I also think about those guys but mostly I have to focus on myself. I know those guys I respect them but once guns goes, I can’t think about anybody. I have to focus on myself.
DK: Bongmusa just before I let you go if the people want to sort of follow you are you on social media can they tweet you? Do you have a fan page on Facebook?
DK: Well we’ll pop those links up on the show notes if you want to click straight through and you can follow Bongmusa, Bongmusa Mthembu thank you very much for your time. All the best for Comrades and we’ll see you down there.
BM: Thank you so much, thanks for your time.
DK: Thanks for joining us on this week’s addition of 32Gi Sports Nutrition. If you need anymore information on the product and range or questions you’d like to ask to 32Gi’s coach go onto their website, 32Gi.com. From myself David Katz, Mr. Active I’ll be back with you next week. Mark Wolff also returns as we continue our build up to the Comrades Marathon.