For five consecutive years, Farwa Mentoor has been South African’s top female finisher in the Comrades Marathon, usually dominated by the Russians.
Last year, 15 minutes from the Comrades finish line, Farwa’s body gave in, and her legs just refused to go on, but in true Comrades spirit, she willed herself on and crawled on all fours to the finish line.
Her painstaking effort, watched by millions on TV, was still good enough for fifth place and a gold medal.
Farwa could’ve abandoned her effort, but she was running for the Heart Foundation, and didn’t want to disappoint them.
Such is the strength of a woman who has been South Africa’s top distance performer over the years.
As she prepared for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon presented by Nike, Farwa took time off to talk to gsport about race strategy, responsibility, and her love for running.
Responsibility Focus: 5 minutes with Champion Distance Athlete, Farwa Mentoor!
How often do you train?
I train twice a day. In the beginning of the year, I train three times a day. On Sundays, I do my long runs.
You came fifth in the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon last year. What do you want to achieve this year?
I wouldn’t mind the same finish, because this year I’m focusing more on the Comrades Marathon.
I don’t want to overdo it in the Two Oceans, and then not have enough energy for the Comrades, which is six weeks later.
What would be the best weather conditions to run the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon?
It must be cool cloudy day, without any rain…(laughs)! Then it will be a nice day, and everyone will run a very good race.
You obviously have to be responsible in order to prepare well for a race, is it difficult to be responsible all the time?
Sometimes it’s difficult, especially with eating (laughs)! But we’re all human at the end of the day, and we also like to eat takeaways. But don’t make a habit of it, especially when you are heavy in training.
You avoid takeaways; you normally concentrate on your fruits and vegetables to keep the body strong, because the training is very hard. When I’m training, I try to eat healthy.
We know you’re very keen on the Comrades Marathon, how would you rate your chances this year?
This year its downhill running, and I’m not the best downhill runner. But the past two downhills I’ve run have been very good.
Position-wise I’ve been good, and my times were also good. I hope I do better than my previous downhill run, when I came fourth. If I can come third, it will be a big bonus.
Downhill is very tough for me personally. I’m an uphill runner. If I can do much better this year in the down. My previous position on downhill was fourth.
What happened to you towards the end of last year’s Comrades?
I was very sick at the end of the race; I hope I feel much better than I did last year.
I’m going to try and do things differently this year, and everything I went through last year, I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
I was very dehydrated. This year, I’m being more responsible with how I’m preparing for the race this year.
How would you describe the state of women’s running in SA?
It’s getting better. Sponsorship is also getting better. I must thank my club Harmony Athletic Club, who’ve been sponsoring me for the last five years.
Some of our women athletes still need more sponsorship. If a runner wants to be sponsored, they must commit themselves to training hard, and be more responsible, and to perform well.
What’s your advice for women who want to stat running?
Running is so simple. You just lift up your feet and your arms, and you can run. It doesn’t matter about your weight, how fat you are or how tall you are.
I would advise women who want to run, to first walk for 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 20 minutes, and after that you can start running.
Running is very healthy; so far I haven’t been sick. It keeps your heart healthy, the lungs healthy, and then after running for a few months, you start seeing some muscles you never knew you were there.
Even if you haven’t been running at all, start now!
All the best for the Two Oceans, we’ll talk to you again closer to the Comrades!