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Sipho Marima’s Marathon Milestones: How he Continues to RUN (climb) the Ladder of Success

Runner, Author, Athlete, Mentor, Husband and Father – these are just a few inspiring words that best describe Sipho Marima who, as an athlete, continues to do the unthinkable.

As an author, Sipho's book, 'How Lockdown UNLOCKED My Potential,' transcends the boundaries of motivation. He fearlessly shares with his readers, a telling-tale of bravery and strength, through one of the most unforeseen periods that shocked the nation over the last decade. His book delves far beyond the realm of running, bringing to the surface the hidden potential within every individual, empowering readers to become and achieve anything they desire. “In this book I share a story that helped me prove to myself that there's potential to be anything we want to be, we just need to unlock it. In this journey I learned how to remain positive, even when situations did not allow me to be,” affirms Sipho. Thriving in the limelight, this esteemed individual was voted Best Male Runner for two consecutive years at the Twitter Runners Virtual Awards in 2020 and 2021. Sipho has also achieved remarkable milestones in his running career, including completing the gruelling Comrades Marathon three times and conquering 18 full marathons across the South African continent. In his recent Comrades Marathon endeavour, he proudly secured a Silver medal, crossing the finish line with an impressive time of 7:28:57. “I'm a Comrades Marathon silver medallist! With a time of 7:28:57. Such a huge improvement from last years’ time of 8:25:14....Man I worked hard for this one. This one is for ME!” he proclaims. Conquering marathons requires a unique blend of extreme physical ability, mental fortitude, and unwavering dedication, and Sipho Marima exemplifies these qualities with each race he undertakes. To achieve such remarkable feats, Sipho embraces a vigorous training regime that pushes his body to its limits, consistently putting in countless miles to build endurance and improve his performance. Sipho is guided by an esteemed team of training partners and coaches that help him do just that, as well as being backed by one of the top sporting apparel brands in the world: Vongani Mashile, Bongani Bilankulu and Sithembele Sihunuza (aka The General), and Under Armour, respectively.

Further to that, Sipho's mental strength plays a crucial role in his success. He embraces the power of positive thinking, cultivating a resilient mindset that enables him to persevere through moments of exhaustion and doubt. Sipho's unwavering determination, combined with his undeterred belief in his abilities, fuels his journey to successfully conquer marathons, inspiring others to reach beyond their perceived limits and unlock their own potential on the path to greatness. Having started the 2023 Comrades Marathon in D seeding (the B seeding gate has closed, as he has been to the bathroom) Sipho adopted a cool, calm and collected approach, proving in its effectiveness. ‘I decided to stay focused and I had the most disciplined race I've ever ran. I felt good for 90% of the race, legs were strong, mind was in the right place and my nutrition was on point.” he explains.

2019 - 11:15:00 2022 - 8:25:14 2023 - 7:28:57

Sipho breaks down his top 10 Comrades Marathon Milestones: 1. My training with Skhindi Gang was focused on high mileage on hilly routes and also lots of hill repeats. I enjoyed the hills. I peaked at the right time. Hill training helps you to be able to run a hill during a race with the same effort without slowing down. It also strengthen muscles such as glutes, hip flexor and achilles. Peak means you are race ready, your body is ready to run fast and compete. You want to peak a few days before the race so you are able to perform and enjoy your race. If you peak too early, you might get to race day exhausted or fatigued. You control your peak by doing long slow runs during your training. After a race, you rest, get off the peak energy and then restart training for your next race. 2. Training camps at high altitude areas such as Drakensberg and Dullstroom courtesy of Ikhayalethu Athletics Club were vital. This improves your endurance during intense exercise. It increases your aerobics capacity as well, you'll find it easier to breathe during a race because of high altitude training. It's difficult to train in high altitude areas, so I went into camp understanding that it's going to be difficult. The routes are hilly and breathing is difficult there however as the days go by, your body adjust. When training for long distance, it's best to run at an easy pace at high altitude and maybe tempo runs. 3. Now and again I paid key visits to the bio Thato Meka Biokinetics and K Physios to make sure I stay injury free. Training for a marathon like the Comrades Marathon can take a toll on the body, so visits to the bio or physio are important so you can prevent injuries. A deeper tissue massage here and there is important so you make sure that you do not cure but prevent injuries. Also overall health checks are important, Comrades Marathon can put the body through a lot, you want to make sure you are 100% ready. 4. On race day, I had something to eat every 30 minutes for the entire race. This consisted of energy gel, banana or potatoes. I had a sip of water and Energade at every water point. The body runs low on energy during a race, so one does not need to wait for the energy level to be empty to fill it up. You constantly fill up as you go, so when you are exhausted, you do not hit the wall and have to wait an hour for your body to recover again. I practiced this during my 60km long runs at training, so I even set my watch to bip and remind me every 30 mins 5. Under my arm sleeve, I had my race pacing chart written. I stayed disciplined throughout the race. Did not let anyone pull me in or out of a pace that's not on my plan. On the pace chart I had written all the paces I needed to run from 0 to 20km, 40km to 53km, 53km to 70km and 70km to the finish. After 50km of running when you are tired, it's easy to forget what the plan is, so I would look under the arm sleeve and remind myself. Some parts of the race are hilly, so the plan was to hold back a bit and then go faster on the easier sections. 6. Seconding duties were on point, managed to get my supplements. My wife was a star assisting me in this regard. So I saw my wife at 30km, 45km, 60km, 70km and 80km. Every time I saw her I would take supplements, gels and even put some in my pockets because I had to eat something every 30 mins. From the start to 30km I was on my own, so I ate something before the race and then I carried the things I was going to eat every 30 mins. 7. Strength training in the beginning of the year really helped me stay strong. I did not cramp the entire race. Before I trained for Comrades Marathon, I needed to make sure my body was ready for the training program. The training program was hectic, because we would average 200km a week. So in December and January I did strength training twice or three times a week. I would have a leg focused session, core strengthening session, upper body session as well as resistant band training. I also did a lot of focused training such as hamstring strengthening, glutes because those are some of the most important muscles you use and you need them strong, especially after 60km. 8. I ran the race at a conscious state and every time I'd find myself going deep into my “nothing box”, the crowd pulled me out. Comrades Marathon is more painful on the mind, it's so long and one always wonders how far they are and how much work still needs to be done. I broke it down to 0 to 20km, 40 to 53, 53 to 70 and 70 to finish. I stayed focused and I looked around me to draw inspiration and energy from the people who were cheering. You need to have small wins in such a big race – for example, from 0 to 20km is a win, my pace is going according to plan and I ate 4 times, now let's tackle the next 20km. Hearing your name in such a big race is such a confidence booster, take it in when people shout your name. 9. Having training partners to train with and hold each other accountable got me through the training. Having to be on a 14 to 16 week training program is not easy, there's long runs that you need to do, for example, Wednesdays 30km long run or Tuesday hill repeats - those session are tough and it's always great to have people that can encourage each other. I trained with my coach Vongani Mashile from Skhindi Gang Coching and Eric Makhuvele a fellow Skhindi Gang Athlete, we held each other accountable and one wouldn't miss training because you know there's people waiting to run with you. Some days were harder than others but we pushed each other through it. 10. Choosing the right racing shoes, training shoes and tempo runs shoes is key! There's a difference! I ran in the FLOW Velociti Elite by Under Armour and they were amazing. First, the FLOW Velociti Elite shoe gave me so much confidence, they standd out which means you stand out as well. So I felt so great in them. They are light, they don't hold sweat or water, they are responsive with the carbon plate and my feet could breath. When my feet can breathe in such a long race, I'm able to focus on my run and not worry about any blister, pain or discomfort. Lastly, hanging around silver medallists changed my mindset, my confidence was high but not arrogant! Running a marathon requires discipline, commitment, determination and sacrifices…but the most important thing is that you need to allow yourself to have fun while you do it. I had the best time of my life. Stay positive, hang around positive people, react positively to setbacks and always do things to be a better version of yourself.

As Sipho reflects on his journey, he so proudly and sincerely acknowledges the transformative power of surrounding himself with like-minded individuals and drawing inspiration from his fellow comrades. This collective mindset shift and unwavering confidence, plus that deep inner reminder as to what inspired him to write his book, has propelled him to new heights, igniting a belief that anything is possible! Sipho Marima's marathon milestones serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for aspiring runners. As Sipho continues to run (climb) the ladder of success, he leaves an impressive mark on the running world, forever inspiring others to chase their dreams and unlock their full potential. Follow his journey:

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