To run the Comrades Marathon at the top level is no mean feat; but try doing that as a single mom with a demanding job. Enie Manzini works long hours, but that doesn’t stop her fore filling her dreams. She ran to 19th in 2019, smashing her PB; you are going to want to listen to this…
David Katz: Comrades Marathon 2019, what a race on both sides. We saw again the men’s and the women’s, the women’s in particular, really competitive. Again, a fine run from Gerda Steyn to break the record and become the first woman to go under six hours on the Up run. Across the top 20 there were many BPs, many first time silver medallists and gold medallists and it was absolutely great to see.
One of them is Enie Manzini who runs for Team Massmart. Enie joins us now. Enie, how are you feeling? I know you slightly missed out on gold, you wanted to break seven, but running just over seven hours and you top 20’d, it was a fantastic run.
Chasing an illusive Comrades Gold medal
Enie Manzini: Yes, I’m very happy with the achievement. I was planning for a sub 7 or a gold medal but anything can happen during the race. There are conditions that you cannot control. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to my target, but I’m happy with the performance. I break off 1:04 out of my personal best on Up Run. I also bettered my Down Run, which is about 11 minutes. I’m happy with the performance and I’m looking forward to perform even better next year.
DK: It was a great run Enie and if you look at the women you were around. For a long time you were sitting with the likes of Mary Khourie who claimed the last gold medal. Does that give you confidence to know, I know you battled a bit with cramps, that you have the ability to compete and stay up there with the top 10?
EM: Yes, I do believe I could have made it. I stayed for a long time with Mary, we even chatted on the road. She told me, “You are a strong woman.” I said, “You are also strong!” She said, “My friend, we can make it together.” Fortunately she didn’t have any distractions, then she ended up making it to the top 10, but I’m happy for her. It was a nice race and it was nice being with her along the road.
Making the most of your situation
DK: She’s a great example of someone who has missed out so many times and just missed out on that gold and has finally got it, which was fantastic to see. A lot of the field, like yourself, you’re fulltime workers, you have children. I know Gerda Steyn is a fulltime athlete and she’s on a bit of a different level, but looking at yourself, just explain to people how you have to incorporate your training around your life? You’re a mother of two and you have a very demanding job.
EM: Okay, I have fulltime job, I work long hours, my shift is from 7:00 until 6:00, which translates to 11 hours, my day shift, and my night shift is 13 hours. It also takes discipline. It takes determination. You have to be committed. You have to love what you are doing.
Out of all the things that I’m doing, the job, my kids, along with being a single parent, I had to sacrifice then, I will train every day. There was no single day when I would skip my training, even though I worked those long shifts. I would sacrifice; I would train before my shift.
I will train after my night shift, then I also had to work extra hours at work, just to save those hours so that I can take a long leave. That’s what I’ve done this year and also last year. Last year I took less days, this year it was more about 30 days off, just to have enough time to train, to have enough rest.
Working shifts, it can disturb your training, it can disturb your rest and I saw it as a need for me to take a long leave so that I can train well and I can rest well. Then I’m glad that I’m managing to train and I’m managing to also be with my kids when there’s time.
DK: That must be extremely difficult. I’ve worked shift work in my life as well and unfortunately the way it works out, as you said, it’s not like you can say, “I’m just taking leave.” You almost have to bank that. You know you said you had to make up, so times where you’re doing quite a fair amount of your training, you were having to work extra, which is incredible.
Nutrition is key to Comrades success
In that instance as well, nutrition becomes increasingly important. I know Mark Wolff coaches you, he is a fundi when it comes to nutrition, but you still had to be the one who was disciplined enough to follow that plan.
EM: Yes, yes, it’s important because you can have a good programme, but if you as an athlete, you are not disciplined and you don’t follow your programme, you won’t see any results. It’s very important to be disciplined.
Then I’m glad that I have a coach like Mark. I’m very happy because my personal best on Up Run, it was 8:14, with his training programme, which is nutrition, I managed to minus one hour for me out of my personal best. I’m very happy, there’s no words that I can say but thank you to him.
He really helped me a lot this year, I can see the results, I can see the progress in my running. It’s really important to have a coach. It’s really important to have someone who will guide you. It’s really important to have someone who will always motivate you. It really helps, I’m so thankful.
DK: Enie, tell me, how did you handle your race day nutrition? I know we’ve got some fantastic new products, if you look at the likes of Race Pro and Cramp Assalt, which were designed for endurance ultra athletes, were you able to test that and how well did they work for you?
19th at Comrades, fuelled on Race Pro
EM: Yes, I tested the Race Pro; I used them before the race. During the race I used them. We had eight stations, I used them very well on the road but I do have a very sensitive stomach. I know very well that during the races I normally struggle with sensitive stomach.
This year it was much better because it even started very late, it started towards 20km, then I only went to the loo once at Lion Park venue. With the cramps, I think it might be the weather condition or maybe the running shoes. Other people would say, because they race, I was running with the Racers. People say normally Racers are not good for ultras, it might be that, that I started to cramp towards the finish.
DK: Up Run is definitely a lot of cramp, a lot of nausea for some athletes and you’re not the first athlete who has given us feedback to say that Race Pro was probably the only thing that they could take for nausea or really made an impact or an improvement on the way they were able to digest, which is fantastic.
Enie sets her sights on Gold
Enie, well done again, it was a fantastic run. I know you wanted a little bit more. I know you’re hard on yourself because you’re that kind of determined lady, but next year, the year after, double down, that gold is on the horizon in the next couple of years and I think you believe that.
EM: Yes, I do believe that. What I’ve noticed nowadays, Comrades is very fast. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Up Run, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Down Run, Comrades is very fast. If Gerda could manage to break 10 minutes out of the record, it shows that it’s really fast and women are starting to be stronger than men! I was impressed, I’m really happy about the performance in the women’s field.
It motivates us to see that there are people who can do it. It tells me and I believe also that I can do it. I can get that gold medal. My dream is to get that gold medal and I believe I can get it. I’m looking forward to training for the Down Run, I know this coming two years is going to be Down Run, then I’m looking forward to perform well on those two.