alsoran runners Busses - the Pros and Cons!

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This is not the bus that takes you from your home town to Durban.  Nor is this the bus that takes you to the start of the race.  This is the so called “runners bus” that some runners opt to “hop” onto on route to the finish (not to be confused with the bailer’s bus).  A “bus” is a group of runners who run at a specified pace with the intention of finishing the race in a specified time.  This group of runners are led by a “bus driver”, who in most instances will carry a flag indicating the intended finish time of the bus.  The bus driver “calls the shots” so to speak, usually verbally, sometimes using a whistle to keep the attention of his/her passengers.

At Comrades there are a number of “busses” taking runners through the race.  I’m not too sure about a “silver bus” (sub 7.30 hour) but certainly there are busses for Bill Rowan (sub 9 hour), bronze (sub 10 and sub 11 hour) and Vic Clapham (sub 12 hour).

Basically how these busses work are as follows.  The “driver” should be an experienced runner who has a very good idea of pacing and time management.  The driver will include some planned “recovery” walks into the pace.  The bigger busses are quite festive with the driver incorporating count downs and motivational cries and songs.  It is not uncommon to hear the chant “another one bites the dust” as the bus passes one of the kilometre boards (distance markers).  During the planned walks, the bus driver usually has runners raising their arms and breathing deeply.  He will then count them down to start running again.

Personally, I don’t run in busses.  I prefer to be in complete control of my race.  I also believe that I would NOT make a good bus driver.

In my opinion, here are some of the pros and cons of joining a bus.

The Pros:
  • It’s worth joining a bus if you don’t really have a game plan.  This way, you have someone else doing all the thinking for you.
  • You should have a good chance of achieving a set goal if you can stick with the bus
  • Joining a bus on route may help you get back on track.
  • You will meet some interesting people along the way!
  • You have a good chance of making it onto TV!  The SABC tend to focus on the busses as they come into the stadium.
The Cons:
  • While there are some very experienced bus drivers (Graham and Vlam come to mind), there are also one or two with limited experience who perhaps have not yet been challenged with difficult situations during the race.  I suggest you look up the “pedigree” of your bus driver beforehand.  If I’m not mistaken, Runners World “organise” the pace setters so I’m sure this will be published online and in their magazine beforehand.
  • Some bus drivers “blow”!  I have seen a so-called bus driver, sitting dejected on the side of the road in Pinetown, his race over!
  • Some busses go out too fast which can cause some of the passengers to blow and fall off the bus, so to speak.  In this case, an inexperienced runner may feel that his/her race is over having fallen off the bus.  It is important to continue to back yourself and keep on running! 
  • Similarly, some busses can go out too slow resulting in the bus driver having to up the pace which sees many runners fall off the bus in the process.
  • Some spectators make comments like “the 12 hour bus has gone past, you had better catch it or you won’t make it” – well something to that effect!  Please ignore comments like this – often these busses end up slowing down considerably towards the finish because if not, they will finish “too early”.
An observation - In some instances, busses pick up many of their “passengers” in the last 5km or so.  I have had many a bus come past me on route with not many runners on board, yet at the finish, the same bus comes in with hundreds of runners!

The choice is yours.  Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to believe in yourself!

Internal links:  Believe in yourself, Comrades
External links: Official Comrades Marathon website

Copyright Nikki Campbell 2010