Gary Sandler completes fourth Comrades Marathon

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Malcolm Freedman, Rael Salkinder, Craig Price and Gary Sandler

Gary runs for Gugulethu Athletics Club and is collecting gently used running shoes to donate to the club. There are so many committed athletes that could really benefit and would greatly appreciate your contribution. Contact Gary to arrange collection 0790809127.

By Jaime Uranovsky

This year’s Comrades Marathon was held on 9 June. One of 2019’s participants was Gary Sandler. This was his fourth time completing the ultramarathon, which he has been running since 2016. 

Gary estimates that fewer than twenty runners from the Cape Town Jewish community run the Comrades. He notes, “I run with at least three guys regularly, Jewish guys: Craig Price, Malcolm Freedman and Rael Salkinder… We trained together and we ran the Comrades together… We kind of split up according to our ability towards the end of the race but we all started together as a group and we trained together all the time. So, there’s a big social element to it as well.”

Gary began long-distance running in 2013: “Once I overcame my first challenge of completing a marathon… the bug had bitten and I realised that if I could do [the Cape Town Marathon], then I could do the Two Oceans. If I could do Two Oceans, I could do Comrades. So, it gained momentum from that point — from ticking off that first bucket-list item which was [completing] a marathon.”

Today, the Comrades Marathon is Gary’s favourite race: “It’s the ultimate experience for a long distance road runner… Every year the Comrades is different. One year is an up-run and the next year it’s a down-run. So, this year was an up-run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, which, in some people’s opinion, is significantly harder than the down-run. Just in terms of the sheer up-hills you have to navigate from the start of the race all the way through to about 60kms; it’s pretty much uphill the whole way. So, the highlight for me isn’t really a highlight in that I was looking forward to it, but it was the challenge of the up-run. The last time I did the up-run I really struggled, and I came in very close to the end, so I was quite nervous about it but that was pretty much the highlight: the challenge of the up-run; to try to improve on my effort from the last time, which was about a 45-minute improvement. I was quite happy with that.’

For Gary, running provides both physical and mental benefits. “It’s about keeping fit and healthy but it’s also a good way to energise your mind. To reinvigorate the spirit and just detox — to keep your mind clear… But also, the pains and the niggles that you get from running and the injuries that linger even after a hard run in the morning… it’s pain that I don’t see as negative. It’s almost a reminder of the effort you put in to get yourself in the best space physically and mentally to continue on.”

For those considering running the Comrades, Gary says, “It’s possible if you put your mind to it… It sounds cheesy but 90kms is something you can work towards and most of it is mental… You get what you deserve when you put the training in but most of the race is mental and anyone can do it. I started doing park runs in 2013 and I built up from there, not expecting I’d ever do it. It’s possible if you put your mind to it and you’ve got that goal to motivate you.”

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