How Piet Wiersma went to the Kenyan mountains to win 2024 Comrades

Piet Wiersma after winning 2024 Comrades Marathon men's race at the finish at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.
Piet Wiersma after winning 2024 Comrades Marathon men's race at the finish at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.
Image: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

Comrades Marathon up run men’s winner Piet Wiersma knew he was in the best shape of his life after a six-week training camp in Kenya in April and May that got him primed for the 2024 up run, he said.

Given he had done so many hill workouts training in disciplined, Spartan conditions in Kenya, which preceded a wrap-up of two weeks in Pretoria, it should have been no surprise Wiersma made his decisive break on the notorious Polly Shorts climb just before Pietermaritzburg.

The Dutch runner pulled away from second-placed finisher Dan Moselakwe (5 hrs 25 min 45 sec) and third-placed Ethiopian Degefa Lafebo (5:27:48) to finish at Scottsville Racecourse in 5:25:00, missing Russian Leonid Shvetsov's up record of 2008 of 5:24:39 by 21 seconds.

While Wiersma also trained in Kenya ahead of last year’s down run where he shocked the field finishing second behind Tete Dijana by three seconds in his first Comrades, the 26-year-old said the camp this year was the first time he could train full time after completing his studies last year.

“It definitely feels like I finished some unfinished business from last year, so that feels good,” Wiersma said.

“Actually, initially after the Comrades last year not everything went according to plan. I took some rest after the race and after that started [that] I discovered I had a serious Achilles injury in both tendons.

“It took about half a year to recover so it was only in December I really started running again, and it was in February I was able to run fully.

“But champions from the past have also said it’s not always bad to be injured because it can mean you start your build-up a bit later, which means you’re fresh coming into Comrades, and I definitely felt this.

“Around the end of March I decided out of nowhere to go to Kenya because I finally had some time to do so. I graduated last November so I didn’t have that much to do and it just felt like an opportunity for me.

“I contacted an old friend of mine from Kenya, Hosea Kiplagat, who invited me to stay in his house — actually it was just one room we shared together for six weeks without running water, taking bucket showers every day.

“It just felt disciplined. We would get up at 6am every day, train, have breakfast after, rest and in the afternoon do a recovery run and the next day we’d do it all over again.

“For me that was the perfect schedule, just due to the amount of rest I was getting — it was the first time in my life I was able to train full time.

“So going into Comrades I was very powerful because of this and it turned out well.”

After the last up run in 2019 the 2020 and 2021 Comrades were cancelled due to Covid-19 and the 2021 and 2022 races were down runs due to roadworks on the N3 outside Pietermaritzburg.


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