Interview: Adele Broodryk on Comrades Marathon, Nutrition & Running in S. Africa

 

Today, we are taking you all the way to South Africa. Meet Adele Broodryke, the third-place women finisher and first South African lady at the legendary 2022 Comrades Marathon.

Adele is a mother of two and has a Ph.D. in sports science. “I am the typical “practice-what-you-preach” teacher – what I teach my students is what I apply in my training daily, whether it be from nutrition and recovery to training formats,” said Adele.

She completed her first half marathon not too long ago, in 2015, at the Two Oceans Marathon. She has quickly risen up the ranks to become one of the country’s top endurance athletes. We are so pleased to chat with her via email. Lots of gems in this interview, people! Put on your learning hats.

 

 

You are a mother of two, a wife, a Ph.D., a teacher, and a badass runner crushing the South African running scene. How did you get into running? Were you a track athlete that progressed into longer distances organically? Or were you a weekend warrior who discovered that you’re really, REALLY good at running in adulthood?

Yes, I have a Masters’s degree and Ph.D. in Sport Sciences. I have been running since I can remember. I competed in all athletics events throughout my school career. From primary schools where we only did the 60m sprints up to the high jump and even shot put! In middle of high school, I decided to focus on the 400m hurdling event. Unfortunately, this came with a lot of injuries.

During my first year in varsity, I decided to rather stop participating in 400m hurdling as I wanted to be able to be active my entire life. Hence, in 2013, I started doing shorter cross-country events.

In 2015, I did my first half-marathon (Two Oceans Half Marathon), where I finished in a time of 1hr 40min, in 100th position. I remember I was so happy and chuffed with myself. That is where the love for the longer distances started. The following year, I went back and improved my time to 1hr 25min, placing 12th overall. Two years later, I completed my first full marathon, which I also won in a time of 3hr 15min.

 

I read that in 2016, you had a potentially career-ending injury, which required multiple procedures to correct. Unfortunately, injuries are quite common among us runners. Do you have any advice for athletes that are currently sidelined?

My injury in 2016 was majority due to over training. I used to have the mindset of “more is better,” though now, years later, I know that “less is more.”

I forced my body during training sessions, opting to do a few reps more at a higher pace, thinking that will give me the “edge above my competitors.” I also had the wrong image that a lean body is better as you have less to carry on the road – hence not taking in any supplementation. This not just led to frequently being sick but also multiple stress fractures and over training.

My advice to currently injured athletes – reflect on the WHY you are currently sidelined. Is it due to a freak accident (I had an ankle sprain November 2020 that resulted in a hairline fracture), or due to over use/over train/under train? If it is the latter, then try and make amendments to your current plan. Whether it be to train more/less, take in supplementation, or start with strength exercises.

Keep a diary and make daily notes after your training sessions to follow your journey. Watch out for trends (i.e., daily resting heart rate is higher, or you keep feeling fatigued) that might be warning signs.

Then for a bit of motivation during the dreadful “injured off time,” – just remember that as long as the clock keeps on ticking, day by day, you are closer to getting back on the road. Every dark moment has a silver lining, and as each day passes, you are nearing that silver lining. Keep your head up, try and focus on other aspects in the meantime. Whether it be those stupid stabilizing exercises we all neglect or spending some extra time with the family.

 

Your dream to run Comrades Marathon was delayed for two years. Can you describe the feeling of finally toeing the line this year at Pietermaritzburg?

This was an absolute dream come true for me. I grew up in a household where we watched the beloved Comrades Marathon on the television screens. So, I always had the dream to complete it the year I turn 30. Unfortunately, this was the year that COVID-19 hit, and the race was postponed.

For two years, I kept building on my dream – to run it. I had this image of how I will progress over the positions for Comrades. First Comrades – just try and finish it. Second race – aim for top 20 and then progress to hopefully win it one day. So for me to place overall 3rd and as the first South African Lady at my debut race was definitely not what I had planned years ago!

And congrats on the incredible performance! By a Comrade rookie, no less. But you seem to think you made a few tactical mistakes. What do you think you did well, and what would you like to improve?

Upon reflecting on my Comrades journey, I did go out a tad faster than coach and I planned. However, I felt super strong the first half of the race. I am a strong, muscular racer, so this aided in the hills over the first 60km of the race. I focused so much on hill training prior to Comrades, I think I neglected descend training, which resulted in losing 5 toenails and excruciating pain from 60 to 80km in the race.

After Comrades it is natural to have “what if” thoughts. The biggest being, “what if I held back, ran with the pack, and tried to break out later on?” I would never know what it would have resulted in. For all I know, yes, I could have won, or I might have bombed out.

 

How would you describe your racing style? A Prefontaine that goes all out? A level-headed runner that makes calculated surges? Or go by feel and improvise?

I would say I am more of a level-headed runner. I try and run according to my strengths and weaknesses, so I would meticulously examine the race course beforehand and compile my racing strategy based thereon. During the Comrades build-up, I knew that my weakness was the hills.

Therefore, all the focus shifted to get stronger, which paid off as I completed the first 50km only 90 seconds away from my PB. Over shorter distances, I try and play a bit around – try and go all out and see how far I can keep up the pace! I feel those sessions as just as important to evaluate my physical conditioning level.

 

Is it too early to ask about your race schedule for 2023? Do you have plans to race outside of South Africa?

I am planning to go back to Comrades 2023. I feel that I have some “unfinished business” left. I am already planning my annual racing calendar, though with Comrades shifting back to June, it might get a bit tricky to compete at a high level at all the anticipated races. On the other hand, the shifting of the date will make room for an international race to try and obtain a fast marathon time. So yes, if everything works out, I will be racing outside South Africa during the latter part of the year.

 

Since we are Runivore, we wanted to focus on your nutrition strategy for Comrades. Can you tell us how you plan your nutrition for something as demanding as Comrades, especially since it’s the longest you have run yet? And can you share the execution with us? What do you eat – do you rely on aid station food? Any energy gel or other nutrition product you used during the event? Any issues along the race concerning fueling?

I truly believe that you should listen to your body and its needs. I am always aware of what I eat, but if my body is craving potatoes after a large build-up, I give in as I believe it is my body’s way of signaling a deficit.

A week prior to the Comrades I shifted my normal eating diet to a keto diet. Trying to minimize my carbohydrate intake (only taking in vegetables) with plenty of protein and natural fats. Three days prior to the race I then started my carbo-loading. I worked out my precise diet for the three days over 6-9 daily meals. This was to amp up my glycogen stores and minimize any gastrointestinal discomfort. The meals were calculated according to my body weight (7 grams x body weight) which I then divided into meals.

Morning prior to the race, I had a bowl of race-meal porridge which I truly find to work best in sustaining my energy levels and keeping the hunger feeling down.

For the race itself, I divided it into 18 fueling stations – every 5km. This was further divided into specific fuels to consume based on my needs. This was done to keep blood glucose levels stable, prevent muscular cramping, and minimize gastrointestinal discomfort.

My typical fueling included:

  • 32GI Cramp Assault – minimize cramps and provide some carbs
  • 32GI Endure Sports Drinks – maintain my blood glucose and energy levels
  • 32GI Endure Tabs – minimize the risk of wanting to visit the bathroom but sustain my energy
  • 32GI Race Pro Fluid – this was taken from 40km onwards to provide additional proteins.
  • 32GI Sports Gels – sustain my glucose levels.
  • Maurten energy gels – sustain my glucose levels and minimize gastrointestinal discomfort
  • 32GI Hydrate – maintain my hydration level and minimize the risk of cramping.
  • 32GI G-Shot caffeine shots – before the major hills to give that extra boost.

All of the above, I trained for during smaller events or training sessions, thereby training my gut as well, which is as important as training the body.

How about post-race? What was your first meal after the race? What’s your approach to diet, in general, to help you recover and stay in top form?

After the race, I consumed 32GI Recover. I did not want any form of sugar after that! My biggest craving was a glass of cold water. I also opted for some fresh salad and fruit, having no cravings for carbohydrates.

I truly believe that you should listen to your body. Your body will direct you toward its needs. If I feel tired or lethargic or not getting to my training splits as I used to, my diet is the first thing I inspect – was there an energy deficit maybe…

After my injury in 2016, where I used to have a mindset that a lean body is better for performance, I adopted a mindset of rather having a huge power-to-weight ratio.

Something that I started implementing is to have a meal before training in the mornings. I have experienced tremendous benefits in this as I get to complete my training sessions at the required pace and recover afterwards.

 

How did you and 32GI link up? And what are your favorite products from the company?

I linked up with 32GI via my running club – Murray and Roberts Running Club. My favorite product will be the Endure range – I feel as though I can run for a thousand miles when consuming that product. It’s an extra bonus that it comes in a tab/chewing format, thereby also limiting intestinal discomfort or wanting to visit a bathroom.

 

Do you have any advice for budding star athletes looking for sponsorships?

Take a chance – you never know who might notice you! My chance I took was during a local ultramarathon – Om Die Dam 50km Marathon. I went out hard with my thoughts directed that I needed to place my name out there. Don’t be afraid to ask! You already have a “No” answer, so why not try?

South Africa seems like a wonderful place to run. Can you briefly describe the running scene? What other great South African races should be on our bucket list?

South Africa is a beautiful country with attractive areas to race. Summer weather conditions can go up to 40 degrees Celsius and winter as low as -11 degrees (depending on where you are located). However, when hitting these extreme temperatures, there are other areas that are a bit more comfortable to complete the training sessions.

One specific race that is a stand-out is the Two Oceans 56km Ultra Marathon. Here you run alongside the ocean. If you are more of a “bush person”, you can complete the Skukuza Half-Marathon in the Kruger National Park with game rangers alongside the road to keep you safe. The Knysna half and full marathons are also a very attractive race to complete, as you run in the majestic forests in freezing temperatures. Then there is also the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, which aims to become a World Abbot major.

 

Finally, where can people follow your running quests?

I have an Instagram account (adelebroodryk) as well as a facebook page (Adele Broodryk – runner) where I update my races, results and life events on a regular basis.

Or if you are in need of one-on-one coaching – my email address is della2001@gmail.com. Lastly, is my Strava account where my races and training sessions can be examined.

 

Here’s Adele’s full bio if you want to get to know her more.

A mother, wife, friend, teacher, and runner is who I, Adele Broodryk, am.

I grew up in a small town with not as many opportunities to grow in my sport. In grade 1, I placed second in the local school sports. I was determined to place better the following year – which I did. Unfortunately, I never really excelled in my athletics career – which we classified later on due to unscientifically based training. Every session was a hard session!

I went on to study human movement sciences at the university, and it was here where I started implementing science into training. I went on to obtain my Master’s degree in sports recovery and my Ph.D. in sport science – focusing on the effects of various fatigue on the psycho-hormonal states.

I am the typical “practice what you preach” teacher – what I teach my students is what I apply in my training daily, whether it be from nutrition and recovery to training formats.

I completed my first half marathon in 2015 at the Two Oceans Marathon – where I placed in the 100th position in a time of 1h:40min. I was ecstatic, again determined to better my placing. The following year I placed 12th with a time of 1hr 25min. I currently hold a PB for the half marathon in a time of 1hr 18min. In 2018 I completed my first full marathon on a very hilly and difficult course – Knysna forest run. There I placed in the first position, and my love for the longer events started.

Over the course of the year, I set multiple personal best times over various distances ranging from 10km (34min 48sec) to 50km ultramarathon (3hr 23min).

The year 2022 marked my debut year for the Comrades ultra-marathon. Collectively over the year of 2022, I will complete 18 road races in total, of which 4 was ultra-marathons within a 5-month period, the rest focusing on either training marathons or shorter events to build on my speed aspect.