Run Like a Girl & Poop Like a Tiger (the Bruce Acton story)


In the build-up to Comrades 2023, I did a talk entitled “Stats, Stories & Bowel Movements: An Illustrated Guide to the Comrades Marathon” at several running clubs including Midrand Striders.

I kick the presentation off with the ‘bowel movements’ part (a couple of moving bowel stories) because (a) you want to cleanse your colon before the start of Comrades and (b) my definition of a ‘real runner’ is not that you’ve run Comrades but rather that you can talk about your bowel movements without embarrassment*.

* Incidentally, the crowning achievement of my running career is running a sub-3 marathon on a 3-step strategy which you can read about here: Kaapsehoop Marathon (The Sub-3 Quest)

As the only member of our household possessing a Y-chromosome, all my advice is completely ignored and perpetual nuggets of wisdom fall on deaf ears.

Therefore, I was heartened to get this post-race report from Midrand Strider, Bruce Acton, who took my talk to to the startline of Comrades 2023 and had the most enjoyable of his eight runs to date.

Here’s the Bruce’s story…

“Hi Stuart. Thanks for your great work busting cheats, and compiling all the other interesting stats that make running so interesting. Your talk at our recent Midrand Striders Pre Comrades breakfast struck a chord. My PB’s for Comrades, Two Oceans and 42km have all included unexpected bowel movements. I also enjoyed your comments and anecdotes on running within an aerobic HR, the rarity of negative splits and how us men should try ‘run like a girl’ 🤣

READ MORE: Run Like a Girl (A Guide to Optimal Pacing at the Comrades Marathon)

My wife and I started this Comrades together aiming for a solid sub 10 hour. I had a D seeding but dropped back to Michelle in E. Took about 2mins25s to cross the start line. After 15km I had to leave Michelle and run into the bushes for the first of two unexpected toilet stops. Turns out that an old stock craft beer the night before was not the smartest idea. I lost about 5 mins from the two stops, but took heart from your story wherein you stopped three times and still broke 3hrs on a 42. All I wanted was sub 10hrs on a short Comrades route 🤔

After the last toilet stop, I took to the road feeling inspired and light, and quietly chipped away at the tough course to about 52km when all major hills seemed to be done as per my memory. At Drummond I was on 5 hours. At the top of Bothas with Hillcrest ahead, I was running an overall average pace of 6mins47secs which was right on the fringe of still achieving sub 10, with many km still to go. Normally at this stage I’d be feeling a bit finished and accept that I can’t in fact run like a girl (or dance) so a 10h30m would be a good outcome.

But on Sunday I felt great. My avg HR had remained awesome in the low 140’s. My fuelling was working super well. The weather was perfect, I was smiling and the race was on!

I felt like I flew the rest of the way to Kingsmead Stadium. No heroics, just kept clawing back a bit of time wherever possible, whilst still having regular small walk breaks to conserve energy and soak up the tremendous crowd support (including a mouthful of ice cold Corona going up Cowies). And turning the last corner and seeing the entry to our old faithful Kingsmead was an amazing feeling. My 9hr50 isn’t a PB, but it’s without a doubt the most enjoyable Comrades I’ve ever had (out of 8 spanning 23 years). Michelle had an even more remarkable run with an even bigger negative split to finish on a PB of 9hr20! She really did fly to the finish! For me, another great run following a ‘crappy’ start, with aerobic zone HR most of the way and the joy of running like a girl to get faster and finish strong! Thanks for your input to what became an amazing day for both Michelle and I. Cheers, Bruce Acton”

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