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Sika Henry Runs Comrades: The Ultimate Human Race

Some people’s BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) are bigger than others.

That’s certainly true for ServiceRocket’s brand ambassador Sika Henry.

The first US Black female pro-triathlete continues to challenge herself in a big way. After running the 2023 Boston Marathon, Sika ran the 2023 Comrades Marathon in South Africa.

Sika runs Comrades

The world’s oldest and largest ultramarathon (55 miles/89km) was no walk in the park, not even for this elite athlete.

“I started out ahead of the seven hour 30-minute group, and eventually the eight hour group passed me, then the nine hour group, and all I could do was shuffle to make sure I made it to the finish.”

Unsure if it was a “humbling experience or humiliating”, she was quick to add, “if I had to rewind and do it again I still would.”

Sika ran Comrades with the Durban-based Phantane Athletics Club, a club of elites and competitive runners, many of whom come from South Africa’s townships and rural areas. “They were wonderful,” says Sika. “Very hospitable.”

Proud Comrades' medal owner
Much like Sika, Comrades' rich history is about breaking barriers.

Comrades first opened to women and people of color in 1975, the same year that Marilyn Bevans ran the Boston Marathon. Two years later, Bevans became the first African American woman to finish a marathon in under three hours. (Read about Sika’s run in the 127th marathon as part of Team Bevans.)

Comrades' inaugural race in 1921 honored fallen South African soldiers killed during World War I. Its primary aim was to celebrate mankind's spirit over adversity.

That motto has proven particularly relevant in a country where apartheid was the law of the land until the early 1990s and the formation of a democratic government in 1994.

In fact, Comrades is symbolic of more than a marathon.

For Sika, running “The Ultimate Human Race” aligned with her goal to advance greater equity in sports, a goal ServiceRocket supports, every step of the way.

She shared her experience with Under the Dome.

Our inspiring brand ambassador

Did Comrades give you hope that greater equity in sports is possible?

SH: It was the first time that I participated in a large, multiculturally diverse, endurance event. Though the gender gap was large (80% male, 20% female) it was refreshing to run with over 15,000 people that spoke various languages and represented different countries.

Being the sole black woman competing at the majority of endurance events that I participated in last year made Comrades unique. I found it very welcoming—not elitist. I also loved that not only did they televise the race live for 12 hours, they also had a separate channel that followed the women’s race.

Was Comrades unlike any other sports event that you’ve participated in?  

SH: Definitely! I don’t know how I could possibly top this.

It’s hard to articulate what it's like to cover 55 miles on foot with thousands of other participants.

I heard cheers from spectators for miles on end through various townships, ran through neighborhoods and remote lands where I passed by cows and zebras, and was greeted by young students as I ran by boarding schools on route to Durban.

Another thing that stood out was the smell of local cuisine as I ran by families who were grilling by the side of the road. Yes, they did offer me a taste!

What was it like to run with 15,000+ runners?

SH: Everyone was working together to get to the finish line. They had buses—known as pace groups in the US—that were led by a “driver” to help you reach a time goal. Everyone shared nutrition, water, etc. and offered encouraging words to help you stay with the group.

Did any particular interactions resonate for you?

SH: Since I wore an elite bib, my first name was on the front and back of my singlet. It was shocking how many people knew who I was.  

“I heard a lot of ‘Sika!! The Triathlete!’ cheers.”

Any advice for runners who are looking to advance from marathons to ultramarathons?

SH: It’s definitely not about speed. It’s all about nutrition, proper pacing and being prepared for the conditions (course, terrain, and weather). While it requires a decent amount of mileage to prepare for one, they don’t have to be at a fast pace. Incorporating walk breaks into your build up is essential.

Is triathlon training beneficial to running marathons?

SH: It isn’t necessary but I find it helpful in preventing injury. I will always be an advocate for incorporating swim and bike training into marathon and ultra marathon prep. Since it is low impact, it is a great tool for getting in quality workouts without the pounding and stress of running.

Any other recommendations on how to recover from a race like Comrades?

SH: If you are traveling internationally, I would definitely recommend arriving a few days before to acclimate to the weather and time zone change. And if you are traveling to a new place, I would suggest taking a few days after the race to do some sight seeing. My partner Ben and I did a safari two days after the race. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

Sika makes a new friend

Much like our brand ambassador, ServiceRocket is in it for the long run. Our #StableConfidence and Leadership Behaviors help Rocketeers succeed. They’re rewarded the fruits of their success along the way. Join us.

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