Top Tips for your Comrades Training from a Seasoned Pro
I was inspired to take running more seriously after watching the 1976 Comrades marathon aired on TV.
My first training was around the university rugby fields for a whole 10 minutes. Now we’ve got a great training schedule from Discovery Vitality which you can follow in detail. Find it on their website.
Good genes, commitment, a solid training programme and career-long consistency are the key to Comrades’ successes.
It took three years to prepare for my first. So maybe reconsider if you haven’t started training already. Ideally, training should begin in March for August.
Focus on running for longer periods. The emphasis is not on speed, but instead on slow and steady endurance; or ‘time on the legs’.
Emphasis is placed on starting slowly – the body does not adapt overnight, and the cumulative stress of an increased training load can be detrimental to not only the recovery but also the longevity of one’s bones, tendons and muscles.
I suggest alternating weekend long runs as follows: a medium long run (20-30kms) for week 1, alternated with a very long run (40-60kms) for week 2, and then repeated for week 3 and 4.
Consistency, consistency, consistency: this is key in training and adding to the endurance base. LSDs (Long Slow Distances) are of utmost importance to ensure the body adapts to longer periods of time on the legs.
I recommend alternating long runs (30kms) with very long runs (50-60kms) as this gives the body time to recover in between. It is also key to know what pace you plan to run Comrades at, and then practise this pace during these longer runs. Being accustomed to the rhythm of this pace will carry you through on race day.
When I am preparing for a major effort in an ultra-distance race, I have one rule about entering other long-distance races: don’t.
If I could have my way I would force my running friends not to race a single race of 42kms or longer in the six months preceding Comrades. Why? Racing-induced muscle damage is exponentially exacerbated during races longer than 25kms. This muscle damage takes a considerable time to repair and inhibits the runner from swiftly returning to productive training.
Comrades runners need to be ready for two types of hills: the long gradual climbs of a kilometre or more, and the short, but sharp heart rate spiking hills. A good gauge is the ‘talk test’: being able to speak without difficulty, indicating that you are running at an easy enough pace. Add a midweek long run (15-25kms) at a slightly speedier pace to get the legs acquainted with race conditions.
Later, driving the route is an extremely important part of mentally preparing for the colossal challenge ahead. The drive itself is a great warning of what lies ahead for those who plan to run. The point is that you are now worried and cautious and that is exactly the correct frame of mind to be in at the start of the Comrades.
Months of training make you very fit. But, you’re also tired and blown away from it all. Tapering is the final process in perfecting your race. And, it’s called tapering because you don’t just stop with a bang. You gradually reduce your training in a glide path down towards race day.
I recommend absolute rest during the final three days leading up to the race. Don’t jeopardise your race through cross training.
Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
Don’t worry if you’re not up to comrades today. Start with a parkrun. The point is to keep moving to stay healthy.
Always remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself permission to run slowly, and go the distance. DM/ML
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Author: Bruce Fordyce, Team Vitality Ambassador
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