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MAKE SURE OF YOUR MEDAL
By Don Oliver (19 medals)

 

Nothing can be worse than training for six months for Comrades and then failing to finish. Not quite as bad, but close to failure, is missing your target finishing time.

Selecting a training programme can be a traumatic experience because you are not always able the success rate of a particular programme. However, the programmes included in Race Dates have been used with great success over more than 20 years, and come from the well-known Comrades Panel Talks held in Johannesburg. It is estimated that more than 6000 runners have earned their first medal (as well as a few hundred Bill Rowan medals more recently) as graduates of these talks.

The programme uses the technique of achieving reasonable monthly targets and progressing to a slightly higher target the next month. Success breeds success and once the runner starts enjoying the satisfaction of achieving each fresh target, he or she will easily reach their target time in the longest race of the year at Comrades.

Although the programme is directed at a first-time finisher of Comrades, notes are attached at the end of each section for the faster times required for a Bill Rowan medal.

The Comrades training programme starting in January each year falls into three distinct phases:
Phase 1:     To qualify in a standard marathon (8 weeks)
Phase 2:     Hard training period of ultra marathons (11 weeks)
Phase 3:     The wind down (or taper) to race day and the race itself (4 weeks)
Total training time = 23 weeks

BASIC DESIGN

The fundamental principle used throughout the programme is to proceed gradually in biteable bits and chewable chunks. The progression at each stage is so small as to be almost insignificant, but over the weeks, it adds up to incredible strides forward. The small increments form the basis of the training to avoid injury and illness, which can bring vital preparations to a half for various lengths of time, depending on the severity of the problem. Avoiding setbacks is the foundation of any good programme.

Secondly, because the time spent training for the big event is an extended period of six months, it is vital to be able to track your progress. At any particular time within the programme, be it half way through, or even only four weeks before the race, you need to know exactly where you stand and be able to answer the burning question: “Am I on schedule?” To help you do this, we have included regular “indicators” in the training programme. An indicator is normally a race performance at a shorter distance. When you reach the relatively easy target, you will get an immediate confidence booster!

Thirdly, the total distance to be run in the training and races between 1 January 2007 and 16 June 2007 is approximately 1400km. More important is how the 1400km is made up. This programme includes two standard marathons and three ultra marathons, with the longest training run being 65km. This huge amount of running is only made possible by one important feature: Rest Days. You will find that although the training intensity steadily increases, the Monday rest day is never removed. The body needs to rest and you should never cancel the rest day to put in some extra training or to catch up on a missed run or race.

Lets kick off with Phase 1.

PHASE 1: TO QUALIFY IN A STANDARD MARATHON

Every runner approaches the beginning of the Comrades training programme with his or her own unique background and set of achievements. Nevertheless, all runners hoping to finish their first Comrades marathon should start off in the same way, so that the completeness of the programme is not compromised.

Some runners may have already run a marathon or even an ultra, while others might only have run as far as a half marathon. Whatever you have done before is unimportant when you commit yourself to Comrades. It is quite different running a marathon on the way to Comrades to running the stand-alone event.

To get a Comrades medal you need to be totally dedicated. The race itself is so demanding that, at times, you will feel like abandoning everything; but the committed will pull through the bad patch and win their medal. Unless you are 100% dedicated, it is unlikely you will keep up even the training. It has been written that getting a Comrades medal has changed the lives of many ordinary people who now realise that nothing is impossible.

There are several steps involved in sticking to a commitment. First of all, you have to adjust your life pattern to fit in one-and-a-half hours’ training per day – and longer on most weekends. The lives of others such as family, friends and work colleagues also have to be considered. The effect of the prolonged physical input to your training will impinge on your energy levels in other activities. It is important at this early stage to announce to all the people in your life that you are committed to finishing this year’s Comrades within a particular time. You will need the support of these friends at some time during the next six months, and it will be there if you have the courage to speak out about your dream.

At our Comrades Panel meetings, we distribute a Commitment Card in January saying: “I am committed to starting and finishing the Comrades Marathon. Signed ...” Members of the audience are told not to come to the next meeting unless the card has been signed and presented at the door. Comrades is not for the faint-hearted. Comrades is not for those who say: “I will see how I feel after Easter before I decide whether to run the race”. The same people say: “I will se how I feel at the half-way point in Comrades”. The half-hearted do not finish. Or they settle for second best.

The running programme in January is characterised by restraint. Each and every run be it a midweek training run or a weekend race, should be finished with a little bit in hand. It means that to build up strength over the shorter distances, with a long programme ahead, it is essential never to put too much effort into a run.

Having said that, during January the runs are faster over the shorter distances, to allow for slowing down in the months ahead with the longer runs. A basic rule for ultra-marathon runners is: As the distance increases, the speed decreases. A good preparation for an easy run in a standard marathon is to do two runs of between 27km and 32km, and to be running about 75km per week.

The qualifying marathon will also give you a race seeding for the stat of Comrades. The best chance of getting a sub-11 hour bronze medal at Comrades is to qualify in under 4 hrs 00mins, which is a D grade. Up to and including sub 4 hrs 20 mins (seeding grade F) is also fairly certain to get you a bronze in June. The Vic Clapham medal for between 11 hrs and 12 Hour cut-off comes mainly from the seeding groups G (sub 4 hrs 40 mins) and H (sub 5 hrs 00mins)

Bill Rowan medals are won by mainly the top 20% of the field, and these runners come mainly from grades B (sub 3 hrs 20 mins) and C (sub 3 hrs 40 mins) seeding.

Whenever possible, it is bet to run road races twice a month, and enjoy a leisurely club run in-between, without stopwatch or kilometre boards. This is an example of a hard week/easy week training schedule, which is very valuable to reduce the risk of injury. This patter can be extended to hard day/easy day with equal benefit.

In January, the objective is simple: to run a half marathon in less than 2 hrs 03 mins. This is part of the foundation being laid to run a full marathon at the end of February. In addition, there are three club runs of between 2 hrs and 3 hrs to build up endurance for the next month.

In February, the build up to the standard marathon at the end of the month continues with a 32km race at the end of the first week. This is a full dress rehearsal for the marathon and will be run with slightly slow second half. Your splits should be 90 mins and 100 mins. At race distances over 32km, you can always expect to run a slower second half. This is particularly true in Comrades. Keep fully hydrated in the 32km race and take in sufficient carbohydrates by drinking 400ml coke per hour and extra water if thirsty. Walk at each drinks table for a few metres.

Indicators for January and February


Distance

Time for Bronze

Mins/km

Time for Bill Rowan

Mins/km

8km Time Trial

45 mins

5.6

36 mins

4.5

10 km

56 mins

5.6

45 mins

4.5

15 km

85 mins

5.7

69 mins

4.6

21 km

2 hrs 03 min

5.8

1 hrs 43 min

4.6

32 km

3 hrs 10 mins

5.9

2 hrs 33 mins

4.8

42 km

4 hrs 20 min

6.2

3 hrs 31 min

5.0

 

Training Programme for January

Objective: To run a 21km race in less than 2hrs 03mins, and complete a comfortable 30km  club run

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

 

01/01

08/01

15/01

22/01

29/01

Mon

REST

REST

REST

REST

REST

Tue

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

Wed

8km

8km

8km

8km

8km

Thu

10km

10km

10km

10km

12km

Fri

5km

5km

5km

8km

8km

Sat

5km

5km

5km

5km

5km

Sun

20km club run

21km club run

25km club run

21km club run

30km club run

Total

56km

57km

64km

60km

71km

Total kilometres for January 2007 = 308km

Notes

  1. The second 21km race should be used to reach your indicator time.
  2. Make sure you drink enough (150ml) at each drink station.
  3. Pace your race to achieve even splits in these short races.
  4. Take club runs slowly, walking when necessary.
  5. The Bill Rowan programme uses the same distances, but they are run at faster times as shown in the table for indicators on page xx

Training Programme for February

Objective: To qualify in a standard marathon in less than 4hrs 20mins

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

 

05/02

12/02

19/02

26/02

Mon

REST

REST

REST

REST

Tue

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

Wed

8km

8km

8km

8km

Thu

12km

10km

12km

12km

Fri

8km

8km

8km

8km

Sat

5km

8km

42km race

8km

Sun

32km race

20km club run

Rest

15km club run

Total

32km

62km

78km

59km

Total kilometres for February 2007 = 272km

Notes
The first major objective has been achieved, and after a short rest, you will be tackling the 11-week hard training programme to develop you into a seasoned ultra-marathon runner.

Pace judgement is the most important factor in the marathon and you must avoid going out too fast. A pacing chart is given below. Make a copy and run with it in a plastic bag.

Pacing chart for a standard marathon
Kilometres                               Stopwatch time
10km                                         1hr 01 mins
20km                                         2hrs 00 mins
21.1km – half way                      2hs 07mins
30km                                         3hrs 03mins
40km                                         4hrs 07mins
42.2km – finish                          4hrs 20mins

The first half is run at 6.0mins/km and the second half at 6.3mins/km, which is an average of 6.16mins/km. It is likely that you will walk more frequently in the second half. Finishing in just under 4hrs 20mins will give you an F grade seeding and will put you in a great position to get your bronze sub-11 hour at Comrades.

PHASE 2: HARD TRAINING PERIOD FOR ULTRA MARATHONS

The hard-training period takes us from the beginning of March through to mid May, and includes another standard marathon and three ultras, one of which has to be the Long Club Run of 65km. This confidence booster marks the end of the hard training and the beginning of the wind down.

A period of hard-training for 11 weeks is the maximum that the body can tolerate before it starts to break down in many ways, varying from tiredness to sickness and loss of motivation. In these 11 weeks, you must fit in three ultras and a standard marathon, meaning that you will be running a long run every two or three weeks. In between, it is vital to have easy weekends to recover before taking on another ultra. For this reason, it is essential to consult this Race Dates booklet to select a race menu. A race menu suggestion for Central Gauteng runners who will be running the Two Oceans over Easter is as follows:

MENU 1


Date

Race Name

Distance

Race Time

24 Feb

Deloitte&Touche

42km

4hrs 20min

17 March

Om-die-Dam

50km

5hrs 20min

1 April

Two Oceans

56km

5hrs 58min

29 April

Slow-Mag

42km

4hrs 12min

20 May

Long Club Run

65km

8hrs 00min

Total

Two standards and three ultras

An important feature of this menu is that there are at least two weeks’ rest between races. The programme below also stipules that the weekend run after a standard or an ultra marathon, is only 15km.

As your distance increases, your speed decreases, so the suggested race times reflect this, apart from the second standard marathon in which the time is faster than the qualifier (but at this stage you will be a lot fitter and more experienced). The pacing chart for the 50km ultra is as follows:

Pacing chart for a 50km Ultra Marathon
Kilometres                               Stopwatch time
10km                                         1hr 02 mins
20km                                         2hrs 04 mins
25km – half way                         2hs 35mins
30km                                         3hrs 08mins
40km                                         4hrs 14mins
42km Marathon                          4hrs 27mins
50km                                         5hrs 20mins

Notes
1.       The splits are: 1st half = 2hrs 35mins. 2nd half = 2hrs 45mins.
2.       The Bill Rowan medallists should run the 50km race at 5.1mins/km to finish in 4hrs 14mins. The splits would be first half 2hrs 03mins and second half 2hrs 12mins.

Training Programme for March

Objective: To run the 50km ultra marathon in less than 5hrs 15mins

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

 

05/03

12/03

19/03

26/03

Mon

REST

REST

REST

REST

Tue

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

Wed

8km

8km

8km

8km

Thu

12km

10km

12km

12km

Fri

8km

5km

8km

8km

Sat

8km

50km race

8km

8km

Sun

25km club run

Rest

15km club run

30km club run

Total

69km

83km

59km

74km

Total kilometres for March 2007 = 285km

At the end of March, you should stand back and analyse your progress towards the final objective.  Where are we now?

Month

KM

Total km

Longest run time

January

308km

30km

3hrs 30mins

February

272km

32km
42km

3hrs 10mins
4hrs 20mins

March

285km

50km

5hrs 20mins

Total

865km

The total of 865km is well past the half-way mark and you have already completed one standard and one ultra marathon. At this stage, with the gradual increase in total kilometres each month, you should be injury free and in good health. Your strength and endurance are building up to huge proportions and you are comfortably running distances that you previously thought were impossible. The plan is working!

The next milestone in the Comrades training programme is the testing Two Oceans marathon over 56km in Cape Town. A timely reminder is that entries close on 7 March 2007, one month before race day. A bronze medal (under 6 hours) at Two Oceans puts you in a very strong position for a bronze at Comrades. The speed required at Two Oceans is under 6.4mins/km, which is the same speed that you rand Om-die-Dam in, but this is a tougher course. The value in running Two Oceans is to get a taste of a big race (8000 runners) at sea level, involving travel and hotel accommodation,. This is fine preparation for going to Durban in June. The April training programme follows.

To complete Phase 2 of the Comrades Training Programme, all that remains is to complete the final ultra marathon of 65km at the Long Club Run on 20 May. The Long Club Run is an endurance run over more than 7-and-a-half hour. This is the final stepping stone towards running 89km in June. As you have progressed with longer distances, you have kept the element of the unknown – the distance you haven’t run before – to a minimum. For example, you had 10km between the 32km and the 42km, followed by 14km between the standard and the 56km run at Two Oceans. If you don’t do the Long Club Run, then there will be an element of the unknown of 33km at Comrades, but if you put in place the final stepping stone of 65km, then the element of the unknown will be reduced to 24km.

Many clubs throughout the country hold a Long Club Run before Comrades for their longest run. Most runs are organised by clubs, and runners can stop at helpers’ cars for drinks and a stretch. The running time is not important, but the time on your feet is. Most bronze medallists will take up to 8 hours to complete the 65km run. The Bill Rowan hopefuls will complete the 65km in approximately 6hrs 30mins.

Training Programme for April

Objective: To run a 21km race in less than 2hrs 03mins, and complete a comfortable 30km  club run

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

 

02/04

09/04

16/04

23/04

30/04

Mon

REST

REST

REST

REST

REST

Tue

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

8km TT

Wed

8km

8km

8km

8km

8km

Thu

12km

10km

12km

12km

12km

Fri

5km

8km

8km

8km

8km

Sat

5k6m race

8km

8km

5km

8km

Sun

Rest

15km club run

35km club run

42km race

15km club run

Total

89km

57km

79km

83km

59km

Total kilometres for April 2007 = 367km

Notes
1.      Potential Bill Rowan medallists should aim for 4hrs 51mins at the Two oceans, which is an overall speed of 5.2mins/km. Splits would be as follows: first half 28km = 2hrs 20mins and second half: 2hrs 31mins
2.      Confirm that you have entered Comrades.

Here is the May training programme for the wind down.

Training Programme for May

Objective: To run a 21km race in less than 2hrs 03mins, and complete a comfortable 30km  club run

 

Week 1

Week 2

 

07/05

14/05

Mon

REST

REST

Tue

8km TT

8km TT

Wed

8km

8km

Thu

12km

12km

Fri

8km

8km

Sat

8km race

5km

Sun

40km

65km Long Club Run

Total

84km

101m

Notes
1.      Sunday 20 May marks the end of the Phase 2 hard training.
2.      Phase 2 kilometres for May 2007 = 185km.

This marks the end of Phase 2 in the training programme. This was the easy part; now you have to handle the nerve-wracking wind down, when you will be rested, strong and raring to go, but you have to discipline yourself to run less.

PHASE 3: THE WIND DOWN

The final four weeks of training are used to gradually reduce the distance run each week, as well as the distance of the longest run. During this time, the body recovers and repairs minor aches and pains. The tiredness is replaced by a sudden feeling of great strength, confidence and excitement. It requires restraint and discipline to handle the new-found power without wasting it on misplaced efforts in events leading up to Comrades. The duration of the wind down (four weeks) is carefully chosen to optimise the recover from the 11-week hard training, without losing any of your hard-earned fitness. The time is used to have any minor injuries fixed at the physio and minor illnesses fixed by the doctor. It will be natural to find yourself running very easily and fast in the last two races. There is no harm to let it go. You are strong, rested and fit, so you are not likely to hurt or tire yourself. Resting, eating and drinking well in the last four weeks will build you up for the final effort on 17 June. You will be digging deep on that day, but if you have done the training, then you will be successful. During this time, remind yourself of your good runs and races, and forget the disasters. A good look at your log book should fill you with confidence that you have trained perfectly.

Where are we now?

Month

Total km

Longest run time

January

308km

3hrs 30mins

February

272km

3hrs 10mins
4hrs 20mins

March

285km

5hrs 20mins

April

357km

5hrs 58mins
4hrs 12mins

May

270km

8hrs 00mins

June

53km

 

Total

1 555km

Most runners will not have completed each and every kilometre but a total of more than 1200km will be sufficient, although you may have to run a little harder on the day. The most important feature is the completion of two standard marathons and three ultras.

Here is the final ti9naing programme for the remainder of May and part of June 2007, leading up to race day on 17 June 2007.

 

Training Programme for May and June

Objective: To complete Comrades 2007 in less than 11 hours for a bronze medal.

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

 

21/05

28/05

04/06

11/06

Mon

REST

REST

REST

REST

Tue

REST

8km TT

8km TT

5km

Wed

6km

6km

5km

8km

Thu

10km

6km

6km

REST

Fri

8km

6km

5km

REST

Sat

5km

5km

6Km

REST

Sun

21km race

10km race

10km

89km Comrades

Total

44km

41km

40km

13km

Balance for May = 85km
Total km for June 2007 = 53km

THE RACE ITSELF

Many runners train well and rest well, and then run badly on race day. To avoid a race disaster, the last few weeks should be used to plan for the day itself.

1.       Book flights and accommodation well in advance in March. Allow enough time to fly or travel by car on the first day, rest on the second day and race on the third day.
2.       Choose convenient accommodation ear the start of the race.
3.       Make plans to meet your running mates on race day.
4.       Check the start layout and tog bag truck. Book your bus tickets at the Expo.
5.       Buy your Comrades Pacing Chart at the Expo.
6.       Pack your squeezies, plasters and pain killer (one only).
7.       Lay out your kit and shoes a week before the race. Take your ID and race entry confirmation along with you.
8.       Study the race route for hills and cut-offs.
9.       Confirm where you will meet and greet your supporters along the route.
10.     Make firm plans to meet your race mates at the finish at your club gazebo.

For Race Day, remember these tips:

1.       Arrive at the start at 05:00.
2.       Start off slowly and walk frequently.
3.       Drink 400ml of Energade per hour, plus one corn syrup squeezie.
4.       Check your pacing chart every 10km. Remember, your first half will be 4hrs 55mins and the second half 5hrs 45mins.
5.       Walk down parts of Fields Hill and Cowies Hill in the second half.
6.       Walk part of all the uphills: N’changa Alverston, Cowies.
7.       Don’t hang on to new runners who are going faster than you in the first half.
8.       Encourage other runners who are looking bad.
9.       Make a new friend.
10.     Hold on tightly to your finisher’s medal.

Best of luck for the 2007 Comrades, and may you become a winner in all you do.