Comrades Training – for the runner with moderate experience – July to December

With grateful thanks to the Late Don Oliver

The winter period and beyond – covering July to December, is the time to lay a solid foundation for any serious Comrades training. That starts on January 1st every year. Now you are ready to embark on a solid 6-months programme of well-constructed training for next year’s Comrades.

Runner Class 2
“Have been running for over a year now and am handling a half marathon but am unsure that I could make Comrades, although I would love to be there next year.“

You are in a very strong position: you know the scene and, surprisingly enough, you are beginning to get “road hardened” after a year’s regular running. You have got over the agonizing decision of which club to join.

Many, many runners I have trained over the years have been amazed at how deceptively easy it is to slowly increase the distance you run in training and races. The other thing is, there are many other runners out there like you, who aren’t sure how to go about Comrades training, and the old hands at the club seem to keep it a big secret.

You will find the most comfortable training programme for you, graduate to a marathon runner, then an ultra-marathoner and finally the king of the road, the Comrades runner. In my own case, I waited nearly three years before I had the courage to go for Comrades, mainly because nobody was really prepared to help me, step by step.

Over the years I have developed a programme that takes runners by the hand and leads them gently on and up. The fear of failure, of course, is very real at Comrades but this programme develops confidence of achieving longer and longer distances so that when you line up at the start, you know you can run the longest you have ever gone before. You have already done just that thing for the last 10 months, every single month. We call it biteable bits and chewable chunks.” That is how we slowly progress month by month, step by step over the last 20 years, more than 600 runners have won their first Comrades medal using this programme.

Note 1: You have been going to races every other week and expect to see an improvement in your times.

Part 1 – July and August

Thought for the month: “It’s really exciting to have a goal at last.”

Part 2 – September and October

During this period we will be training for a 32 km race in November. Avoid thinking about getting an early qualifier for Comrades by doing a standard or an ultra before Christmas. It doesn’t fit in the programme at all. You will qualify in a standard marathon in late February or early March next year, as you sail along the Comrades training programme.

You can go to a Time Trial this month (September) and start measuring your time on an accurate course each week. At this stage you should manage 8 km in 42mins. You can extend the length of your Sunday Club Runs to about 2,5 hours, just learning to relax and take it easy. It’s called “time on your feet” and it’s good for Comrades. You can start looking at some of the other runners in the club, find out their Comrades times and think about what time you can go for the Comrades next year.

Note 1: Your time for 15 km should be close to 80mins.

Thought for the month: “I’m running longer, I’m getting stronger.”

Part 3 – November and December

The 32 km race is an ideal lead up to a standard marathon early next year. Those living close to Central Gauteng will enter the aptly named Tough One. In the 32 km race you can practice “looking through” to the longer distance. As you approach the finish of the 32 km, you can visualize what it would be like to carry on for another 10km. Normally you get a negative answer but as you prepare for the longer distance and line up on next race day, you mind will take you through. It will teach you that each race has to be prepared for thoroughly and Pace Judgment is one of the important techniques for long distance road running. Go out too fast and you will be a dead duck soon after halfway.

Note 1:Try your best not to miss training days over Christmas, just as a sign of discipline.
Note 2: If you go away, avoid doing too much running because you do not have to go to work.

Thought for the month: “Yeah you’re right, that is a Tough One”.

Published by Tom Cottrell

A struggling author, pilgrim and citizen of Planet Earth.

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