The sun never stops rising on dedicated runners training for the Comrades Marathon. My good friend Spencer Farrar sent me a photograph of himself lolling on a beach in Hawaii. He had just completed a 20 km run and was relaxing by the sea, with his Comrades marathon peak cap strategically placed between his feet. His message was, “See you at Comrades, Bruce.”
The message had me marvelling that the Comrades marathon truly is a global event. All over the world, runners are busy preparing themselves for their date with destiny on June 4th. They are training in the New Zealand fjords and the Australian outback, in the foothills of the Himalayas and across the South African veld, in the historic cities of Europe and, for one lucky Marine, the beaches of Hawaii.
It’s the beginning of March; spring in the North, autumn in the South, and the serious season has begun. It truly is Comrades Marathon time now, and the key word is ‘consistency’.
From now on training should be regular, frequent and consistent. Of course, rest days are always advised from time to time, but the secret to Comrades success is to become a ‘streaker’. No, I don’t mean those people who run naked through the streets, but rather runners who have an uninterrupted streak of running days. No matter what, they run every single day.
The strict rules of streaking are that a runner must run at least one mile (1.6 km) in every 24-hour period. Some runners have unbroken streaks that last many months or even years. The ultimate, King of streaking was England’s Ron Hill, who ran at least a mile from 20 December 1964 to 30 January 2017 ( 52 years and 39 days). In that time he was also one of the World’s leading distance runners, winning Commonwealth and European marathon titles and breaking the record at the 1970 Boston marathon. Hill was also a three-time Olympian. Only illness and the deep, nagging concern of a loving family finally ended his streak last month.
Now, I’m not expecting any Comrades hopeful to be as fanatical as Ron Hill… but I am encouraging every Comrades runner to think like Ron Hill for the next 8 – 10 weeks. No matter what has happened before, now is the time to get deadly serious about training. It doesn’t matter if you had a lazy January or an injury dented your training mileage in February. What matters is that every runner trains consistently through the two critical Comrades training months of March and April (and the first 10 days of May).
Gold and silver medal hopefuls need to be training twice a day at times. Other runners as regularly as possible. For those who persist with the question, “What is the least I can do to finish the Comrades under 12 hours?”, my answer is always the same: “That depends on how cleverly you selected your parents.”
I chose my parents wisely, so my genetics allow me to get away with less training than those whose genetics are less favourable. However, when pressed I like to say that a runner needs consistent weeks of 60 – 70 km (40 – 45 miles), with at least 3 weeks where the full Comrades distance of 90 km (56 miles) is covered during each of those 7-day periods.
Yes, that means for the next two months tiredness will be a constant companion. Early nights will be essential. You will become a social bore. Training will become a daily ritual and routine.
However, you don’t have to be another Ron Hill. Rest and recovery are important and you are the best judge of that. Some runners take a weekly break (Mondays are most popular); others are flexible and rest when they feel unduly tired and irritable, or sore and stiff. No matter when you decide to rest, if at all, the important thing to remember is that it’s now time to join our fellow Comrades hopefuls around the World in starting to train seriously. The journey to the Comrades has begun No matter when you decide to rest, if at all, the important thing to remember is that the time to join our fellow Comrades hopefuls around the World in starting to train seriously is now. The journey to the Comrades has begun.
With thanks to Citizen newspaper, South Africa.
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