All the training you’ve done is about to come to fruition. In four short weeks it will be Race Day. But, will you be ready?
That is the question every athlete asks themselves, sometimes more than once a day. And you’ll only know, for sure, on the day itself. If you train correctly in these last four weeks, you will at least have peace of mind.
The great Wally Hayward, pictured with me above, once told me he prepared for the Comrades by running from his home in Germiston to the Pretoria Fountains twice a week. After a quick wash in the fountain, he’d run home. That’s about 100 km (60 miles), which is a very long run indeed.
But, some years later, he confided that he believed he’d done himself a disservice by placing so much emphasis on those runs.
“Those runs were good for my head,” he muttered, “but not much good for my legs.”
It was interesting to hear Wally say this. After all, it’s more in line with what I’ve been advocating and utilising in my training for most of my Comrades career.
So, here’s what I suggest you do in May.
- Complete your last long run (by that I mean a run of around 40 km / 25 miles) this last weekend of April.
- Bring back the focus you had in February - quality training. By that I mean track work, Fartlek, the odd time trial, parkrun, short-distance races (10 km / 6 miles or less) and, most importantly, hill work.
- Train carefully to avoid injury.
- From 10 May, start to reduce your mileage even further.
- Complete a ‘final dress rehearsal’ (or three) utilising all the running gear you plan to use on the day.
- However, make sure you take it easy during these ‘dress rehearsals’, i.e. leave race pace for the Comrades itself.
- Old favourites only on Race Day. You will bitterly regret any new gear you use at the last minute.
- Ensure you run minimal distance in the last week. For example: Monday – 10 km / 6 miles Tuesday – 8 km / 5 miles Wednesday – 5 km / 3 miles Thursday – No run at all Friday – Again, no run Saturday – No running, and you'll be raring to go the next morning Sunday – The Comrades Marathon
- Use the downtime on Thursday, Friday and Saturday wisely. Drive over the course, or join a route tour. You could always join me on mine, (link to page) either on the Friday or the Saturday. Even if you’ve done it before, it's vital to refresh your memory!
- Visit the Expo by all means, but pay attention to the amount of walking around you do. No point in ‘walking’ the Marathon on Friday!
- Watch videos of the race, and choose a theme song to inspire you when the going gets tough. (Chariots of Fire doesn’t count). In 1981 I chose Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and in ’82 Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
- Remember, for most of the 60 kays of the down run, it feels like you're running an up run. The ‘down’ part of the down run starts at Kearsney College in Botha’s Hill Village. Keeping this in mind will help you mentally.
- Novices, enjoy this, your first Comrades. Savour the hours on the road, absorb the memories, treasure the friendships. The come and share your war stories with us afterwards. (LINK TO AFTER PARTY)
- There’s nothing wrong with being worried and cautious on the day. In fact, that is exactly the correct frame of mind to be in at the start of the Comrades.
- After 70 kays of Comrades you will meet a person you greatly admire - yourself.
- You may have read everything there is to read (even my book) LINK, and trained in the most ideal way, but nothing will prepare you for how you feel when you become a Comrades finisher. You become a different person; you now know you can do anything.
- You will have a terrible limp for at least 5 days after Comrades and getting down the stairs will be excruciating. But you will be a filled with pride. Spending time with those who've run the Comrades is one of the pleasures of my life. But during those five days it almost breaks my heart. I'm not limping, and it means I didn't run!
- At some stage during the race or at the finish, you will vow 'never ever again'. But somewhere between an hour and a week after the race is over you will change your mind.
I wish you all the best in the 2016 Comrades Marathon. I will be there, knowing what you are going through and cheering you on all the way.