The peak training is over, and while we enjoy the extra hours of the taper period, it is time to use the ‘calm before the storm’ to develop our battle strategy.
No business, no success, no battle was won without a strategy or game plan… Distance Running is similar .. Comrades cannot be conquered by ‘see how it goes on race day!’

No matter how fit and fast you are on race day, those who don’t have a logical pacing plan, or rely on others for their pacing, will pay the price and fail to achieve.

Step One – Know you Ability:
As of the 3rd week in May the die for your potential finish time has been cast. Based on the combination of best raced 5km, best raced marathon, and total distance from January to June it is possible to accurately calculate your 2018 Down run finish time.
An easier rule of thumb is to multiply your best 10k time in minutes by 11.55, you will get a comrades finish time potential in minutes:
From this:
” silver medals go to those who can run 10km in under 38:50,
” Bill Rowan requires, 46:20,
” 10 hour runners must better 51:30,
” 11 hour bronze require to be faster than 57 minutes
” to beat the 12hour cut off 61 minutes. This latter barrier being set by the CMA’s intermediate cut off times, not by normal pacing logic.

Choose a logical goal or three:

Once you know your potential, the focus is on achieving it!
Some races are meant to be enjoyed, and Comrades is one such event. Yes the top 50 runners will ‘race’ for the sniff of a gold medal, and around 50 more are border line for the 7;30 silver cut off: about 150 may have a potential of 8:50 to 9:10 and so race the 9 hour Bill, then 300 will be between 4:25 and 4:35 marathoners who need to race the Bronze cut, while there are probably 1000 whose 4:45-4:59 marathon puts them in a race for the finish.

That’s 1550 racers which is only 10% of the starters: the remaining runners are ‘safe’ – safe silver, safe Bills, safe bronze, or safe Claphams. These runners should initially target a time that will allow them more tolerance in the race, and keep them away from ‘redlining’ the whole way.

For example a runner with a 48 minute 10km best in the last 6-9 months has a potential finish of 9 hours 15 minutes. This is well outside Bill Rowan potential and what does a 9 hour 15 minute mean compared to say 9:25, 9:35, or even 9:55?
In fact the medal will be the same right up to and past 10:55…. So why race it?
Some may say for a Personal Best.. and that is credible, BUT the fact is the time will be a PB for the course, as the 2018 is a new course, new venue, and longer distance than the last 40 years of down runs!

Of course we all want to do the best we can ….. but look at all the distance world records: They are not achieved by running to a schedule from the beginning, they are run and raced over the final quarter or sixth…. That’s where the ‘excellence’ and extra 5%-10% performance is earned.

The advice, to the mass of Comrades runners, is to select three goals:
The first is your realistic potential based on the formula (say 9:15 in the example): then an acceptable goal (perhaps 9:29 in this example) and then a fall back point if things go wrong…. Perhaps 9:59 for this runner, but it may even be over 10 hours if this was a novice.

Pacing accuracy:
Look closely at the ‘accuracy’ of achieving these goals:
The difference between the average pace for the runners ‘top desire’ (6:04 per km) and satisfactory is only 9 seconds per km!!!!
And only 19 seconds per km to the ‘Fall back’ goal…

Debatably, on one of your longest and most emotional running days of your career, achieving such accuracy of pacing is no easy task.

This challenge is exacerbated by the ever-changing terrain: There are no major flat roads where you can check your pace, or get the feel of your average pace – Comrades is either UP or Down – the only flat you experience between the start and finish lines are the final 2.7km in the city centre and out on that long wide dual carriageway to the massive icon of Moses Mbhida stadium, which will appear to remain in the unachievable distance.

By the time you reach this point the will indeed be no turning back… your finishing pace will have been set, and average pace will mean nothing – only finishing will!

Next weeks article, discusses how to pace, and will explain why your Comrades day outcome will have been determined before you leave Maritzburg and why Kipling has more in common with Comrades than Gunga Din (The Team trophy won by Comrades men)

One Response

  1. How would you account for the altitude different between say JHB and the coast when using recent races to predict Comrades time. My reading and experience says that the altitude can add 15minutes to a 4 hr marathon compared to sea level.

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