Comrades Down Debrief

By now, final preparations for the 2018 Comrades Marathon are underway and Race Day is looming. It is a long tough day of daunting challenges and monstrous hills and valleys. It is also a day of small margins: Small wins help build confidence while, on the flip side, small losses throughout the day can have a massive negative impact on your run. Here we give you 12 tips to maximize those small wins and limit the losses to get the best possible chance to finish:

1) Taper
Your overall training load should be dramatically reduced over the final three weeks before the race, allowing your muscles time to fully recover. In the last week before the race, get as much rest as possible.

2) Pace Yourself
Don’t start Comrades too fast: It is hard to change pace after a fast start but a walk break will help change the pace to a more realistic one.

3) A Run-Walk Strategy
Regular walk breaks give your running muscles a chance to recover and help you conserve energy. A good starting point is to use an 8km run and 3 minute walk schedule. Coach Parry suggests more walking breaks on the big climbs: Umlaas Road, Drummond, Inchanga and Cowies Hill.

4) Prepare
Having the right kit is vitally important and by now you’ve tried and tested everything in long runs. If not, use these last days to test anything you will wear or use on race day. Make lists of everything you need and check it off before you leave for Comrades.

5) Don’t Experiment
Do not try anything new in the days leading up to Comrades – especially no new foods.

6) Rest
Don’t spend the day before Comrades on your feet. You may not sleep well the night before the race, so ensure you get adequate sleep beforehand.

7) Shut the noise out
There is information galore all over social media. Fordyce advises not to read it or watch it because it will only make you confused and nervous. Instead, trust the people you’ve been training with and enjoy the race.

8) Arrive Early on Race Day
Family cannot go up to the start, so rather have them drop you off. Give yourself enough time to get into your correct batch or you’ll be starting at the back.

9) Slow Down
Hold yourself back – the first half of the Comrades should feel like you are going too slowly. That time can be made up in the second half.

10) Avoid Muscle Cramps
Cramping is mostly caused by fatigue. You can delay the onset of cramps by following a run-walk strategy. If you start cramping DO NOT stop. Transition slowly from a run to walk but do not stand still.

11) Prepare Mentally

Mental preparation builds confidence. It helps you prepare for the things that may go wrong and develop strategies to cope with them. Start by driving the route beforehand- it may scare you but it will also give you an idea of the distance and what to expect. The drive will show you:
• The ‘down’ part of the down run actually starts at the last garage in Hillcrest and not at Inchanga or Botha’s Hill.
• Most of the first half is a tough uphill pull. The climb up 45th Cutting is one of the last major hills on the “Down” run.
• After a challenging run up for about 39km, the next 10 km does most of the damage to already tired legs.
• From Inchanga Village through Hillcrest – just before 40km to just after 60km – is very hilly and can determine how you finish. Tackle this part of the route so you still have enough energy for the final third of the race.
• There are also some very nasty hills in the last 8 km of the race

HINT: When running downhill: Lean forward from the hips, not the shoulders and avoid the urge to lean back. Engage your core and don’t over-stride. Look
down the hill, not at your feet. Let gravity pull you down hill – but keep nice and comfortable. Conserve energy by taking lots of short walk breaks..

Don’t pause at water stops – walk them. Don’t stop to chat to family and friends – they can walk with you for a bit. Don’t stop for a massage – rather grab Arnica Ice at water stops and slather on for temporary relief.

Just stay in the game! There will come a point in the day when you ask yourself what you’re doing there. You will just feel like bailing. Please don’t! Set yourself manageable goals like running (or walking) from lamppost to lamppost. Do whatever it takes to keep moving forward – It doesn’t have to be pretty!

To run and complete a Comrades Marathon is a HUGE honour: You will forever be changed, and a Comrades medal is the most valuable in the world of running.

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