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Comrades training - July 2013

Training for the 2014 Comrades Marathon

 Individualising your training programme

Welcome to the Supersport Comrades Training column, the July 2013 edition

This month I would like to discuss how to individualise a training programme.  Although we will be prescribing a tried and tested training programme in this column, one should never simply follow the advice given here "blindly".  Every runner is different, and every runner has their own particular set of circumstances.

The seasoned runner is fortunate in that he can incorporate his passed personal experiences, both positive and negative into his training programme, thereby benefiting from the combination of past experience and newly available information.

The novice on the other hand, has to rely solely on the advice of others having obtaining his programme either here on this site, through his running club, a running magazine or through a friend who has run Comrades before.

While there is excellent value in learning from the experience of others, it is essential to modify training programmes to suit us as individuals.  We thereby avoid the dangers of placing too much faith in a "total programme package".

Every training programme is devised with specific goals in mind.  Programmes differ in their recommended weekly mileage, suggested speed, rate of progression, and selected races on the road racing calendar based on what the ultimate goal of the runner is.  For example, a programme aimed at achieving a "Silver" at Comrades is vastly different to one aimed at getting you through a 10 1/2 hour debut Comrades.

Injury Prevention Tip:

How to individualise a training programme in order to minimise injury:

Programme Flexibility

Programmes must not be adhered to unyieldingly.  The runner must be flexible and must allow for changes in his programme due to unforeseen circumstances such as injury, an unplanned business trip, bad weather, or 'flu.  For example, if it is impossible to have your long run on a certain Sunday, you could reschedule the programme to have this run on another day, and to have the Sunday as a rest day.   Also, we have good and bad days, and this should be taken into account.  If you were feeling particularly good on a Sunday and ran very hard, you might be feeling stiff the next day and may take the day off, even though the training programme has a 15 km run on the agenda.

Excessive Mileage

It is a common mistake for the novice to take a training programme written for the experienced athlete, trim a few kilometers off it (if at all), and attempt to follow it.  Excessive mileage can only lead to overuse or overload, i.e. too much, too fast, too soon.  Let me elaborate.  The act of running applies stresses to the body.  The body must adapt to these stresses, failure of which will lead to injury.  Adaptation is a slow process.

Take the example of playing squash for the first time.  If one were to play for a few minutes on the first day and increase this slowly each day, callouses would develop naturally to protect the hand.  Had you overdone it on the first day, the skin would have broken down and resulted in a blister formation.  So too must the runner's ligaments, tendons and muscles slowly adapt and become "road hardened".

Rest Days

The novice refuses to take a day off.  He generally feels that he cannot afford a day's rest let alone a week to 10 days to allow for the injury to heal.  It has taken such hard work to build himself up to his present distance, that he is afraid he would lose all his fitness were he to lay off.

The experienced runner accepts that he has sustained an injury and takes himself off running for a few days to let the injury settle.  Rest days are very important.  They are essential to allow the body to recover.  For the novice, this should mean rest - no running, no squash, cycling or aerobics!  For the seasoned runner a rest day may mean 5 km of light jogging.


Another common fault of many a runner is joining a group of friends who run at a faster pace than himself.  What may be a promised "slow" run may turn out to be a sprint for him from start to finish.
Choose your running partners carefully.  Run at a realistic and comfortable speed in order to achieve your specific goal.

Sudden Increase in Mileage

Many runners tend to panic if they fall behind their training programme.  They therefore tend to start cramming in the mileage to catch up with the weekly mileage of their training partners.  Beware - sudden increases in mileage can easily lead to injury!  Many runners have their best Comrades in the year that they were forced to cut back on their training due to an injury.

Over Racing

Something that distinguishes the elite athlete from the average runner is the ability to choose his races carefully.  Many experienced runners and novices alike tend to enter and race each and every marathon on the marathon calendar.  Many even promise themselves to take it easy, and when that gun goes off there is a rush of blood to the head and off they go racing for a personal best.  If you tend to be guilty of this you may prefer to rather join the club run, where there is no temptation to race at all.

Reasonable Goals

One would never expect the karate novice to be able to break 8 tiles with his bare hands in his first week of training.  He does not have the necessary technique, speed, skill or stamina.  However, after three years he is able to achieve this with ease.  Similarly, the novice runner must set reasonable goals and must progress slowly and realistically in order to achieve these goals.

So what we are saying is don't regard your training programme as law - use it merely as a guide.  Most importantly, enjoy your training.

Let's now take a look at the "suggested" training for July 2013:

The Novice runner:

The novice will continue to slowly adapt to running on the road. Make sure to run at a steady pace that is comfortable to maintain for the duration of the run.

Goals for novice runners - July 2013:

1.  To run three times a week consistently
2.  To enjoy being out there "on the road".
3.  To run your first "official" road race.

Total weekly mileage: 11 km, 13 km, 16 km, 16 km

This is achieved by running just three days a week.  The other days are for resting, and this rest is as important as the training.  Tuesdays and Thursdays you can run a slow relaxed 3 km, and you can stretch this out to an easy 5 km run on the Sunday. That leaves Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to rest.

Total Monthly mileage: 56 km

That's quite a long distance for someone who has never run before. Remember, all the running should be at a nice relaxed pace.

Road race distances to be achieved: 1x8 km

This will come up at the end of the month.  An ideal event is the Discovery/702 Walk The Talk Fun Run on Sunday the 28th.

When you do participate in an official race, try to resist changing the pace that you have done all your training at, when you suddenly see all these thousands of people lining up.  You are not there to win the race, so try stick to your usual pace.

Highlight of the month: Your first 8 km road race

The Discovery/702 Walk The Talk Fun Run on Sunday the 28th is an excellent choice for this. It does also have a 5 km option should you feel not quite up to running 8 km yet.

Let's look at the whole month's training at a glance for the novice:

Novice runner's daily training  - July 2013
Week ending: 7/7 14/7 21/7 28/7
Monday Rest Rest Rest Rest
Tuesday 3 km 3 km 3 km 3 km
Wednesday Rest 5 km Rest Rest
Thursday 3 km Rest 5 km 5 km
Friday Rest Rest Rest Rest
Saturday Rest Rest 3 km Rest
Sunday 5 km 5 km 5 km 8 km
Race Discovery/702 
Total 11 km 13 km 16 km 16 km

The Regular runner:

Having just run this year's Comrades marathon, you would have been resting up from the Comrades for the rest of the month of June.  We now get out our running shoes and get back "on the road".

Don't forget to enter the Discovery/702 fun run on July 28th - always a bit of fun, even for the so called "serious" runner.

Goals for regular runners - July 2013:

1.  To maintain a steady 3-4 runs a week consistently
2.  To simply enjoy your "comeback" after the layoff following Comrades.

Total weekly mileage:20 km, 23 km, 25 km, 21 km

This is achieved by doing 5 km on a Tuesday, 8 km on a Thursday and around 10 km on a Sunday.  Run only 3 times a week, leaving Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for resting.

Total Monthly mileage: 94 km

That's a nice easy 20 - 25 km per week, all done at an easy pace, to ease the legs back on the road.

Road race distances to be achieved: 1x8 km, 2x10 km, and 1x15 km

The races on offer in the Gauteng area are very similar to the previous few years.  They are nice short distances. Choose between three 10 km races and three 15 km races. There are also two 5 km races on offer this year, and this may be a good opportunity to bring a novice along to experience a road race.

Highlight of the month: None in particular

Simply getting back on the road after Comrades will do at this time of the year.

Let's look at the whole month's training at a glance for the regular runner:

Regular runner's daily training  - July 2013
Week ending: 7/7 14/7 21/7 28/7
Monday  Rest  Rest Rest Rest
Tuesday 5 km 5 km 5 km 5 km
Wednesday  Rest Rest Rest Rest
Thursday  5 km 8 km 5 km 8 km
Friday Rest  Rest Rest Rest
Saturday Rest Rest Rest Rest
Sunday 10 km 10 km 15 km 8 km
Race Pirates Northgate Midrand Discovery/702
Total 20 km 23 km  25 km  21 km

Here is the complete list of races on offer in the Gauteng region during July 2013:

Race calendar for July 2013 for the Gauteng region
Race date Race Distance Venue
Sun 7 July 2013 Pirates  10 km Run and Walk 10 km Pirates Club
Sun 14 July 2013 Zoo Trot 10 km 10 km Johannesburg Zoo
Sun 14 July 2013 Northgate 10 km 10 km Northgate Shopping Centre
Sun 21 July 2013  Breakthru Midrand 15 km & 5 km 15 km & 5 km Waterfall Estate
Sun 28 July 2013 Lante 15 km 15 km Lonehill Shopping Mall
Sun 28 July 2013  Discovery/702 Walk The Talk Fun Run 15 km, 8 km & 5 km  15 km, 8 km & 5 km Marks Park

See you in August.

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