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Comrades training - July 2015

Training for the 2016 Comrades Marathon

 The July 2015 training programme

At this point in the year you have already decided that you would like to run next year's Comrades marathon, and have actually started your training towards it.

The question is, what kind of training programme should you follow?

The novice will tend to rely 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.

In this column I describe a tried and tested training programme which I have been prescribing for the last 16 years. Having said that, it's never a good idea to simply follow the advice given here "blindly".  Every runner is different, and every runner has their own particular set of circumstances.

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".

This programme is aimed at runners wanting to finish the Comrades marathon in 9.30 to 12 hours. 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.

The seasoned runner is more 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.

For more on how to individualise a training programme in order to minimise injury, please see further below.

Let's now look at the training for July 2015:

July 2015 Training:

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 2015:

1.  To run three times a week consistently
2.  To enjoy being out there "on the road".
3.  To continue preparing for your first "official" 10 km road race 10 August 2015.

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

This is achieved by running just three days a week.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays you can run a slow relaxed 3 km or 5 km.  The Sunday run will start out at an easy 5 km run, and will slowly stretch out and build up to the 10 km road race on 3 August. That leaves Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to rest. This rest is as important as the training, especially at this early point in the year.

Total Monthly mileage: 58 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: none

We will run 5 km on the road during the first three Sunday, followed by 8 km runs during the last two Sundays. All these runs will be done without the stresses of running in an official road race.

Highlight of the month: none

In August, we will be doing our first road race, the Old Ed's 10 km run.

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

Novice runner's daily training  - July 2015
Week ending: 5/7 12/7 19/7 26/7 2/8
Monday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Tuesday 3 km 3 km 3 km 3 km 3 km
Wednesday Rest 5 km Rest Rest Rest
Thursday 3 km Rest 5 km 5 km 5 km
Friday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Saturday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Sunday 5 km 5 km 5 km 8 km 8 km
Total 11 km 13 km 13 km 16 km 16 km


Let's now take a look at the training for the regular runner during July 2015:

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".

Goals for regular runners - July 2015:

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, 18 km, 21 km, 23 km, 21 km

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

Total Monthly mileage: 90 km

That's around  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: 3x8 km and 2x10 km

There are very few races on offer in the Gauteng area this year.  See below for details on the Pirates 10 km race on 5 July and the Zoo trot 10 race on 26 July, both of these being 10 km races.

Highlight of the month: None

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 2015
Week ending: 5/7 12/7 19/7 26/7 2/8
Monday  Rest  Rest Rest Rest Rest
Tuesday 5 km 5 km 5 km 5 km 5 km
Wednesday  Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Thursday  5 km 5 km 8 km 8 km 8 km
Friday Rest  Rest Rest Rest Rest
Saturday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Sunday 10 km 8 km 8 km 10 km 8 km
Race Pirates "club run" "club run" Zoo Trot "club run"
Total 20 km 18 km  21 km  23 km 21 km


Here is the complete list of races on offer in the Gauteng region during July 2015:

Race calendar for July 2015 for the Gauteng region
Race date Race Distance Venue
Sunday 5 July 2015 Pirates  10 km Run and Walk 10 km Pirates Club
Tuesday 7 July 2015 Brooks Dark Run 8 km & 4 km - Series 2 8 km & 4 km Johannesburg Zoo
Sunday 26 July  2015 Zoo Conservation Trot 10 km & 5 km Run/Walk 10 km & 5 km Johannesburg Zoo


In order to prepare you mentally, as well as allowing you plenty of time to pre enter the races coming up in August, I include the list of the road races in the Gauteng region for 2015:

Please note and send in your entries early for the Old Edwardian 10 km run on the public holiday 10 August, where beginners will be running their first 10 km road race.

Gauteng Race calendar for August 2015:
Race date Race KM Venue
Saturday 1 August 2015 ELB St. Vincent Colour run 7 km James & Ethel Gray Park
Sunday 9 August 2015 Totalsports Ladies' Race - Johannesburg 10 km & 5 km  Mary Fitzgerald Square
Monday 10 August 2015 Old Edwardian Half Marathon & 10 km Run/Walk 21.1 km &10 km Old Ed's Club
Tuesday 11 August 2015 Brooks Dark Run 8 km & 4 km - Series 4 8 km & 4 km Glenvista Counrty Club
Sunday 16 August 2015 Wits Half marathon and 10 km 21.1 km &10 km Wits Alumni Club
Saturday 22 August 2015 Clearwater Mall 10 km & 5 km 10 km & 5 km  Clearwater Mall 
Sunday 23 August 2015 Arthro Choice Midrand 21 km & 10 km Run/Walk 21.1 km &10 km Kyalami Equestrian Park 
Sunday 30 August 2015 Zoo Conservation Trot 10 km & 5 km Run/Walk 8 km & 4 km Johannesburg Zoo
Sunday 30 August 2015 Wanderers Half Marathon & 10 km Road Race/Walk 21.1 km & 10 km  Wanderers Club


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.

See you back here in August.

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