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Comrades training - June 2013

Training for the 2014 Comrades Marathon

 June 2013 - Comrades 2014 here we come!

It takes at least a full year to train for the Comrades marathon.  The ideal time to embark on a training programme for Comrades is now, with a full year ahead.  This will allow ample time for the body to accommodate to the stresses brought about by  long distance running.

Over the next twelve months this column will provide advice to both the novice runner and the seasoned Comrades runner on how best to prepare for the upcoming Comrades Marathon.

We will base our training on the actual 2013/2014 road race calendar, and incorporate the races on offer in the Gauteng region.   While the suggested road races detailed in this column will mainly be for those around the Gauteng area, if you live elsewhere in South Africa, you should use the schedule given, and replace the races with others in your area of similar mileage.

Each month we will schedule the training required for each and every day.  The aim of the programme is to provide a training programme that will prepare you to run a comfortable Comrades marathon next year, while at the same time exposing yourself to the minimum risk of injury.  The distances provided are to enable you to comfortably run the Comrades marathon in a time of between 9 and 12 hours.

The training programme presented in this column has been developed largely from my experiences of being a Comrades runner myself (as far back as 1978), a "Run/Walk for Life" Branch manager (over a 12 year period), and a Physiotherapist with a special interest in running injuries related to long distance running. (I qualified as a Physiotherapist in 1979 and have been in Private Practice since 1983).  The programme has been finely tuned ever since 1999, when I first began writing this column.

Injury Prevention Tip:

Each month I will highlight different injuries that long distance runner develop, and explain how to prevent and treat these injuries should they occur. 

They will be highlighted in a box such as this one. 

See the first two tips in the boxes below.

For the first six months of the "running year" (June to November), there will be two separate training programmes.  This will be for:

1. The complete novice, who will be starting to run from scratch.

2. The regular runner, who has either been running long distances on a regular basis or who has completed at least one Comrades Marathon.

The training programmes for these two groups will merge at the end of November, and from that point onwards the training will be the same.

So let's start off by looking at the training for June 2013:

The Novice runner:

The training for the novice runner starts on the first Monday in June, i.e. 3 June. This allows the novice to take a full year to build up to the point where he/she can run the Comrades.  That's only for the novices!  Those of you who have just run the Comrades should be resting for at least three to four weeks before putting on your running shoes again.

The novice should start out running for a set amount of time, as opposed to a distance.  Running for just 10 minutes is sufficient for your first few runs.

Injury Prevention Tip:

How to prevent "start up" running injuries:

If your training is based on how you perceive you are coping with the training, you could well break down with injuries. Let me explain:

We could use the analogy of the human being being compared to a motor vehicle, with an engine and a chassis.

The "engine" of the runner (muscles, heart, and lungs) adapts relatively quickly to training with signs of increasing fitness being present after only 2 or 3 weeks, and with good levels of fitness possible after only 4 months.  A rapidly adapting engine gives precise messages about its inability to cope long before injury to the engine occurs - there is breathlessness, a pounding heartbeat and/or muscle pain.

The "chassis", or supportive tissue of the runner (the bones, joints, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue) tend to adapt to the stresses of running through a slower process which takes 9 months or more to develop adequate 'hardening'  Not only that, but these tissues almost always give messages of failure to cope, only when it is already injured.  In fact, in most cases no warning signals are given.

It is thus illogical to use signals from the engine to determine whether one is at risk of injuring the chassis.

So the first few months of the training programme will place emphasis primarily on conditioning of musculoskeletal tissues.  To this end, training should be done at a relatively slow, consistent pace, on routes that are not too hilly.  Running on a flat grass field or on a golf course should be encouraged. Distances should be kept low to start, and the weekly mileage should be increased gradually.

Run slowly and comfortably, at a pace you feel you could maintain for the whole 10 minutes.  You should be able to comfortably talk to a fellow runner the whole time whilst running.

Goals for novice runners - June 2013:

1.  To put on your running shoes and go for your first run
2.  To run around a flat, grassy field, for just 10-15 minutes each time.
3.  Make a commitment to run regularly at least three times per week.

Total weekly mileage: 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 50 minutes, 8 km

Total Monthly mileage:  +- 27 km

Road races:  None

Highlight of the month: To take that first step towards training for next year's Comrades marathon

Novice runners daily training  - June 2013
Week ending: 9/6 16/6 23/6 30/6
Monday  10 minutes  Rest Rest  Rest 
Tuesday Rest 10 minutes 15 minutes 15 minutes
Wednesday 10 minutes Rest Rest Rest
Thursday  Rest 15 minutes 15 minutes 3 km
Friday Rest  Rest Rest Rest 
Saturday Rest  Rest  Rest  Rest
Sunday 10 minutes 15 minutes  20 minutes 3 km
Total 30 minutes 40 minutes 50 minutes 8 km


The Regular runner:

If you have just run this year's Comrades marathon, as mentioned above, you need to take a full three to four weeks to rest up!

Injury Prevention Tip:

Why the need to rest after running the Comrades.

Studies show that muscles are damaged by severe, prolonged exercise like running the Comrades, and that recovery from this damage takes a long time. 

Muscle cell damage starts at 21 km and becomes progressively worse, the further the distance.  The inflammation and muscle cell damage results in muscle soreness. 

It would seem that the greater the muscle pain after the race, the longer the recovery time required.


You have earned this rest period, and it will only do you good in the long term.  For those of you who do want to get back on the road after only three weeks, just go out for three easy 5 km runs.

Goals for regular runners - June 2013:

1.  Rest!! You had a great Comrades and you deserve the "Rest".
2.  Recover!! Your body certainly needs the chance to recover.
3. To start up again only in the last week of June, or the first week of July.

Total weekly mileage: Nil, Nil, Nil, (Nil or 15 km)

Total Monthly mileage: Either nil or 15 km depending on how many weeks you rest up for.

Regular runners daily training  - June 2013
Week ending: 9/6 16/6 23/6 30/6
Monday  Rest  Rest  Rest Rest
Tuesday 5 km Rest Rest 5 km
Wednesday  5 km Rest Rest Rest
Thursday  Rest Rest Rest 5 km
Friday Rest  Rest Rest Rest 
Saturday Rest Rest Rest Rest
Sunday Rest Rest Rest 5 km
Race -
Total 0 km 0 km 0 km  15 km

Race calendar for June 2013 for the Gauteng region
Race date Race Venue Distance
Sunday 23 June 2013 Orlando Cansa 10 km & 5 km Orlando Communal Hall 10 km & 5 km

See you in July ......

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