Everything that I’ve read about Comrades– all the different voices and experiences– is in agreement about one point: Real training for Comrades starts January 1st. Most training plans for people like me (read: novices who are trying to finish comfortably under the 12-hour limit but have no hope of running under 9 hours) are based on the premise of running roughly 1000KM between January and Comrades.
There are several “stock” training plans published each year, tweaked slightly for the course. Because this year is a “down run,” there is also essential strength training encouraged. Without building up the quads and the muscles in the glutes/hips to keep the IT bands tracking well, the second half of Comrades will be nothing but jelly legs and aching knees.
While my dad was visiting over Christmas, we sat down with the official Comrades training plan (written by Lindsey Parry) as well as the Old Mutual training plan (written by Norrie Williamson). We compared the two programs, noting that the official plan really favored double-blocked long runs on the weekends and the Old Mutual plan included more speedwork. The main point of consistency is that the bulk of mileage is intended to be run easy, at a quite slow pace.
For reference, my marathon training pace is about 9-9:30/mile. The easy and long runs in training for Comrades will be run at 10-11/mile. Both paces figure in walking about a minute every mile.
Not wanting our collective seven decades of racing experience (and Comrades novice hubris) to go to waste, my dad and I used the two stock calendars as a base to create our own training programs. As with any five-month long training cycle, there were plenty of dates that needed to be shifted to accommodate personal events and travel plans. We were able to shift runs around to fit our needs, scheduling in dates that we knew we could run together.
My Phase II plan includes three races: I’ll be toeing the line at the Waco Miracle Match Marathon 50K at the end of January, Ft. Worth’s Cowtown 50K at the end of February, and the North Texas Trail Runners Grasslands 26.2 Marathon (42KM) in mid-March. I will not be racing at any of these event. Rather, they will be three supported long runs, allowing me to practice race-like prep and nutrition.
The penultimate long run of my training plan is a DIY 40-Miler (64KM) I’ll be hosting in late April. I have a very hilly 4.5 mile course that I run regularly, and I am planning to run 8 full loops plus a 9th 4-mile loop to get in 40 miles. I will run and walk this event, trying to get the feeling of being on my feet and conquering hills for close to nine hours. Stay tuned for how I plan to turn this training run into a fun community event!
Overall, the training plan I’ve devised has three main things going for it:
- It is doable. There is never so much running in one week that I won’t be able to fit it in to my busy schedule. There is nothing worse than wanting to run but feeling like it’s a stressful squeeze to get it done. Running should be my release, and this plan ebbs and flows with my family’s life so that I can balance my love of running with others’ needs.
- It builds quality mileage without being so intense that I risk overuse injury. Running four days a week plus cross training one day and two days of strength training (one day double-blocked with a run) gives me one full day per week of complete rest. Total mileage projected is 850 miles. Plenty. (And with room to scale back if I need to for a mental or physical break.)
- It incorporates yoga and strength training in such a way that they don’t seem like extras– they’re integral to success. Knowing that I have the time blocked for the mind-body benefits of yoga and the course-specific requisite strength training means I won’t have to feel like I’m day-by-day trying to find time to smoosh them into the training plan.
Hit the road, Comrades. Training starts NOW!
If anyone is curious about the exact training plan I’ve written, leave me a comment, and I’ll email you the excel spreadsheet.