Of all the differing opinions about how to best prepare for Comrades, there is one piece of advice that everyone seems to believe: Comrades training begins on January 1st. Popular opinion also says that training should include at least 1000KMs (620 miles) between January and May.
Comrades offers a training plan written by their official coach Lindsey Parry. There are options for every goal finish, as different medals are awarded for different finish times. From what I deduce, this plan will get you to the start line without an overuse injury and will prepare you to finish. It relies on the strategy of double-blocking long runs on the weekends pretty much every weekend January-May. Nearly every run is to be done at a slow pace.
There is another popular free training plan written by Norrie Williamson and sponsored by Old Mutual. This program has more speedwork included, both in the form of tempo runs, intervals, and hill work. There is more variation in pace for different runs, although the majority of the training is not surprisingly long,
I was surprised that neither training plan takes runners past 50KM in the build up to Comrades. In my mind, that seems not far enough, as it leaves (nearly) a full marathon between the longest long run and Comrades itself. I think the logic is that it is better to be underprepared than overtrained (and injured).
Neither training program specifies strength training, although most coaches and Comrades runners profess that strength work is non-negotiable for the Down Run.
So with these two training plans and the seven decades of collective running experience– and a little bit of hubris– between us, my dad and I spent some time over his visit at Christmas to devise our game plan. We looked at both the Old Mutual plan and the “official” plan. We looked at our calendars to determine what races we’d like to use as supported training runs. We noted when we’d both be in the same city so that we could plan a long training run together.
We decided on three races to enter so we can practice our race day pacing and fueling: Waco Miracle Match Marathon 50K at the end of January, Ft. Worth’s Cowtown 50K at the end of Feburary, and the North Texas Trail Runners Grasslands 26.2 in mid-March. We won’t be racing at any of these events; rather, they are long runs that will offer some of the excitement of race day and break up the monotony of solo long runs.
We will also be hosting a DIY 40-miler at the end of April. Using a super hilly 4.5 mile loop that starts and finishes at my house, I’m planning on running 8 full laps plus a final 4-mile loop to knock out a 40 miler as my penultimate long run before Comrades. I plan on enlisting the support of my running friends to join me for a loop (or more) as I get nine hours on my legs. Stay tuned for more info about how you can come join me!
All in all, my training plan will bring me to about 880 miles if I run the four-days-a-week as planned. That gives me wiggle room to hit my 1000KM in case I get sick or injured or just need a mental break one week.
In addition to the running, I’ll ride my FitDesk bike one day a week. I have one day of yoga-for-runners and two days of strength training built into my plan. I have one day of full rest each week. All in all, it seems like a lot of work but in a very manageable way.
I’m going to chew the elephant one bite at a time.
If you’re interested in seeing the excel spreadsheet that details my training plan, leave a note in the comments. I’d be happy to email it to you.