30 April 2010

Top 10 tips for the Comrades

It is not too late to read this. One, or all of them, might just make the difference on race day.


It is not too late to read this. One, or all of them, might just make the difference on race day.

The stage is set:

  • You've been training for weeks.
  • You’ve gradually increased the distance of your long runs.
  • You’ve paid special attention to recovery days.
  • You’ve monitored your fluid balance on an almost hourly basis.

What more can you do to make sure you're fully prepared for that upcoming marathon?

Well, quite a few things actually. A long marathon distance is way too vast to master with just a few basics. You need sophisticated strategies and a few marathon secrets from marathon veterans with years of experience.

To help you enjoy your best possible marathon a group of marathon experts were consulted to share their marathon wisdom.

See what you think:

The Top 10
These are the strategies that our experts agreed are the most crucial to marathon success. Make them the foundation of your marathon preparation.

1. Train, train, train

You don't get to test yourself at the ultra-marathon distance as often as you do at for instance a 10 km race. But you can do plenty of homework. Make sure you log five or six to 3-4 hour runs (one every other weekend, at most) in the three or four months before your race. And schedule your last long run at least two weeks before the big day.

2. Do your course work.

It is important to study the race and do your homework. If possible, order a video of the race. Talk to people who've run it. When you’re in Durban, drive the course. Cover every metre, from start to finish, at least once, noting landmarks and difficult sections so you can visualise your race in detail before you start the race.

3. Balance your fluid intake

Specialists recommend drinking lots of fluids before and during a race. They maintain, however, that thirst should be your guide. This usually means you should drink between 400-800 ml per hour, depending on the conditions of the day. Remember that overhydration can be just as dangerous as dehydration. It is interesting to note that a greater fluid intake doesn't necessarily translate into better performance. In a study conducted by the University of Cape Town it was found that top Ironman athletes were the most dehydrated participants. 

4. Taper your to-do list.

Of course you're training less the week before the race, but that doesn't mean you should fill your free time with other daily chores. Don't clean the garage. Don't even arrange your books. Just sit back, relax and focus on the only task that counts: replacing your heavy training with some very heavy rest.

5. Race in your training shoes.

Your body learns what you teach it: no more, no less. So, if you wear training shoes during your long runs, your body grows accustomed to running for hours on end in those training shoes. Bottom line: If you wear trainers to train, wear them in the marathon. At most, you can gamble with lightweight trainers, but only if you've worn them on several long runs without a problem.

6. Avoid the shock of the new.

You want to be "in a rut" on race day. That means wearing not just the same shoes, but also the same socks, shorts and shirt you've worn without a hitch on your long runs. (Obviously out of the wash!) And it means eating the same foods and drinking the same fluids you did prior to and during your most successful long runs.

7. Prime the sponge.

That is, drink two 225 ml glasses of water or sports drink exactly 2 hours before the gun. The water will have passed through your system by that time and, even better, your body will be primed to accept the fluids you drink during the race.

8. Eat before you run.

Take in at least 300 calories, preferably a full breakfast, an hour before the start. It doesn't matter what you eat (yoghurt, an energy bar, eggs) as long as you've practised eating the same foods an hour before your long training runs, and you know your stomach can handle them. This pre-race meal will prevent your blood sugar from dropping and will fend off hunger later in the race.

9. Warm up - but don't wear yourself out.

Be a minimalist. At most, jog very easily for about 15 minutes, then stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and lower back for another quarter of an hour. With about 15 minutes to go before the start, do a few strides if you want. But no more! You'll warm up enough in the early stages of the race.

10. Find your pace-then pull back.

You know how 8:30s feel in training. But do you know how they feel when your heart's pounding louder than the enthusiastic crowd along the road. In fact, thanks to race-day adrenaline rush, any pace will feel far easier than normal, which could mean you'll go out too fast. So make a conscious effort to pull back until you hit the 10-mile mark. Remember, any seconds you lose early on are minutes you save later in the race.

Read more:
Comrades: The survival guide




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