9 Time-Slicing Tips For 86.83km Kilometres of Comrades
Squander precious minutes and seconds on race day, and you could wind up kissing your ultra-marathon dream goodbye. Official Comrades Coach Lindsey Parry has a time-saving plan to ensure you reach your goal.
1. Stay off your feet
Your arrival in Durban will be exciting. You’ll be tempted to see the sights, and the expo is an exciting place for a running junkie – yes, you’re an addict! – full of all the toys you’ll ever need for running.
But you’re not on holiday yet. If possible, get to the expo early, ideally on the Thursday or Friday before the race, and don’t spend hours trawling the aisles. Save that for after your race.
2. Nothing new on race day
The expo will be packed full of products that might promise better release of energy, improved VO2, or a boost in performance. But don’t be tempted to try anything you haven’t already experimented with in training, because you don’t know how you’ll react. What’s marketed as a time-saver could render you doubled over in pain and immobile at the side of the road.
3. Get to the start early, and make sure you get into your hard-earned seeding pen.
One of the most stressful parts of the Comrades is the start. Pent-up nerves and excitement go hand-in-hand with the emotional build-up: Shosholoza, Chariots of Fire, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, Max Trimborn’s cockerel crow – and finally, the big gun.
4. Don’t start too fast
There are three common reasons why this happens:
1) You panic, because you’ve lost a few minutes crossing the start line.
2) You want to put time in the bag.
3) You’ve set an inappropriate finishing goal.
But regardless of your reasons, the outcome is the same: by going out too fast, even for five or 10 kilometres, you’ll drastically affect your ability to maintain speed and form in the second half.
An important lesson I learned from my father, three-time Comrades gold-medallist Trevor Parry, is that you’ll never be able to bank enough time in the first half of a race to make up for what you’ll lose when it falls apart in the second.
5. Take in adequate energy
This is easier said than done, because it’s not a simple mathematical equation, and needs constant checking. During the first four hours of Comrades, your stomach and gut are likely to be working at their best. Use this time to take in your gels, high-energy drinks, and a small amount of solids.
As the race progresses, it will become harder for your body to process food and sweet drinks. But don’t stop taking them in altogether; rather, gradually reduce the amount over time.
6. Over-hydration is a serious complication that can lead to death.
There is a growing prevalence of nausea in long-distance running. Recent research suggests that there is also a growing trend in early-onset hypernatremia; or in layman’s terms, over-hydration.
A rule of thumb: if you’re thirsty, drink more; and if you’re not thirsty, skip the drinks at the water table.
7. Walk early, and often
Unless you’re targeting a sub-7, you should be walking a minimum of one minute for every five to 10 kilometres of running. You should also aim to walk up part of each significant hill on the course. (Not just those with names!)
Walking should be fast, not a stroll. This is to reduce impact forces on the legs, and the rate of muscle contraction. Walking before you’re forced to will shave tens of minutes off your time.
8. Don’t Stop… EVER!
Make yourself a promise on race morning: once you’ve lost time from crossing the start line (on average, that’s four to eight minutes), don’t stop moving. Every step, whether you’re walking or running, will be a step closer to the finish.
Every stop, whether at a water point, to chat to a friend, or to have a massage, means the clock keeps ticking – and that will stop you from getting closer to your goal.
9. Remember why you’re there
For every Comrades runner, there will come a point in the race when you are faced with the question: why am I here?
This point can make or break your Comrades. You must decide: will I dig deep, and reach my goal; or will I slow down, and finish? Many wonder if they’ll finish at all.
To achieve your goal at Comrades, you need to be mentally ready for this point. Your training will get you to the 60- or 70-kilometre marker; your head must take you the rest of the way.