An Expert’s Tips To Conquering Comrades

Make all the training count, with the perfect race-day strategy.

Sarah Lorge Butler |

With 20 marathons under her belt, Des Linden, 37, set her sights on a 50K last year. Not only did she successfully race the distance for the first time; she also crushed the 50K world record, finishing in 2:59:54.

Running an ultra like Comrades is a great challenge, especially for seasoned marathon runners like Linden, and it’s one that can change the way you run for life – even if you’re not running her lightning-fast splits.

The Walk-Run Strategy
Even the best ultra runners utilise the benefits of walking, in training and on race day. Power walking allows you to pace yourself evenly and move more efficiently for longer periods of time. 

Some ultra athletes set their watch alarms and perform run-walk intervals (eg: run 5 min/walk 1 min, or run 15 min/walk 4 min), while others run according to the terrain: running the flats and downhills, and walking the uphills. The latter strategy works well for rolling, hilly courses.

Dial In Your Gear
Unique to ultras, you need to plan for a long day on the road. Make sure you’re used to carrying gels or food during training, and fine-tune your ‘race ready’ routine in the build-up. 

Try and find out what sort of products will be available at aid stations, and use the same products in training. Consider everything, from the socks you will wear to your anti-chafe cream, suntan lotion, hat, sunglasses, etc. This should be obvious, but your running shoes should not be brand new.

Race Like The Tortoise, Not The Hare
The real secret to a successful and joyful ultramarathon race is in your pacing strategy. Because the Comrades route is undulating, with big ascents and descents, it’s impossible to race by your watch at a specific pace. 

Rather than trying to rely on your watch, use your natural pacing instincts and run by effort. Learning to run by feel will have a tremendous impact on all your other races, as it will teach you to run from within. 

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