An Experience of a Liftetime

Comrades Countdown


You’ve entered Comrades 2011, you might be a novice, running the Up Run for the first time or last ran when the Comrades was still in June. Everyone keeps telling you it’s time to start training and it feels like you have a big ticking clock on your back! Take a deep breath, because Comrades is six months away, and while you definitely do need to start training, there is lots of time left to get to your goal; a Comrades medal. Your focus through December should be on enjoying time away from work, spending time with family, and while the usual work and time pressures are reduced, getting into the habit of training.

The main goal for the months of December and January are to build a foundation for the training and long runs ahead. As a novice, the more gradually you build up, the lower your risk of injury will be. Don’t be in a hurry to keep up with the training volumes of more experienced runners. You need to aim to do four runs a week of between 40-60min, giving you a maximum of 40km in week one of December and 50km in week four. Once you are training consistently by the end of the month, you can look to build up the kilometres through January and February so you can get to March and April ready to do the big miles injury-free and mentally fresh.

If you use December to catch up on lost kilometres in November or to get a ‘head-start’ on 2011, you will more than likely pick up an overuse injury, or worse, get to April mentally stale and unmotivated. It is therefore important to try not to focus too hard on the fact that you are preparing for an ultra-marathon. Even experienced Comrades runners should use this time to freshen up and build up the mileage slowly. A silver medallist will run almost half their total mileage in March and April, so doing too much running now will definitely lead to mental and physical burnout.

No need to panic

Now that we have calmed a few nerves on one front, I can feel the anxiety rising in others, as you may not know how you will be able to train because you are going on holiday to a tropical paradise, or will be skiing, visiting Big Five game territory, or staying with family in minus-25 degrees! There is no point in panicking about it now, as it will just take the shine off the holiday. Similarly, there is no need to throw in the towel – you can still train for and finish Comrades.

Important to note is that if you go into December with the best intentions, but do not do as much as planned, there is still hope. The key remains: When you start to train, ensure that you start with short, slow runs (walking if necessary) and build up gradually. If you start December well and then miss a week or two because of the holidays, take 10% off the mileage in the programme and catch back up over two weeks.

Because we are preparing for the Up Run, do not avoid routes with hills. Running hills will make you stronger and increase your confidence when tackling hills.

Most importantly, enjoy the festive season!

• Start training in December, but build up slowly!
• Run in the morning, because no-one starts training after a couple at lunch…
• Take off Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day. If it’s not in your programme, you won’t feel guilty when you don’t run!
• Spend time with friends and family – there won’t be time next year!
• Put on a bit of weight – it will help in the long run.
• Run the Old Year’s Eve 8km or 10km races; because finishing off 2010 well will create the momentum for 2011.
• Try to catch up the training you missed in November.
• Use the extra time to run big mileage.
• Do nothing – Comrades is in May, not June, so the build-up starts now.
• Set unrealistic goals – December is about doing some running, not getting serious.
• Train through injuries or niggles.
• Get cranky if sundowners interfere with training on the odd evening.

December 2010
29 Nov
30 Nov Walk 5min easy; jog 30min easy; walk 5min
1 Dec REST
2 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 40min easy; walk 5min
3 Dec REST
4 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 50min easy; walk 5min
5 Dec 1hr long run, walking when needed
6 Dec REST
7 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 35min easy; walk 5min 
8 Dec REST 
9 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 45min easy; walk 5min 
10 Dec REST 
11 Dec Walk 5min easy; Jog 50min easy; walk 5min 
12 Dec 1hr10 long run, walking when needed
13 Dec REST 
14 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 40min easy; walk 5min 
15 Dec REST 
16 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 50min easy; walk 5min 
17 Dec REST 
18 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 50min easy; walk 5min 
19 Dec 1hr20 long run, walking when needed
20 Dec REST 
21 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 45min easy; walk 5min 
22 Dec REST 
23 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 55min easy; walk 5min 
24 Dec REST 
25 Dec REST 
26 Dec 1hr long run, walking when needed
27 Dec REST 
28 Dec Walk 5min easy; jog 50min easy; walk 5min 
29 Dec REST 
30 Dec Run 45min easy 
31 Dec Old Year’s Eve 8/10km 

January 2011
1 Jan
1hr10 easy 
2 Jan 1hr30 easy
3 Jan REST 
4 Jan 15min easy; 5x2min hill repeats with slow jog recovery; 15min easy 
5 Jan REST 
6 Jan 1hr easy running 
7 Jan REST 
8 Jan 1hr20 easy 
9 Jan 1hr45 easy
10 Jan REST 
11 Jan 15min easy; 6x2min hill repeats with slow jog recovery; 15min easy 
12 Jan REST 
13 Jan 1hr10 easy running 
14 Jan REST 
15 Jan 1hr30 easy 
16 Jan 2hrs easy