Just one more day, although many novices – the reality of what they’ve signed up for suddenly hitting home – will tell you there are two more sleeps to go. Whatever they can do to delay the inevitable.
The 92nd edition of arguably the world’s most famous ultra-marathon takes place on Sunday, starting from the Durban City Hall to Pietermaritzburg’s Scottsville Racecourse, with talk of the up-run record in danger of falling.
While he wouldn’t want to delve into whether Leonid Shvetsov’s nine-year-old mark of 5:24:49 will be broken or not, Comrades Marathon coach Lindsey Parry advised runners to brace themselves for “a long day of ever-increasing fatigue”.
“By the 36km point, you have run three of the so-called Big Five hills and reached the second highest point on the route. That’s an enormous amount of climbing. The legs will be heavy and tired.”
How then does he advise that runners tackle the monster? He reckons pacing yourself, especially in the beginning, will get you your best possible finish time.
“The success of the up-run revolves around getting to the 50km mark with ‘runnable’ legs. Do this by instituting a run-walk strategy during the first 36km, in particular.”
He advises that those aiming for a silver medal (sub 7:30 finish) should walk once on each hill; the Bill Rowan (sub 9hrs finish) hopefuls must walk a third of the hill and says those whose plan is to just finish within the 12hr cut-off time must employ the 1walk:1run strategy – that is they must repeat the cycles of a two-minute walk followed by a two-minute run, for example.
“If you manage your first 50km well, you should be able to run a similar speed on the rolling hills from 50km onwards. Then with 20km to go, even on tired legs, you should be able to make up quite a lot of time,” Parry adds.
The key, he says, is to have a plan.
“If you have a fixed strategy that takes out the guess work, it becomes habitual, easy and rhythmic.”
Like many experts of The Ultimate Human Race, Parry believes Comrades is a mind over matter undertaking.
“The Comrades distance is a long time to be on the move and under pressure,” he says before advising that runners break a race that will bring with it the constant pressure of cut-off times, physical discomfort or a low energy patch that will get most runners needing a reason to keep going into chunks, be they of 15 to 30 minutes, one kilometre at a time or one water point to the next.
“(After the 65km mark) You have two tipping points to look forward to – the moment you go from 20km to 19km and from 10km to 9km. From then on, it’s all about the medal and by the time you enter the stadium, you have forgotten all your troubles,” says Parry.
“All you will be thinking about is how to make the 2018 Comrades Marathon even more comfortable.”
* The Parry interview is courtesy of Discovery.