Essentials of a good training program

Training for Comrades requires a program that includes a  good running schedule. Without one to guide and push a little, it’s all too easy to do too little running training and overdo the running being done.

Not all schedules are good in that they demand too much distance and too fast a pace for the race time being aimed at.

Nor do training schedules cover all the things you need to prepare properly for running Comrades.

Start with one of these:


Norrie Williamson  “Everyone’s Guide to Distance Running”

Tim Noakes Lore of Running – I’m not sure of how much Comrades training is in the later editions but the 1st Edition has lots of value.

General: Anything by Bruce Fordyce

Right then. A good training program should cover or do the  following:

1.  Be spread over at least 20 but not more than 24 weeks

  • Shorter periods can get you a Comrades finish provided you are a regular runner anyway
  • Training for longer periods leads to reaching peak performance levels before the race

2.  Base the running you will do on your current level of running

  • You will know what your current weekly distance is. Just take the actual average you have done over the 6 weeks before December. December, beside a marathon or so, should be a rest month so it doesn’t count
  • The first week of training should not be more than 10% above that and further increases in weekly distance should be based how well you are coping with the increased training load.

3.  Set a weekly pattern of runs which includes

  • a strength run (a steady effort run over distances of at least 5 to 8 km. While short runs like this can appear inadequate they require minimum recovery and the gearing effect over a 20 week period is allow for recovery/ Combined with 3 or more km warm up and cool down runs can give a respectable daily total of 15-20 km quality training].
  • speed work (repeated sessions of running faster over short distance of 1 km or less with easy running in between)
  • hill work ( 5 or 6 repeated runs up and down (to get breath back) a slope of around 400  to 500 metres
  • recovery runs – not more than 8 km run at a pace that feels slow. The point is that runs of more than 8 km, exceptions excepted of course, add to muscle damage. The second point is to run gently and slowly until you feel like going faster and further because it feels so good and then stop. Walk back to your car and go home.
  • a longer slower run – 1/3 of the weekly distance or a minimum of 20 km

4.  Set a monthly (a 3, 4 or 5 weekly) pattern which

  • Includes a week for rest, recovery and adaptation
  • Increases the total distance run each cycle
  • The longest run during a week increases
  • Builds to a peak weekly distance no more than 3 but preferably 4 weeks before race day

5.  Have a taper period which

  • decreases the total distance run each week closer to Comrades race day
  • Increases the effort and intensity levels of the shorter runs

6.  Have a minimum of runs approaching and exceeding 42.2 km [in other words, marathons and ultras] unless these runs are in the  1/3rd of weekly distance range.

  • The fewer of these runs, the more the schedule understands the risk of overdoing long runs from which you won’t recover before Comrades race day.
  • The minimum is probably one standard marathon [42.2 km] and one longer run [over 50 km]
  • The issue is not the number of runs. The issue is purely of how many runs can you recover from while maintaining your training schedule. Tired, sore,dead,unresponsive, jammed up legs help nothing on race day and can so easily be avoided.

The Extras

To the extent that the next points are not included in your training program, you need to research and set up your own additional training schedule

7.  Set a daily pattern of supplementary (complementary) training – focussing at least on core muscles, arms and quads.

  • At least then sit-ups, press-ups and knee bends or lunges with or without extra weights
  • Supplementary exercise includes cross-training and stretching

8.  Provide a way of measuring your training and its impact on you and what to do to if you are doing too much or not enough

9.  Set out a drinking (hydration) schedule of what to drink before during and after runs.

  • Also to set out drinks to avoid because they dehydrate at a celluar level: e.g. alcohol and caffeine.

10. Give an indication of the kind and quantities of foods that you need to support your running and exercise program.

  • Remind you to cut junk and unhealthy food from your diet and increase the amount of fruit, vegetables, cereals and grains.

11. Set out ways for you to engage and strengthen your running mind