4:50…What’s the Comrades Deal?

4:50…What’s the Comrades Deal?

Today on RUN with Coach Parry we talk about yesterday's big announcement that the Comrades Marathon Association has changed the qualifying criteria for The Ultimate Human Race.

4:50 it is. Now what?

Also on today's podcast, we announce the first winner of the #BiogenJourney competition we're running. (If you want to see what Hobbo has been up to, you can here.)

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4:50...What's the Comrades deal?


Welcome on to RUN with Coach Parry. My name is Brad Brown. We've got the coach with us once again Lindsey Parry. Lindsey, welcome.

Yeah, good to be with you, Brad, and some exciting stuff to talk about.

Man alive. What a week it's been. I'm not quite sure what day the month it is, what week it is. But yeah, we've got tons of stuff to share. And coming up on today's podcast. This is a slightly Special Edition one, we're going to be talking 4:50 because that is the number that's on everybody's lips at the moment. Big announcement being made by Comrades yesterday, that's Thursday, as we're recording this, that there is a new qualifying criteria for the 2019 Comrades Marathon and that is a sub 4:50 marathon. It's no longer five hours. And we'll talk some details on that and why that is and what you need to do.

Obviously, there's a massive buzz on social media, lots of people with lots to say. But I think the thing we want to talk about, because it really impacts the runners on the ground, and particularly runners like me, is the change in qualifying criteria from five hours down to 4:50. Before we get into what do we need to do and how do we change things, what's the thinking behind that? I know you were consulted heavily on it. And it's a big decision. There's no two ways about it. This thing wasn't taken lightly and it wasn't done on a whim. There's been lots of thought and lots of consultation around this. Give me your take on it.


Why the change was made


Yeah, so look and it also isn't something that was just decided for this year. It's something that's been discussed for the last few years behind the scenes. Look, one of one of the reasons the discussion was started was because of the diminishing finishing rates, essentially since the introduction of that 5 hour cut off. Although many people, and we interact with quite a few of those people who do run 4:58 4:59s do finish the race, that is the reason why it has been kept for so long is because Comrades does strive to be exclusionary. If people are doing it, then let's give them opportunity.

However, the stats and as one famous cricket commentator Geoffrey Boycott used to like to say, the stats don't lie, when anybody tried to point out that a batsman was perhaps better than his average. The stats here don't lie. The people that are finishing between 4:50 and 5 hours in their marathons and are running Comrades are the people that are putting massive pressure logistically on the medical team and the medical tents at the race. So the people in those tents tend to be from that group.

They are also the people that end up stranded on the road, and it creates quite a logistical nightmare to get people from out on the road to the finishing point or to the medical tents and so on. So, at the end of the day, the rule was essentially created for two reasons. It was to get the people who are in that bracket to improve themselves to be better runners to give them a better chance of actually crossing the finish line in a more reasonable condition, and then be for those that really aren't making it and are really struggling. And there's a lot of them. 50% of H batch don't finish. So we're not talking about an insignificant number. But to relieve that pressure on the medical tents, and to make the race safer for everybody who takes part.

Yes, Lindsey, I mean, I'm one of the runners that this change effects. I've run a Comrades with a 4:58 qualifier. So I fall into that bracket. So I understand why people are upset and frustrated. But we also need to realize that things change and there's reasons for things and you've outlined some of the reasons. And if you go back many years, it used to be a Comrades cut off of 11 hours and it was a 4:30 qualifier and that's changed to 12. It's Parkinson's Law, I think that says that the work expands to the amount of time you have available.

We've all seen it with regards to if you're a student, or if you're working and you've got a deadline, it's always the case, is that you're always chasing deadlines. If you've got a week to do something or one day to do it, you will make sure that it fits into that time. And as much as people are upset, it's 10 minutes on a marathon. We'll make it work. I mean that's what we're here for is we're here now to ensure that you can run a sub 4:50 marathon. That's the goal is like, okay, cool, it is what it is, there's a line drawn in the sand, that line is changed, there's still enough time to get it done before Comrades 2019. Let's get to work. Let's let's do what it takes. And what is it going to take, Lindsey?


Adjusting your training to make the 4:50 cutoff 


The first thing, of course, is that I need to go and readjust those 12 hour Comrades programmes. We are going to have to push ourselves just a little bit more in training and get a little bit better than we were. I think the important thing is not to panic and do it all in one go. So yes, I'm going to get on there and I'm going to change all the recommended paces. But the themes have to stay the same. To become a better runner, you've got to be consistent, you've got to do what you need to do week after week after month after month. And if we do it in the right place, you'll tend to being a better runner.

What you don't want to do is just head out tomorrow and now we start running faster because then you're going to start stimulating the wrong energy systems. You're going to over stress the body, over stress your skeletal system, possibly break down in injury, possibly get sick. But we do set out with an intentional mindset that we are now aiming for a 4:50. This is something that I also find quite amazing is that when we train for Comrades, anybody, whether you're training in the silver bracket, or now we're talking about the marginal 4:50s, now when you do your first 10 K, it's quite a an awesome achievement and when you start thinking about doing a 21, that seems a little bit scary. But because you've done the 10, you believe that it's possible.

So you've already made a big step towards being able to do a half marathon. Then you do a half marathon and it's the same thing. A marathon seems unbelievably daunting, but you go, well, I've managed to chalk off these two so now a 42 is possible. But on that day, if I suddenly told you on the start line, you're doing 42, or even worse, you got to a part in the race, but there was some accident that took place and the only way back means that you're doing a marathon today, you'd fall apart, mentally fall apart because you were mentally ready for 21. But in three weeks time when you mentally ready for 42 go and do the 42.

And the time is kind of the same, if you set out and the people that I guess I feel the worst for is that when they ran Cape Town marathon for example, they didn't know that they had to run 4:50 they thought they had to run 5. If you told those people before the race you needed to run 4:50, some of them may not have been physically capable, but a lot of them would have been. It would have been a question of the intention when they started and those that weren't capable, they're the ones that I'm talking about now in terms of the preparation and shifting your mindset and the type of speed you need to run and working towards those over a period of time.

So that possibly means for a lot of people that were looking to qualify at Soweto, Kaapsehoop, those types of races, it probably means for them that those will become a long training run and that perhaps the Johnson Cranes or Sasolburg's or those type would be the next one because we need to give them 12 months to bridge down to that 4:50.

Yeah, absolutely, Lindsey. It's not time to panic. That I think is the message I want people to realize and things happen for reasons and just do the work and it'll happen. So keep an eye out on our website on coachparry.com for the details of those changes of the training programmes, also on comrades.com those programmes will be up there shortly as well. Lindsey is there anything you want to add before we get into announcing our winner?


There's plenty of time to train


Yeah, I actually do, because it's actually been a theme of mine over the last couple of years. And that's also that, although Comrades in South African terms is biggest race on the on the calendar, it happens on the ninth of June and we are in October. So we can't actually obsess too much about a race that is that far away. Break it down into little chunks. We have got from now until the first of March before actual Comrades season begins.

For me Comrades season is 1 March to race day. So up until that point in time, we've got loads of time to qualify. But very importantly, go and have a look at the recommended times to be able to do a five and a 10 and a 21 K, go train for that and nail those times to give you the confidence to know that you're capable of doing the 4:50. That way you'll also stay mentally much fresher because you're going to be chasing slightly different goals and you don't have this big dare of scary Comrades sitting in the back of your head.

No, absolutely. And my mom always used to say, how do you eat an elephant? And it's one bite at a time. That's what it is. So Comrades is this massive elephant and we've just got to tackle it, one little piece as we go. And if you need help, I want to urge you, we've made some massive changes to what we're doing here at coachparry.com. This week basically opened up a brand new training platform. And there are tons of training programmes in that platform right now. You can get access to our coaches. It's amazing.


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