Comrades Marathon Mileage Guide: All The Kilometers You Need

Comrades Marathon Mileage Guide: All The Kilometers You Need

Speak to any Comrades Marathon runner and it won’t be long before you get asked “What’s your Comrades Marathon Mileage sitting on?”...

...It's a question that is enough to strike fear into any Comrades Runner. It’s easy to get sucked into the Comrades mileage comparison game, but it is important not to for your physical and mental well being. 

In this article, I am going to cover all the things you want to know about Comrades Marathon mileage: (click on any of the links below to go straight to that section)

It’s important to note that not all Comrades runners are created equal, so their mileage is not going to be exactly the same. What works for one Comrades runner might not work for another.

The mileage, times and numbers I am going to share with you in this article are a guide and come from the work I have done as the Official Comrades Marathon Coach over the last 13 years.

They come from a place of having helped thousands of Comrades runners get the medals they’re chasing, from winners right through to 11:59:59 finishers.

PRO TIP: If you haven't yet, make sure to check out our Ulitmate Comrades Marathon Resource Guide. It includes everything you need to tackle Comrades successfully, including Comrades training plans, route profiles and a whole lot more.

 

Comrades Mileage according to your ability

 

Selecting the right Comrades Marathon training plan for your ability will go a long way to dictating the amount of mileage you do while training for Comrades. (This is where you can access my Comrades Marathon Training Plans)

A very common mistake I see Comrades runners make is they think that if they follow a Comrades training plan that is ahead of their current ability, they will guarantee that they finish the race. 

Let me give you an example. If your running ability points to a sub 11 hour or Bronze medal Comrades finish, following the sub 9 hour or Bill Rowan plan will not be beneficial. 

You’re actually doing yourself a disservice and there is a good chance you’ll miss your goal because you’ll probably end up on the start line of Comrades overtrained at best, or injured at worst. 

It is vital that you choose a training plan to follow that is appropriate to your running ability. 

The table below illustrates what times you should be capable of running across various distances, in order to complete the Comrades Marathon within the time in column 1.

 

 

Finish Time Medal 5km Time 10km Time 21km Time 42km Time
  Gold 00:15:30 (M) 00:17:30 (W) 00:32:00 (M) 00:36:00 (W) 01:11:00 (M) 01:20:00 (W) 02:30:00 (M) 02:50:00 (W)
Sub 7:30 Silver 00:18:30 (M) 00:20:00 (F) 00:38:20 (M) 00:41:00 (W) 01:25:00 (M) 01:30:00 (W) 03:00:00 (M) 03:10:00 (W)
Sub 9:00 Bill Rowan 00:21:30 00:44:45 01:40:00 03:30:00
Sub 10:00 Robert Mtshali 00:24:40 00:51:00 01:54:00 04:00:00
Sub 11:00 Bronze 00:27:00 00:56:00 02:05:00 04:24:00
Sub 12:00 Vic Clapham 00:30:00 01:02:00 02:18:00 04:50:00

 

These times are just a guide. There will always be outliers but for the most part, over more than a decade of Comrades coaching experience these numbers are very accurate. 

For a Sub 12 hour or Vic Clapham Comrades Marathon finish, you should be able to run 5km in 30 minutes, 10km in 62 minutes, a half marathon in 2:18 and 42km in 4:50. (It’s important to note, particularly for new runners and Comrades novices that you may not be running these times when you start training for Comrades but you should be able to run them by the beginning of May)

For a bronze medal or Sub 11 Comrades finish a marathon time of 4:24 is recommended, a 21km time of 2:05 and 56 minutes for 10km and 27 minutes for 5km.

If you’re aiming for a Robert Mtshali medal which needs you to dip under 10 hours you should be able to run 5km in 24:40, 10km in 51 minutes, a half marathon in 1:54 and a standard marathon in under 4 hours.

The Bill Rowan medal is probably my favourite Comrades medal of all as it is one that most runners, with a little bit of running ability, can strive for if they are willing to do the work required. In order to run a Sub 9 hour Comrades your marathon time should be around the 3:30 mark. Your 21km time needs to be 1:40, your 10km just under 45 minutes and a 5km at 21:30.

When you look at those runners chasing a Silver medal or faster, I split the times by gender to give you an idea of what is required to finish within the top 5% of the Comrades field.

How many kilometers or miles do you need to run in training to finish Comrades?

Once you’ve selected an appropriate Comrades Marathon Training program to follow, you can then start looking at how much training do you actually need to be doing according to your goal. 

Depending on your Comrades goal or the medal you’re chasing, the range of mileage starts around 850km or 531 miles for a Vic Clapham medal or Sub 12 hour finish through to more than 3200km or 2000 miles if you’re chasing a Comrades gold medal. 

Let’s dig into what that actually means...

When we talk about training for Comrades we often only refer to the time frame from the first of January to Comrades Marathon race day, which is in June. 

Although you’ve probably been training for a while, all the training you’ve done prior to 1 January is the base you will build your Comrades training on top of. 

In an ideal world you want to arrive on 1 January fit and injury free. 

Too often I see runners start their Comrades training in January tired and/or injured. You’ll be better served to start the new year unfit and fresh than overtrained and tired. 

The table below lists the range of mileage you should target according to the Comrade goal you are training for:

Finish Time Medal Kilometers Total Weekly Ave Kilometers Miles Total Weekly Ave Miles
  Gold >3200 >145 >2000 >91
Sub 7:30 Silver 2000 91 1250 57
Sub 9:00 Bill Rowan 1600 - 1800 72 - 82 1000 - 1125 45 - 51
Sub 10:00 Robert Mtshali 1200 - 1400 55 -64 750 875 34 - 40
Sub 11:00 Bronze 950 - 1100 43 - 50 594 - 688 27 - 31
Sub 12:00 Vic Clapham 850 -1000 39 - 45 531 - 625 24 - 28

The Comrades Marathon training mileage listed above is simply a guide, more than a target to try and achieve.

Let’s start with the medal that the majority of runners get on Comrades Race day, the Vic Clapham. If you are following the Coach Parry finishers or Sub 12 hour Comrades training plan then you should do in the region of 850km to 1000km, or 531 to 625 miles, from the start of the year to Comrades.

Bronze medal hopefuls will finish their Comrades training on around the 950km to 1100km mark, or 594 to 688 miles. 

If you’re training for a Sub 10 Robert Mtshali medal then you will in the ballpark of about 1200km to 1400km (750 to 875 miles) and for a Bill Rowan 1600km to 1800km (1000 to 1125 miles)

If you’re targeting a Comrades Silver or Gold medal you're looking at upwards of 2000km or 1250 miles from 1 January to race day.

How many kilometers per week should you run per week if you’re training for Comrades?

The Comrades Marathon falls on the second Sunday in June, so there will always be approximately 22 weeks from 1 January until Comrades race day.

If we then break that Comrades training mileage down even further into weekly averages, you’ll see from the table above that you will need to average from between 39km to 45km per week for the Vic Clapham to over 145km per week if you’re chasing gold. 

These weekly Comrades mileage averages are exactly that, averages. I have simply taken the total mileage number for each medal and divided it by 22 weeks. 

On face value the weekly Comrades training mileage averages look on the low side but bear in mind that by the time your peak training weeks roll around in April, you’ll be running a LOT more than you were in January. 

Some weeks will also have a lot more mileage than others because you’ll be running marathons and ultra marathons as training runs. 

I know that sounds crazy and just reading that should give you butterflies in your stomach. If you’re struggling to cope with the anxiety and overwhelm that comes with Comrades training, have a listen to this short podcast to settle your nerves:

That leads me into the next of the Comrades questions I get asked very often and that is...

 

Do you want to shave 20 minutes off your Comrades Marathon Down Run time?

 

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Coach Parry is the Official Comrades Marathon Coach

Coach Parry is the Official Comrades Marathon Coach

How many marathons and ultra-marathons should you run leading up to Comrades?

The answer again depends on your level of experience as a runner and which one of my Comrades training plans you are following. The more experienced and/or faster you are, the more marathons and ultra marathons you will run:

Finish Time Medal Marathons Ultra Marathons
Sub 7:30 Silver 3 - 4 2 - 3
Sub 9:00 Bill Rowan 3 2
Sub 10:00 Robert Mtshali 2 2
Sub 11:00 Bronze 1 - 2 1 - 2
Sub 12:00 Vic Clapham 1 - 2 1 - 2

 

The important thing to note is that you want to space these marathons and ultramarathons appropriately. I like to call it the 3 week rule. You want to ensure that you have no less than 3 weeks between your marathons and/or ultras.

The second important thing to remember is that these marathons and ultramarathons are training runs. You are NOT racing them, especially after the end of February. They should not be seen as an opportunity to improve your seeding but rather a chance to prepare yourself for what is coming on Comrades race day.  

If you’re targeting anything slower than a 10 hour Comrades (and this is the vast majority of the Comrades field) then one to two marathons and one to two ultra marathons from the first of January to Comrades is more than enough. Once again, this is a range, not a target. 

I find that for this group of runners 2 marathons and 1 ultra or 1 marathon and 2 ultras is sufficient. As explained earlier in this article it’s better to arrive at Comrades slightly underdone, fresh and injury free than overtrained, tired and injured. 

For the Sub 10 hour Comrades hopefuls 2 of each will suffice and for the Bill Rowan’s one more marathon will do the trick (So 3 marathons and 2 ultra marathons).

When you get into silver or sub 7:30 territory, you’ll be running 3 to 4 marathons and 2 to 3 ultra marathons. 

I haven’t added how many marathons and ultras for those runners contenting for top 10 spots but they will be running a marathon almost every week in training in their 12 week peak training block.

How long should your longest long training run for Comrades be?

I am not a huge fan of extremely long long training runs, especially for Comrades novices. There are a few reasons for this. 

As with all the info in this article, the length and timing of your long run will be dependent on your race goal and your experience.

Once you have finished an ultra, you are in essence ready to finish Comrades and as a slower runner or novice, you also reach a point of diminishing returns in that longer runs may prepare you mentally but physically they may do more damage then they are worth and compromise the next few weeks of training and/or race day.

For finishers and sub 11 hopefuls, particularly if you have done another ultramarathon in the build up, 50km 5-6 weeks from race day is the most you should run.

If you are targeting 8:30-10 hours and have done at least 1 Ultra, then your number is 50-55km and run 5 weeks prior to race day.

7-8:30 will aim to run 50-55km 4 weeks from race day and your aspirant Gold medalists will probably look to 60km or longer 4 weeks out from race day.

I am not a fan of the Kosmos 3 in 1 or similar events as it adds up to almost 80km in one day and I firmly believe that you are leaving your best Comrades on the road if you do these sorts of events.

The Easter 100s or Comrades in 3 days are far better, however for runners slower than 10hrs I would encourage you to do 2 of the 3 days as the whole 100/Comrades will take some recovery. 

In conclusion, I want you to realise that Comrades mileage is dependent on the individual. No two runners will respond the same way to the same amount of mileage. It is so easy to get sucked into the mileage comparison game and I want to urge you not to. 

If you are concerned about the amount of mileage you are doing, it’s better to err on the side of too little than too much. Follow the Comrades training plan you’ve selected, trust the process and know that not all the advice you receive is created equal.

 

When to do your last long run before Comrades?

Now that we've got the how far should your furtherest training run be for Comrades out of the way, lets look at the timing of your last long training run before Comrades.

Too close to race day and you risk arriving on the start line tired, too far out and you won't get the full benefit.

This answer is primarily based on running ability and experience.

In an ideal world, I suggest novices do their last long run (50 to 60kms) 6 weeks out from Comrades race day. For everyone else I'd suggest 5 weeks out. For the top 5% of the field, that would be the silver medalists and faster, it may be slightly closer, agaon depending on what works best for that individual.

What are you training for?

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