Comrades Marathon race day pacing strategies and finish-time predictions

Comrades Marathon race day pacing strategies and finish-time predictions

Today on RUN with Coach Parry, we look at how to tackle race day pacing strategies for novices taking on the Comrades Marathon.

Comrades Coach Lindsey Parry and Brad Brown also delve into how best to work out your race pace and finish time from your different training runs especially for this year's slightly longer down-run.

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Comrades Marathon race day strategy


Another great question in today, it's actually very, very similar questions from two different people. So I'm going to combine them. Have you got some sort of strategies, Comrades strategies, for novices with regards to sort of like kilometre and time splits and run walking? So a lot of it's got to do with pacing. And how do you work out your race pace? You talk about using a race as a training run, how do you get to that pace that you should be running a?

So let's start on the pacing and race strategy if you like. Yesterday, I was reminded by a former elite runner of Comrades that the most simplistic way to look at it is that you want to walk before you have to. So again, the elite athletes do also sometimes walk on Comrades. We know that Caroline Wostmann has won the race with a run walk strategy. But the crux of it is you want to walk before you have to because if you start walking when you have to because you're exhausted, then really all that happens is as the day goes on, you walk more and more and run less and less. So you need a strategy and it's got to be a strategy that you're comfortable with. I think that's is the crux of it.

If you're comfortable running 10 minutes walking one minute, and you don't feel guilty about walking, or you don't feel like you haven't earned a walk break then that is really a good strategy, and it'll keep your legs pretty fresh all day long. And you probably won't have to do too much extra walking on the hills with that kind of strategy but I would encourage it anyway.

For most people, I think somewhere between a three and a 5k run, and a one minute walk, that's kind of where they're comfortable and then when you get to the hills, if you're a 12 hour Comrades runner I would go with a one minute run one minute walk, or run to that tree, walk to that tree type of strategy with a one to one ratio. And for 11 hour, you would probably go two minutes of running and one minute walking, but still quite a lot of walking on those up hills. I guess on some of the very steep climbs I might even be tempted to walk the whole thing.

But you've got to find a strategy that works for you. And the reason why you've got to practice it in your training runs is because you need to figure out how it affects your pace. So you'll have an idea, you know that you want to run, let's say you're a 4:30 marathoner means that you're on the verge of a bronze medal, you're either going to be just under or just over 11 hours, so you work out that that requires somewhere in the region of seven and a half minutes a km I think. But then how do you get to that number with the walking, how fast does it mean you have to run? So if you actually practice that and get into a routine in training, that is how you figure that out.

And then finally, how do we predict our finishing time? So I'd say for the down run, and I'm going to give two scenarios, but if you are a four hour and faster marathoner, on the down run, although it's a bit longer this year, you can get a fairly good idea by multiplying your marathon time by two and a half. So that kind of gives you your Comrades race pace. And then for the guys that run slower than a four hour marathon, it's probably two and a half, plus six to eight minutes. Then of course, we get to the 4:50 marathoners and slower, where you just need to chuck that equation right out the window and you've got a plan your race to run in 11:59 and there loads of people that do it although the predictions show that you possibly shouldn't. People do do it. So don't panic. Plan your race around running 12 hours.

The last point I'll make on predicting is that we can work out from a 5 or 10K time what your potential is for the marathon. So if you're exceeding expectations at the marathon, in other words, you're getting relatively better as the day goes longer, then you can afford to tweak your Comrades goal a little bit faster. But the same applies is that if you are not meeting the expectation on the marathon, that probably means that based on whatever marathon you do, you actually need to aim a bit more conservatively on Comrades race day.

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