The Vic Clapham Medal: The Sub 12 Hour Comrades Marathon Finishers Guide

The Vic Clapham Medal: The Sub 12 Hour Comrades Marathon Finishers Guide

The Vic Clapham medal or Comrades Marathon Finishers medal, is the medal that the majority of runners will take home on Comrades race day.


As mentioned in our Comrades Marathon Medals Guide, the Vic Clapham medal was named after the founder of The Ultimate Human Race, Vic Clapham, upon his safe return to South Africa following World War I. 


There are two groups of runners who finish between 11 and 12 hours at Comrades and claim the Vic Clapham medal. 


The first are those runners who were aiming for a faster time but for whatever reason, things didn’t go according to plan.


Many of them reach a point where they decided that today is not their day and they’re simply going to finish. They know they’ve got 12 hours and many of them use most of it. 


The second group of runners are those runners who specifically trained for and targeted a sub-12 hour Comrades finish. 


This post is aimed at the second group of runners...


What does it take to finish Comrades under 12 hours and get a Vic Clapham Medal?

From an ability perspective, I personally believe that any able bodied person, who sets the goal and does the work required, can finish Comrades under the 12 hour cut-off. 


To be in the reckoning for a Vic Clapham medal you need to be able to run a 5km in about 30 minutes, a 10km in around 62 minutes, finish a half marathon (21km or 13.1 miles) in 2:18 and a marathon (42km or 26 miles) in under 4:50.

As far as training mileage is concerned, you will need to run between 850 and 1000km (531 to 625 miles) from 1 January to Comrades Marathon race day. 

We’ve written an extensive Comrades Marathon Training Mileage Guide that runs through those numbers in a lot more detail.


What pace should you run at to finish Comrades in under 12 hours?


The average pace to finish Comrades under the allotted 12 hour cutoff is as follows:


You need to average just under 8:00 minutes per kilometer or 12:48 minutes per mile on the Comrades down run (90km or 56 miles) while for the Comrades up run (87km or 54 miles) that number increases to 8:12 minutes per kilometer or 13:21 minutes per mile.


That number doesn’t sound too difficult, but someone who struggles to run at around 6:00 to 6:20 minutes per kilometer (9:36 to 10:10 minutes per mile) is going to battle to maintain that pace over the very hilly Comrades Marathon route


Simply following my Vic Clapham or Comrades Marathon Finishers training plan will help you get closer to the times and paces you need to be running in order to finish Comrades. 


The Vic Clapham Finishers training plan for Comrades

The first step to successfully finishing Comrades is to make sure you are following an appropriate training plan. 


“What should you look out for in a Comrade Marathon training plan?” I hear you ask...


The first thing to look out for is to make sure it’s suited to your current running ability. 

Following a plan that is too far ahead of where you are now is setting you up for failure. Training at the correct paces for a race like Comrades is crucial.

 If it feels like you’re about to pop a lung on every training session you do, then the pace you’re running at is too fast. 


That is why I suggest new runners or novices follow my Vic Clapham Training Program.


In order to finish Comrades under 12 hours, the two most important things we focus on in that training plan are consistency and recovery. 


More than anything else you can do in the build up to Comrades, training consistently will have the single biggest impact


Read that again. ☝️


For a Comrades Marathon Vic Clapham, consistency is key. 


If you follow my Vic Clapham plan to the letter for the 12 months leading up to Comrades you are giving yourself the best shot possible at finishing.


To the letter means doing every session, at the recommended pace. It also means not adding sessions or taking sessions out or adjusting the paces faster. 


Just showing up and doing the work is more than half of the battle won. 


The second part is as important...

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


You can with our FREE strength training programme that you can do once a week, at home and with no expensive gym equipment needed.

Included in the programme:

 Detailed descriptions of each exercise so you know how to do them

 Number of repetitions for each exercise so that you avoid overtraining & injury

 Short videos showing you EXACTLY what to do (Number 4 will turn you into the "Inchanga Slayer"!)

Coach Parry is the Official Comrades Marathon Coach

Coach Parry is the Official Comrades Marathon Coach

Why recovery is so important when training for a Comrades Vic Clapham Medal


The second important thing to focus on when training for a Vic Clapham medal is recovery. You’ll notice that on my finishers training plan you only train 4 days a week. That means there are 3 rest days. 


Those rest days are important because they help your body recover from the stress you’re putting it under on your training days.


It is on the recovery days that your body actually gets stronger.  Watch this short video to see why they’re so important:

Race Day Strategy to Finish the Comrades Marathon in under 12 Hours


For most runners targeting a sub 12 hour or Vic Clapham medal, race day management is crucial. There are a handful of things you can do that will go a long way to helping you finish Comrades within the cut-off. 


The first of them is to follow the two golden Comrades time saving rules.


Earlier in this article I mentioned the pace you need to average in order to claim your Vic Clapham medal.


If you start too fast thinking you are going to ‘bank’ time in the first half you are going to pay it back, with interest, in the second. 


The first golden rule is ‘Hold Back’


If you feel like you’re running too fast, hold back. If you’re not sure if you’re running too fast, hold back. 


Getting your pacing spot on is crucial if you are going to successfully finish the Comrades Marathon.


We sell pacing charts at the Comrades expo every year to raise money for charity, so be sure to pop past the Comrades Coach stand and pick one up. 


The second rule is ‘Don’t Stop’ 


This rule is especially applicable to those runners who are targeting a Vic Clapham.


If you look at the Comrades finishing statistics, in most of the seeding batches the finishing rates are about 97% and upwards. 


The finishing percentage in G batch is about 60% and the finishing percentage in H batch is about 50%. 


The runners most at risk of not finishing Comrades are those that start in the G and H seeding batches.

 That is why the second rule is so important to Vic Clapham hopefuls. 

As soon as the gun goes at 5:30am, whatever happens you need to keep moving.

EVERYTHING you do on race day needs to be moving forward and in the direction of the finish line.

Coach Parry Pro Tip: If you want to know more about those two rules and how to make them work in your favour, then listen to this short podcast:

The second Comrades race day strategy that will help you get your Vic Clapham medal, is to walk. 


A Vic Clapham Medal Run Walk Strategy


When I talk about walking during Comrades, I don’t mean a gentle Sunday stroll. Your walk breaks need to be deliberate and intentional.


The aim of the run/walk strategy needs to be that you feel that you have done enough work that you feel like you deserve a little bit of a reward in terms of a break from running. 


Why this works is the longer you keep your legs fairly fresh, the longer you will be able to keep going at a particular average speed.


Therefore the walk breaks essentially just allow you to keep going at the same speed for much longer than you otherwise would be able to without the walk breaks.


For the Vic Clapham medal, I recommend that you run for 10 minutes and walk for 1 minute.

When you get to the hills, you then run-walk them. Whether it is to run 2 lamp posts and walk 1. Or run 1 lamp post, walk 1 lamp post. 


When targeting a Vic Clapham medal you want to ensure that you are walking a lot on the hills because you want to be feeling strong as you get into the final third of the Comrades Marathon.

Coach Parry Pro Tip: Have a listen to this short podcast on the Run Walk Strategy for a Vic Clapham medal

I hope that you enjoyed this Comrades Marathon Vic Clapham Medal Guide. If you're training for a Sub 12 Hour Comrades Finish, then be sure to have a look at my Comrades Training Roadmap that includes the Vic Clapham Training program, access to me and my team of coaches and a whole lot more. 

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Shave 20 minutes off your 2021 Comrades Marathon down run time...

 ..with this free strength training programme that you can do once a week, at home and with no expensive gym equipment needed.

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