How to ensure a great Comrades Marathon result – Training tips

Posted on Feb 22, 2010 under Comrades Marathon | 2 Comments

There are only two important races if you are doing a Comrades Marathon:

1. Your qualifier

2. Comrades Marathon

Every time I hear runners saying sentences like this I shake my head: “I ran a personal best almost every race in my training for Comrades and then on the day I crashed – I can’t understand it?”

Deciding to run the Comrades Marathon is a huge commitment. A person joins a club and gets caught into the notion that one must run every race possible before Comrades

Please take note of the following and if you don’t believe me, ask Bruce Fordyce, Norrie Williamson, Johnny Halberstadt, Alan Rob, Andrew Kelehe and so on.

Races are an important part of training for Comrades. Not to see how fast you can run, but to see how slow you can run.

Let me explain further:

In training you must do speed work, hill training, gym work, recovery runs and slow runs plus your “normal pace” run.

You do not get fast by attempting a PB (personal best) on every race. You get fast by doing specific speed work training over a short distance. FACT!!

The only thing you will get from running flat out every race is burn-out and an injury. Races are there to get your long run in for the week, test various supplements, test new socks, test new drinking patterns, getting used to waking up early, getting used to the crowds at the start and more testing and then some more. When you finish a race, you must finish “fresh” enough to run a further 5km’s with ease. In fact, a good tip is after you finish the race, run back against the “traffic” of runners for a km and then back-at a very slow pace.

With a variation in your weekly training, your times will come down by themselves.

Another tip – do a time trial at your club without your watch. Set yourself a medium pace time and see if you can come in at that time. This will teach you a very important lesson about how you feel at what pace and the ability to judge what pace you are running at during a race. You won’t have to watch the marker boards every km to see your pace, you can judge for yourself and just check with the boards every 5km’s. This is very important for Comrades to be able to pace yourself through the day, and like some of us, into the late afternoon.

In summary: Use the weekend race as a training run and stay fresh for the qualifier and the big day.

Source: 2003 Webarchive of – a timeless piece of writing!

Nutrition Tips for race day by Dietician Rowena Curr

Posted on May 23, 2009 under Nutrition | No Comment

Your main nutrition goals for raceday, are to maintain your carbohydrate and fluid stores. This is vital if you would like to optimize your performance, or you just want to avoid “hitting the wall” (i.e. feeling of extreme fatigue, legs of lead, dizziness and confusion – obviously not ideal for any runner hoping to finish).

Dietician Rowena Curr RD (SA) compiled these following helpful tips:

  • The most important thing for raceday, is never to do something for the first time. Make sure that you have your nutrition strategies worked out, and have practiced them as part of your longer training runs or races leading up to Comrades.
  • Unless you have a second that will be providing you with everything you need on the day – practice with the drinks and food that will be available on raceday at the seconding tables.
  • Ideally your pre-race meal should be eaten about 3 hours before the start. However, if this is not possible you can eat a smaller meal 1-2 hours before (this just depends on your usual rate of digestion – make sure you practice, practice, practice!). Whatever you choose to eat must be high in carbohydrate, low in fat, low or moderate in protein, and low in fibre (this is to prevent any discomfort – fat and protein take longer to leave the stomach than carbohydrate). Suitable foods include breakfast cereals or porridge with low-fat milk or yoghurt, toast with jam/syrup/peanut butter, or banana and peanut butter sandwiches.
  • If you struggle to eat solids before a race, it is a good idea to take in something liquid (e.g. liquid meal replacement, fruit smoothie or just an energy drink). Just ensure that you have a substantial meal the night before.
  • Sip on a sports drink in the 2 hours leading up to the start (just allow time to go to the toilet!)
  • Make use of sports drinks during the race – they are very useful to meet both carbohydrate and fluid needs at the same time. Diluted coke also works well.
  • Start drinking early on in the race (within the first 30 minutes). Avoid waiting until later in the race, as you will be more likely to “hit the wall”, and it will be difficult for you to recover.
  • Fluid requirements differ from runner to runner, and are determined by sweat rate, exercise intensity, environmental temperature, humidity, body surface area, gender, and genetics. For this reason, it is important to experiment in training, in order to work out your own fluid requirements, and to prevent both dehydration and overhydration.
  • General hydration advice is to drink little and often. You should aim to drink ad libitum between 400-800ml per hour, with the higher rates for the faster, heavier runners and the lower rates for the slower runners/walkers. If conditions are warm, you will need more fluid as opposed to running in cooler conditions.
  • Aim to take in 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. Most sports drinks will provide 30-60g in 500-1000ml. Gels contain approximately 30g per gel (make sure you drink 250-350ml water per gel). Most sports or cereal bars contain 20g, 3 baby potatoes contain 15g, 5 jelly babies contain 15g, 1 large banana contains 20g, ½ jam/marmite sandwich contains 15g, and 4 dried apricots contain 15g.

Author Dietician Rowena Curr RD (SA) is a private practicing dietician at the Kings Park Sports Medicine Centre in Durban and at the Victoria road medical centre in Pietermaritzburg. She has a postgraduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from UCT as well as an honours degree in Sports Science from the University of Stellenbosch. She has represented South Africa as a junior and elite triathlete and currently competes in various triathlons and multisport events. Rowena Curr can be contacted via 082 4257234 or via e-mail.

Tips for Carbo-loading for Marathon runners

Posted on May 06, 2009 under Nutrition, Running | No Comment

When training for endurance runs such as the Comrades Marathon it’s very important to make sure that not only your running strategy is on par, your nutrition is nearly as important and carbohydrate loading, commonly referred to as carbo-loading or carb-loading, is a strategy employed by many endurance athletes to maximize the storage of glycogen in the muscles.

What is carbo-loading?
Since the 1920’s, scientific studies have revealed the performance-enhancing properties of carbohydrate, especially before and during exercise. It has been shown that a relatively high carbohydrate intake delays the onset of fatigue during endurance events. Carbo-loading is a strategy involving changes to training and nutrition that can maximize muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate) stores prior to endurance competition. The extra supply of carbohydrate has been demonstrated to improve endurance exercise by allowing athletes to exercise at their optimal pace for a longer time. Anyone exercising for 90 minutes or longer is likely to benefit from carbo-loading.

Carbo-loading guidelines:

  • Plan an exercise taper. Reduce your training load by 50 percent going into the last week before the event, and reduce it by another 50 percent over the last 3 days.
  • Three days before the event, consume 7-10g of carbohydrate per kg body weight. For a 50kg athlete this means consuming 400-500g carbohydrate per day and for a 70kg athlete 560-700g carbohydrate per day (use the list below).
  • Carbohydrate must form the bulk of all meals and snacks.
  • Have smaller servings of protein foods at meals, so that you can leave more room for larger serves of carbohydrate foods.
  • Sugar and sugary foods, including sports drinks, can provide a compact carbohydrate source.
  • Be extra careful with your fat intake – save the calories for carbohydrates. Don’t get tricked with high-fat foods such as chocolate, ice-cream, rich desserts, and takeaways. These foods are a rich source of fat rather than carbohydrate and should be avoided.
  • Be careful of getting carried away and don’t see this as an opportunity to ‘pig-out’.
  • Over the final 24 hours you may wish to reduce your gastric contents so that you race feeling ‘light’. To do this, switch to lower fibre foods and make use of compact sugar foods. You may even like to use a liquid meal supplements or energy drinks to supply some of your carbohydrate needs.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. You will need to be well-hydrated for a long event, especially in hot weather. It is a good idea to carry a water bottle around with you as a reminder.

List of foods containing 50g of carbohydrate:

  • 3 slices of bread
  • 10 crackers or 6 rice cakes
  • 2 cups cereal or cooked porridge
  • 3 weetbix
  • 1 cup cooked rice/pasta/mieliemeal/couscous/samp
  • 3 medium muffins
  • 2-3 cereal bars
  • 1 cup baked beans
  • 3 cups peas/butternut/corn
  • 3 medium potatoes/sweet potato or 1 cup mashed
  • 3 medium pieces of fruit
  • 3 tbsp raisins
  • 500ml fruit juice
  • 1L low-fat or skim milk
  • 375ml low-fat flavoured drinking yoghurt
  • 250ml fruit yoghurt
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 1 handful jelly babies
  • 10 marshmallows
  • 1-2 sports bars
  • 500ml meal replacement drink (e.g Nutren Activ, Ensure)
  • 800-1000ml sports drink
  • 500ml cola or soft drink

Example meal plan for 70kg athlete aiming to carbo-load

  • Breakfast: 3 cups cereal + 250ml low-fat milk
    1 medium banana
    250ml orange juice
  • Snack: 1 medium muffin + jam
    500ml sports drink
  • Lunch: 2 sandwiches (4 slices bread) + filling
    200ml low-fat drinking yoghurt
    340ml can soft drink
  • Snack: banana smoothie (low-fat milk, banana, and honey)
    1 cereal bar
  • Dinner: 2 cups pasta + 1 cup pasta sauce
    3 slices garlic bread
    2 glasses cordial
  • Snack: 1 fruit bun + jam
    500ml sports drink
    (3380kcal, 590g carbohydrate, 125g protein, 60g fat)