Whether you are aiming for a 10-hour finish, seeking pacing strategies, dealing with injury concerns, adjusting your training program for a specific qualifier marathon, or contemplating a journey from a non-runner to completing Comrades in a year, it’s all possible!

In this article we will explore various scenarios, providing expert advice and recommendations to help you tailor your training program, set appropriate goals, and make steady progress towards conquering the ultimate human challenge of the Comrades Marathon.

Let’s dive in and discover the key aspects of Comrades Marathon training.

10-Hour Comrades Marathon: Which training program should you follow?

The gap between the Comrades Marathon Bill Rowan medal and the Comrades Marathon Bronze medal finish times is two hours. 

There are quite a few runners that fall in the middle of those two Comrades Marathon training programs and if you’re aiming for a 10-hour Comrades Marathon finish it is quite difficult to know how to adjust your Comrades Marathon training program accordingly.

We seldom tell people to slot in exactly the middle. 

But in this situation, we would tell you to split the times – just not quite down the middle.

I would make them a little quicker than what is on the Bronze program but not even halfway between the two.

It would be best to go 5 or 10 seconds faster for the easy runs, maybe even less for the harder runs.

So in summary I would follow the Bronze program but just make the paces a little bit quicker.

How to set the right Comrades Marathon goal for you

We got asked a question from Dorothy and she wanted to know what is the right Comrades Marathon goal for her. 

She says she is a 59-year-old lady living in Zimbabwe, she ran the Comrades Marathon in 2013 and finished outside the 12-hour cut-off. After that experience, she swore never again with the heat and the wind.

As in true Comrades Marathon style a friend asked her to run again and she was seriously thinking about it.

Dorothy wanted to know what the goals have to be to finish under 11 hours, which is what her Comrades Marathon goal was last time.

She has run Two Oceans once before and plans to do it next year as well, her time there was 5:54. She runs marathons between 3:57 and 4:30, and she does a lot of spinning classes and cross-training as well.

Dorothy runs about 300 km a month and would love to get a medal at the Comrades Marathon.

She says she would LOVE any guidance at all on what her Comrades Marathon goal should be.

To answer Dorothy’s question, she has all the basics in place. The groundwork is there and the marathon is quick enough. She is doing cross training, she’s completed Two Oceans in a reasonable time. So I suspect that there is maybe a little bit of goal setting, in terms of on Comrades race day, that needs to be sorted out.

I strongly suspect an appropriate Comrades Marathon pacing strategy would go a long way to helping her out.  But, if she has run under 4 hours for a marathon, and she is from Zimbabwe, then there should not be an issue around finishing Comrades in under 11 hours.

There could probably be a disconnect between her Comrades Marathon goal time and Comrades pacing strategy. 

She should not have any issues finishing Comrade once she follows the correct pacing strategy.

If you would like to dig into the mileage required to run a successful Comrades, then our Complete Comrades Marathon Mileage Guide will answer all those questions for you. It includes what the total Comrades mileage will be per medal from Gold right through to the Vic Clapham.

Adapting your Comrades program to avoid injury

Marika contacted us and said she is following the Comrades finishers’ program, but according to her running times. She puts it in air quotes saying she qualifies to run the bronze, so she’s fast enough in the time she runs. 

It puts her in the bronze sort of frame, but she feels that she is injury prone and she thought she’d rather take a slow conservative approach with the finishers program.

She sees that the program has got a marathon schedule for the end of this year which is great, but she wants to get the qualifier out of the way, but she sees the longest run before then is only a 2.5-hour run. 

She’s worried that she’s going to injure herself making that jump from 2.5 hours to 4.5 hopefully in the marathon. 

Our advice…

The Finishers Comrades Marathon program involves a lot of walking.

I think one of the mistakes a lot of people make when they’re building a program is that they don’t realize that your program is the sum of all of its parts. 

Even though in this case the longest run is a 2.5-hour run, if we add up all the training that’s been done along the way, and also that on the finishers program the idea really of that marathon is to get a marathon under the belt.

So it’s supposed to be a walk/run training marathon, whereas, in all the other programs, the main focus of those marathons is actually to qualify. Whereas on the finishers program, it should be seen as a little bit more of a bonus. Again, by consistently training between now and then, even though the longest run is 2.5 hours, your body will be ready to go a lot further than that, but you do need to run/walk.

Looking at her ability, I would recommend that she does follow the bronze program, but ignore the paces. 

So if she runs a little bit slower, or on the very slow end of the bronze, that should also help her to minimize her injury risk. Because if she runs on the finishers program, then she needs to run a little quicker, or she needs to run a lot quicker than the finishing pace recommended.

But she probably needs to even go a little quicker than the bronze recommended and that’s probably a bigger injury risk than following the appropriate program for her, but then just running a little bit slower.

Normally we get people asking us, I’m aiming for a finisher, so I think I’ll follow the silver program because if I can run the silver program, then I’m guaranteed a finish medal. 

Marika is doing it the other way around and I think it’s the first time we’ve ever had that.

Adjusting Your Comrades Training Program To Qualify At Kaapsehoop

Derrick says that he is currently deciding between the Bill Rowan Comrades training program and the Silver Comrades training program.  In the Comrades training program, the qualifying marathon would be run at the beginning of December.

Derrick asks if it is possible to alter the training program, he wants to run his Comrades Marathon qualifier the Kaapsehoop marathon at the beginning of November.

Derrick also wanted to know what the different training paces are for a Silver Comrades training program as opposed to the Bill Rowan Comrades training program.

Our answer: It is possible to modify the Comrades training program to pull the qualifier forward a little bit. Each person is slightly unique and it requires a slightly faster ramping up, but that’s not the end of the world – we’re talking about 3 weeks different, so yes move things forward.

For a detailed look at that, the best place to go is our Coach Parry Forum. then I can give you a quick one-on-one on how to adapt to those 3 weeks.

Looking at the training pace of the two Comrades training programs, I guess the major change in paces is that you would be looking at running probably on or just under 5 minutes per kilometer for silver, depending on how silver you are. Because you’re borderline, you’re probably looking at 4:50 – 5 minutes per kilometer.

On your Bill Rowan comrades training program, your long easy run should probably be closer to 5:15, even 5:30, per kilometer. The speed is based on your time trial, so for the silver, you want to be at a minimum of 32 minutes for 8km, which is 4 minutes per Kilometre. 

This means a lot of your speed work is going to be under 4 minutes per km, and your hill work is going to be quite close to 4 minutes per km.

On the Bill Rowan, you’re probably looking at being around about 4 minutes per km – maybe a little bit more for your speed work, and hill work around 4:15 per km.

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Find Out If You Are a Prime Bill Rowan Program Candidate

John asked us if it’s still possible to begin a Bill Rowan program…

He says he’s been following elements of it, but admittedly not to the T. 

I asked him to give some times more or less for 10, 21, and half marathons. He says he hasn’t raced a 10 this year, however, his PB for 10 is 40:48. He ran the Dischem at the beginning of January, and he ran a 1:39:24, which was comfortable after a 32 LSD the day before.

Then, Johnson Crane, he’s aiming for a 3:40 for a sub-C seeding. He’s got a marathon PB of 3:30:27. I also asked him from a mileage perspective what he’s looking at for December and January.

December he did 170, January 280, is he a prime candidate to get onto that Bill Rowan program, what should he be doing?

March and April are key to all Comrades programs…

He’s an ideal candidate for the Bill Rowan program. The fact that he had been following it, albeit not strictly, means he shouldn’t have too many problems following it now, pretty much to a T.

As I’m busy going around the country doing the road shows now and I keep pointing out to people that the most important thing is that you train well in March and April. 

What we’re doing now is preparing our bodies for March and April. It’s okay if we miss the odd run here and there in January and February.

I wouldn’t follow the Bill Rowan program from Monday, even though he’s not racing the marathon flat out. 

He’s not going to be going right to the point of needing full recovery. I would still just take a much easier week, next week, and then start following that Bill Rowan program from the following Monday and then he shouldn’t have any problems at all.

Can I Go From The Couch To Comrades In a Year?

What does it take to go from running very little now to running Comrades a year later?

A lot of people get fired up after Comrades, we get this question a lot every year after Comrades, what does it take for someone to go from whether they’re a couch potato now to running Comrades or maybe they’re running the odd Parkrun, or they’ve run the odd 10 k maybe the odd half marathon, what does it take to run Comrades in a year?

Look, if you have run a Parkrun you’re already at a considerable advantage. I think somebody who’s doing any kind of regular running between two and three sessions a week at this point, then I would say it’s as simple as downloading one of our Comrades programs and following it step by step and you have an extremely good chance of qualifying sort of January, February next year and completing the Comrades marathon. 

If you are a complete couch potato, you haven’t done any running at all up to now and perhaps it’s been years or if it’s been years you are still at the advantage so the person who’s starting from nothing has never been a runner. 

But you know, ever since being a kid has watched Comrades and thought I would love to do that.

A year is doable, but it can be tough. 

There will be some serious ups and downs and whether you will be successful in 12 months is largely dependent on if you do have some inherent running ability. 

So I would say for the vast majority of people, it’s a project that is viable, but you do need to be super sensible about it because you are at extremely high risk of picking up shin splints and ITB in particular, those are two probably the most common injuries that you will pick up. 

If that is you, then your best chance of making it, particularly in a year, is to make sure that you find yourself at the right place, getting advice from the right people, being on a program that has a very slow, steady, systematic build up over time, making sure that you start in the correct equipment.

Although many of the shoe places brands do run in-house training, you are much more likely to get a great service and be put into the correct pair of shoes, if you go to one of the specialty running stores you would go to buy a shoe. 

But there is still always that element of which shoes are giving the best commission or what often happens is that people just want to sell the most popular shoe because that’s what everyone’s buying and they do feel a little bit safer.

So if you’re unsure, if you do feel like you don’t know if this shoe is the right shoe for me, then I would also strongly advise that you go and see a healthcare professional that can at least put you in the right type of shoes. In other words, they start you off in the right direction because they tell you if you need a neutral, you need an anti-pronation shoe, need a stability show, and so on. 

But starting right, being the right equipment, looking after your feet. These are things that are critical to preventing injury and illness and allowing you just to very slowly but surely creeping closer to that goal.

12 months is a hell of a long time to focus on one specific thing. So you want Comrades there as the ultimate goal, it’s in the back of your mind, but if you’re coming off the couch, you know running a five-k Parkrun is an achievement. 

So focus on that, once you can do that you focus on doing a 10k, do a 10K you hit a 15, 15 to 21. Before you know it’s going to be February, you’re going to be capable of running a marathon and you’re already going to be like wow, I haven’t achieved my goal yet of running Comrades. But who would have thought I would have ever been able to finish a marathon? Yet there you will be and you would have done a marathon.

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