Races with challenging second halves, such as the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and Om Die Dam, require careful pacing strategies to ensure success. 

In this article, we’ll explore how to calculate your pacing for Ultra races with tougher second halves and provide tips for maintaining optimal performance throughout the course.

Understanding the Course Profile 

Before diving into pacing strategies, it’s essential to understand the course profile of the race you’re preparing for. Races like Two Oceans and Om Die Dam are known for their tough second halves, often featuring hills or challenging terrain that can impact your pace. Study the elevation profile and course map to identify where the toughest sections lie and plan your pacing accordingly.

Related: Comrades Marathon Down Run 2024: The Perfect Pacing Strategy

Embracing Negative Splits

While negative splits (running the second half of the race faster than the first) are often recommended for optimal performance, races with tougher second halves may require a different approach. 

In these cases, aiming for perfectly even splits or slightly positive splits can be more realistic and effective. Adjust your pace to account for the increased difficulty of the second half while still aiming to finish strong.

Conservative Start, Strong Finish

When tackling races with challenging second halves, it’s crucial to resist the temptation to go out too fast in the early stages. While the first half of the race may be easier, pushing too hard early on can lead to fatigue and a significant drop in performance later. Instead, start conservatively and focus on maintaining a steady effort level throughout the race. Save your energy for the tougher sections and aim to finish strong, even if your pace slows slightly.

Course-Specific Training

To prepare for races with tough second halves, incorporate specific training sessions that simulate the demands of the course. Include hill repeats, long runs on hilly terrain, and practice pacing strategies that align with the race profile. By familiarizing yourself with the challenges you’ll face on race day, you’ll be better equipped to adjust your pace and maintain optimal performance.

Mental Preparation

In addition to physical training, mental preparation is key for tackling races with tough second halves. Visualize yourself overcoming challenging sections of the course, and practice positive self-talk to stay motivated and focused when the going gets tough. Remember that every step forward, no matter how slow, brings you closer to the finish line.

Preparing Your Nutrition for an Ultra Marathon

As race day approaches, your nutrition becomes increasingly important for optimal performance. 

Let’s discuss what you should be eating in the week leading up to an ultra marathon to fuel your body effectively and ensure you’re ready for the challenge ahead.

Stick to Your Routine

The week before an ultra marathon is not the time to experiment with new foods or drastically change your diet. Stick to the foods that you’re accustomed to eating during training to avoid any potential digestive issues on race day. Keeping your diet consistent will help maintain your energy levels and ensure that you feel comfortable and prepared on the starting line.

Consider Carbohydrate Intake

While some athletes practice carb-loading in the days leading up to a race, it’s not always necessary for ultra marathons, especially if your mileage has already decreased in the taper period. 

Instead of focusing on loading up on pasta and potatoes, aim to include a slightly higher proportion of carbohydrates in your meals. This can help replenish glycogen stores and provide sustained energy during the race without overloading your digestive system.

Hydrate Adequately

In addition to watching your food intake, it’s essential to stay well-hydrated in the week before the race. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day and consider including electrolyte-rich beverages to help maintain proper hydration levels. Pay attention to your urine colour; it should be pale yellow, indicating adequate hydration.

Prioritize Nutrient-Dense Foods

Incorporate plenty of nutrient-dense foods into your meals to support your overall health and performance. Focus on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats to ensure you’re getting all the essential nutrients your body needs. Avoid excessive amounts of processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-fat meals, which can weigh you down and make you feel sluggish.

Listen to Your Body

Finally, listen to your body and adjust your nutrition based on how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling unusually hungry or fatigued, it may be a sign that you need to eat more or adjust your nutrient intake. Trust your instincts and make adjustments as needed to ensure you’re adequately fueling your body for the demands of the race.

The week before an ultra marathon is a critical time to fine-tune your nutrition and ensure you’re properly fueled for the challenge ahead.

Related: When should you run on tired legs and when should you rest?

Mastering the Taper For Ultra Marathons

Tapering is a crucial aspect of any endurance runner’s preparation, allowing the body to recover and peak performance on race day. Whether you’re treating Two Oceans as a key race or using it as a training run for Comrades, getting your taper spot on is essential for success.

Tapering Strategies for Two Oceans

If Two Oceans is your main focus, a traditional tapering approach is recommended. This involves gradually reducing your mileage over the course of three weeks leading up to the race. 

Start by cutting back on your long runs three weeks out, then gradually reduce your weekday mileage as race day approaches. The final week should consist of minimal running to ensure you’re fresh and ready to tackle the race.

Tapering for Comrades

For Comrades athletes using Two Oceans as a training run, tapering becomes a balancing act. While you don’t want to compromise your Comrades training, it’s still essential to arrive at Two Oceans feeling good and ready to perform. Consider tapering the last three days leading up to the race, with a focus on reducing overall mileage while maintaining intensity. Adjust your weekly mileage to align with your peak training weeks for Comrades to ensure consistency in your training plan.

Related: Mastering the Perfect Taper for the Comrades Marathon

Finding the Right Balance

If Two Oceans falls within your peak training weeks for Comrades, a week-long taper may be sufficient. This involves reducing mileage and focusing on recovery in the final week leading up to the race. After Two Oceans, take a week off to rest and recover before gradually easing back into Comrades training.

Tapering is a critical component of preparing for ultra marathons like Two Oceans and Comrades. Whether you’re aiming for a podium finish or using the race as part of your training plan, getting your taper right can make all the difference on race day.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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