For many runners, the Comrades Marathon represents the pinnacle of ultra-distance running challenges. 

With its gruelling up and down routes, it demands not only physical endurance but also a strategic approach to training and racing.

If you’ve found that your times for shorter races, like 10km or marathons, don’t translate to your desired Comrades performance, it’s essential to examine and refine your training and race strategies.

This article aims to provide comprehensive guidance on improving your Comrades Marathon time, particularly if you’re aiming for a Bill Rowan medal (sub-9 hours).

We’ll also explore the impact of participating in significant preparatory races and how to balance them effectively.

Understanding the Disconnect

If your personal bests for 10km (38 minutes), half marathons (85 minutes), and marathons (3:11) are not translating to a strong Comrades Marathon performance, the issue likely lies in your approach rather than your capability.

Here are the primary factors to consider:

  1. Race Planning and Pacing
  2. Training Volume and Intensity
  3. Pre-Race Fatigue

Race Planning and Pacing

One of the most common mistakes in ultra-distance events is starting too fast. The Comrades Marathon, with its considerable distance and challenging terrain, requires a conservative approach in the first half. 

Overestimating your pace early on can lead to severe fatigue, causing you to lose significant time in the latter stages of the race.

Tips for Effective Race Pacing:

  • Adopt a Negative Split Strategy: Aim to run the second half of the race faster than the first. This approach helps conserve energy and maintain a steady pace throughout.
  • Use a Pacing Chart: Plan your splits according to the course profile and stick to them religiously.
  • Stay Disciplined: It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement at the start. Remind yourself to stick to your planned pace, especially in the initial kilometres.

Training Volume and Intensity

Your training regimen plays a crucial role in determining your race day performance. While participating in significant preparatory races can be beneficial, it’s essential to manage the intensity and recovery effectively.

Strategies for Effective Training:

Pre-Race Fatigue

Lining up for the Comrades Marathon already fatigued is a common issue that can severely hamper your performance. This fatigue often stems from participating in significant races too close to the main event without sufficient recovery.

Managing Pre-Race Events:

  • Approach Big Races Cautiously: Participating in events like the Cosmos 3-in-1 (10km, 21km, and 42km in one day) and the Loskop Ultra Marathon (50km) can be beneficial but must be approached with caution. Treat these events as training runs rather than races.
  • Run Easy in Big Events: During these preparatory races, maintain a slow and steady pace. The goal is to accumulate time on your feet rather than to achieve a personal best.
  • Allow for Adequate Recovery: Ensure there’s ample time between your preparatory races and the Comrades Marathon. A gap of 6 weeks is typically sufficient, but monitor your body’s response and adjust as necessary.

Improving your Comrades Marathon time requires a strategic approach to both training and racing. 

Ensure that your preparatory races serve as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks. By managing your pace, avoiding pre-race fatigue, and structuring your training effectively, you can align your shorter race performances with your Comrades Marathon goals.Remember, the journey to a successful Comrades Marathon is as much about smart planning and execution as it is about physical endurance. Focus on maintaining a balanced approach, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your best performance yet.


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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