Running the Comrades Marathon is a formidable challenge, especially for international runners who must contend with jet lag. In this edition of the Ask Coach Parry podcast, 

Coach Lindsey Parry addresses a question from Klaus Geyer, who experienced severe jet lag during the 2014 Comrades Marathon. Despite extensive training, Klaus struggled due to the time zone change and lack of sleep, leading to a difficult race day. Here’s how jet lag can impact performance and strategies to mitigate its effects.

Klaus’ Experience

Klaus’ second Comrades Marathon was in 2014. He felt well-prepared with 900 km of training, including hill training and heat acclimation. However, due to business commitments, he arrived in South Africa very late, having endured a 15-hour transatlantic flight and a sleepless night. With only one night of reasonable sleep before the race, Klaus struggled with dehydration, exhaustion, and an overwhelming desire to sleep, leading him to drop out after 35 km.

Understanding Jet Lag and Its Impact

1. Sleep Disruption:

  • Challenge: Jet lag disrupts normal sleep patterns, making it hard to adjust to new time zones.
  • Impact: Lack of sleep leads to fatigue, difficulty in concentration, and reduced physical performance.

2. Gastrointestinal Disturbance:

  • Challenge: Time zone changes affect the body’s digestive system.
  • Impact: Difficulty in consuming and processing food and fluids, leading to dehydration and energy depletion.

Strategies to Minimize Jet Lag Effects

1. Adjust Arrival Time:

  • Optimal Window: Arrive at least 4-5 days before the race to allow the body to adjust to the new time zone.
  • Practical Approach: If arriving early is not possible, aim to arrive within 4 days to minimize disruption.

2. Improve In-Flight Sleep:

  • Use Mild Sedatives: Consider using a mild sedative to ensure adequate sleep during the flight, reducing the sleep deficit upon arrival.
  • Comfort Measures: Use earplugs, eye masks, and neck pillows to enhance sleep quality on the plane.

3. Pre-Travel Adjustment:

  • Shift Schedule Gradually: Move your sleep and meal times one hour earlier or later each day before departure, depending on the direction of travel.
  • Partial Adjustment: Even a shift of 3-4 hours can provide a significant advantage in adjusting to the new time zone.

4. Maintain Routine Before the Race:

  • Consistent Sleep: Ensure 8 hours of sleep each night in the days leading up to the race.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Follow a consistent eating and hydration schedule to align with race day needs.

5. During the Race:

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to signs of fatigue and dehydration. It’s crucial to recognize when to stop to avoid serious health issues.
  • Mental Preparation: Understand that jet lag can impact performance and mentally prepare for the challenges.

Klaus’ unfortunate experience highlights the profound impact of jet lag on race performance. By planning travel arrangements carefully, adjusting sleep schedules pre-travel, and ensuring proper rest, international runners can better manage the effects of jet lag. These strategies can help ensure a more successful and enjoyable race experience at the Comrades Marathon.

For more tips and tailored training programs, visit the Coach Parry Training Platform, where you can download free training plans and access expert advice to help you achieve your running goals.

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