Running the Comrades Marathon, an iconic 90-kilometer ultra-marathon, requires dedication, proper training, and strategic pacing. Most runners need to maintain an average pace of about 8 minutes per kilometer to finish within the 12-hour cutoff. 

Key factors for success include following a structured training program, building up mileage gradually to avoid injuries, and maintaining a steady pace on race day. Mental resilience is equally important, as the marathon demands both physical and psychological endurance. With the right preparation and mindset, almost anyone can conquer the Comrades Marathon and experience the immense satisfaction of completing this challenging race.

The Challenge of the Comrades Marathon

The Comrades Marathon covers approximately 90 kilometres, with runners having a maximum of 12 hours to complete the race. While this might seem daunting, almost anyone can run the Comrades Marathon with the right preparation and mindset. 

We emphasize that the average pace required to finish within the cutoff time is about 8 minutes per kilometre. If you can comfortably run at a pace of 7 to 7:30 minutes per kilometre during training, you are likely capable of completing the marathon.

Understanding Pacing for the Comrades Marathon

Pacing is crucial for the Comrades Marathon. For the up run, which includes significant elevation gain, you need to average about 8:16 minutes per kilometer. However, considering the time lost at the start due to the crowded conditions, you should aim for an average pace of about 8:05 to 8:10 minutes per kilometer.

For the down run, which is generally faster due to the descent, you need to average closer to 8 minutes per kilometer. Accounting for the start delay in Pietermaritzburg, a realistic target pace would be between 7:48 and 7:54 minutes per kilometer.

Mental and Physical Preparation

We believe that with the right motivation, almost anyone can run the Comrades Marathon. Using the analogy of a parent running to save their child highlights the incredible capacity for endurance that people have when truly motivated. This mental resilience, combined with structured training, is key to completing the race.

Four Key Factors for Comrades Marathon Success

  1. Sensible Training Approach: Following a structured training program is essential. This program should outline the correct paces for different training runs and gradually increase in intensity and distance to avoid injury. Overtraining or training at incorrect intensities can lead to burnout or injury, derailing your marathon plans.
  2. Building Slowly to Avoid Injury: Gradual buildup in training volume and intensity helps prevent injuries. Rushing into high mileage or intense workouts without proper conditioning can lead to overuse injuries, which are common among marathon runners.
  3. Appropriate Race Day Pacing: Setting out at the right pace on race day is vital. Many runners make the mistake of starting too fast in an attempt to bank time, but this often leads to exhaustion later in the race. Maintaining a steady, appropriate pace throughout the marathon increases your chances of finishing within the cutoff time.
  4. Structured Training Programs: Utilizing a comprehensive training program that includes detailed descriptions of exercises, the number of repetitions, and short videos demonstrating proper techniques can significantly enhance your training. Strength training, even if done once a week at home without expensive gym equipment, can improve your running efficiency and help you avoid hitting the wall during the marathon.

Avoiding Common Training Mistakes

Excitement and enthusiasm often lead runners to overtrain or train at incorrect intensities. Sticking to a structured training program helps prevent these common mistakes. It’s important to follow the program’s prescribed paces and gradually build up your mileage and intensity. This approach not only prepares your body for the demands of the marathon but also reduces the risk of injury.

Race Day Strategy

On the day of the Comrades Marathon, it’s crucial to set realistic goals and pace yourself appropriately. Starting too fast to bank time is a common strategy that often leads to disaster. Instead, aim for a steady pace that you can maintain throughout the race. Proper pacing ensures you have enough energy to complete the marathon and reduces the likelihood of fatigue and exhaustion in the later stages.Running the Comrades Marathon is a monumental challenge, but with the right preparation, almost anyone can achieve it. Following a structured training program, building up gradually to avoid injuries, and maintaining appropriate pacing on race day are critical components of success. By adhering to these principles and preparing both mentally and physically, you can conquer the Comrades Marathon and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing this iconic race.


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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