Hang on. Before you dive in. I know how to run. If I didn’t at this point it would be problematic to say the least.
I’m talking race tactics and as yet, I haven’t quite pegged them down.
Attending a talk by the learned Norrie Williamson, a well respected runner and coach in the South African running community, his view (developed through a detailed analysis of many years of Comrades data), that 90% of the field approach the run incorrectly on the day, still stays with me.
This ‘incorrect’ method involves running too fast (at standard marathon pace) to the halfway point, and working on the premise that a doubling of the time taken to get there, plus an additional 2 hours will yield their finishing time. What it misses completely is the level of fatigue caused by running the first half at marathon pace, and so that 2 additional hours often becomes 3 as runners are forced to walk considerably more than they’d ever thought they’d need to.
Based on Norrie’s advice and focused solely on surviving my first excursion, I think the way I ran my first Comrades was pretty sound. Holding myself back intentionally on the first half, I managed an almost perfect even split, despite having to walk on and off for a good 10-15km at the end for a 9.23.
So what to do for this year’s Bill Rowan? Well based on Norrie’s advice, holding oneself back well beyond what one would naturally think normal seems imperative. But how much? That’s the tricky bit.
The useful pace calculator at http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/4/4_1/96.shtml has the required pace for a Bill Rowan (I’ve made the desired finish time 08hr50min to give myself a 10-minute buffer) at 6.05min / km.
So working backwards, let’s say I tried to average 6.15min/km till halfway. That would get me to Drummond in 4hr32mins, leaving me precisely 4hr28mins to tackle the remaining 43.5 kilometres. That’s a marginal negative split. Running at 6min/km dead, would get me to halfway in 4.20, leaving me a 4.40 for the second half.
The differences aren’t big when you’re playing with 10-15 seconds / km. But running them through a calculator like that above and running through some difference scenarios is probably a good idea so that you can change plans if need be on the day.
I’m certain anyone whose run Comrades will know how difficult rudimentary calculations become after the 50-60km mark.
I plan to program in my target time on my Garmin Fenix (see video below), and let the clever tech monitor the metrics for me, knowing that I’ve run through a few scenarios before.
Having checked Norrie’s website for the URL above, I caught a great recent blog post (http://www.coachnorrie.co.za/2019/05/17/the-first-vital-step-to-your-comrades-goal-9-june-2019/) about how to approach this year’s up-run, that comes with a very worthy cautionary tale. The historic first up run in 1922 only started at tollgate. WHY you may ask? Because Vic Clapham believed the climb from the city to that point to be too steep.
Do NOT, warns Norrie, get swept up in emotion and run the measly 3.9 kilometres from the start line to Toll gate too fast, or you could pay the price. He has a great table at the bottom of the article with suggested paces for that 4km stretch. For a 9-hour Comrades, that means a pace of 6min51 / km. A LOT slower than one would think.
So do a bit of planning, be a little cautious, and good luck.