Unbelievable, the Comrades Marathon is almost here. Three months away from the world’s most popular ultra-marathon seems more like 3 weeks, you know how time flies. It seems like last week we were celebrating New Years and now almost mid-March. And if you’ve been preparing for Two Oceans, that’s almost upon us as well. Don’t panic everything falls into place.
The buzz word at the moment though is ‘Comrades’. While taking care of athletes during this Olympic cycle, I am being messaged by runners back home in SA seeking advice as usual during this time of year. I can sense the anxiety and nervy excitement and emotions in their messages. I have also noticed there are already plenty of talks being scheduled, webinars, social media posts and online Q&As which used to happen much closer to race day and runners are starting to vibe, the pressure and the anxiety.
The purpose of this article is to ensure that after the next 3 months, you arrive at the start line injury free and in shape to crack a potential PB. Let me look at a couple of different scenarios.
Those with injuries
Let’s start with those recovering from an injury or those who have just picked up an injury.
Do you have sufficient time to recover and prepare or should you forfeit your Comrades entry? Fortunately if you fall into this bracket you do have time depending on the severity of your injury. If you have incurred a bone injury eg. rtress fracture, periosteal bruising or ligament injury affecting the articulating bones of a joint, you can recover fully in 10-14 days, provided you consult your physio and continue with active rest. Active rest is performing safe exercises and rehab to heal and maintain fitness. This includes non-weight bearing strengthening, swimming, cycling and physio. By correcting the factors that could have caused the injury, you will get to Comrades with little effect on your preparation.
If you are diagnosed with a tendon injury eg. tendonitis, tenosynovitis or tendonosis, active rest and physiotherapy is required. The treatment goal is to get as much arterial blood as possible to the site of the injury to promote quick healing. Oxygen therapy can help to an extent – research suggests that it can have a 33% effect on the rate of healing. Prescribed loading of the tendon will determine your return to training as these injuries can take anything from 1 week to 6 weeks for full recovery, maybe longer if not treated correctly. Common muscle injuries include tears and strains, where a grading classification describes the severity. You would have heard people mentioning grade 1, 2 or 3 strain or tear forming part of a runner’s jargon. Grade 1 is minimal damage and grade 3 is severe. Unfortunately, muscles require complete rest here. The amount of rest is determined by how severe the muscle injury is.
With appropriate, with physio you can recover in 10 days from a strain. If it is an upper body muscle strain, you can do running or treading in the pool, cycling or lower body strength training. And if it is lower body muscle injury, you can do swimming – use a pool buoy between your legs, pulling with your arms through the water. Krank and rowing is useful for cardio and maintain upper body strengthening as advised by your physio. It is also important to get maintenance sessions to prevent such injuries. Recovery from all the mileage and intensity is just as important.
Those who have not yet qualified
The next group are those that have not qualified yet. It is not ideal to not have qualified by the end of February. Runners in this group can risk injury by pushing beyond capabilities to get within that qualifying mark. This can also lead to severe fatigue resulting in you taking longer to recover which will affect your preparations. These little details can influence whether you are within the halfway cut off during the Comrades itself and even if you’ll finish the race accordingly. If you are still chasing a qualifying time, choose a flat course towards the end of March/beginning of April latest when the temperatures drop. Reduce your strength and speed training, as you don’t need to be explosive. Maintain your mileage. The more anaerobically fit you are, the better your chances of doing a comfortable qualifying time – but do not push yourself to the limit on this race.
Those who have qualified
Those fortunate enough to have qualified for Comrades are at an advantage to demolish your PB if you are clever with your ‘final preparations.’ From a nutrition perspective, you can try different race food regimes during your runs. Do this for a period of 2 weeks. By then you should experience what is best for your tummy to handle while running. During this period, I suggest using 2 weeks for hill training and 2 weeks for speed training, while doing at least 1 long run and a moderate tempo 12km run. You will then be left with +/- 7 weeks where you cand use 4 or 5 weeks to maintain mileage and drop the intensity of hill and speed training as you guide your body’s well-being to Comrades. In the final 2 weeks, you should have a sufficient taper and can start planning your travels to KZN. In this initial 2 + 2 weeks (which should be happening now in March), include your strength training in your speed weeks and core sessions in your hill weeks.
Some tips for your training
- Practice your race routine during your long runs
- Strength training does not mean heavy weights/heavy lifting
- Focus on your posture
- When packing your “run route nutrition’ in your waist belt or run belt, observe what is a comfortable weight as it is added weight on your body.
- Taste your sweat. This is an indicator of how much salt you should put in your recovery meals
- Plan your runs for different times of the day to prepare your body for morning, midday and afternoon temperatures on race day.
- Maintain good immunity. Have an equivalent to Kuaia’s flu shot (mixture of ginger, garlic, lemon, honey, turmeric and green tea in hot water) every day and drink lemon infused water through the day
- Make time for recovery i.e ice baths, massage, salt baths, etc.
- Rest days mean complete rest
Enjoy the process of getting to the start line. You’re making plenty of good memories and gaining knowledge through your own experience during this phase which will enhance your goals for next season, making you a wiser and better runner. Feed off each other’s energy if running in a group or, if you’re a solo runner, create your own vibe which other runners on the road could feed off. Wishing you safe and injury free training during this next phase.
Sumeshen is a qualified physiotherapist in Durban who has worked with numerous international sports teams and athletes. He is passionate about running and has a special interest in human movement and biomechanics to optimise athletic/sport performance. Find out more about Sumeshen here