‘Witness’ Maritzburg City Marathon tips

2014-12-13 00:00

THIS weekend signals the start of the festive period and summer holidays for most South Africans.

It’s a time of mixed fortune for runners who potentially have more time to train, but on the other hand are often away from home without the support of their training group, on foreign soil in winter conditions or perhaps are in the wild without ready access to roads.

Family pressure may put your running on hold over the holidays. Then there is the attraction of turkey, ham and brandy-drenched fruit cakes. The holidays require a strategy to maintain, let alone improve you fitness.

First the good news — summer is a logical period to focus on speed and power. Improving your “engine capacity” from 1 100 cc to a V8 powerhouse will ensure you improve your performance over the five and 10 kilometre distance, which we know means improvement for any longer distance.

By focusing on quality and not quantity of training, you can keep the majority of your sessions to under an hour.

Warming up with 15 minutes of easy running, then doing five 90 second up hill at your best five kilometre race pace will see you through for around five days. Finish with a 10 minute cool down. This session would require only 45 minutes away from family action.

Most venues around South Africa have a local rugby or soccer field. This is a ready-made training venue.

Commence with six to eight easy running laps of the field to warm up. Then, using your best 1 500 m race pace, run the long side of the field, including any in goal area. Now take the same number of seconds to run the width of the field as it took you to run the length.

Don’t stop. Keep moving, alternating the long side (fast) with the short side at a slower pace. Continue for five full laps before taking a one-minute recovery. Then repeat another five laps. Finish with a five to 10 minute easy cool down.

You can also seek out that treadmill and gym. Warm up with 10 to 15 minutes, gradually increasing effort on a cycle, rowing, cross-training or elliptical machine, and then move to the treadmill. Set the speed to your best 1 500 m race pace and the incline to one percent. Now get on the belt and run for 35 seconds. Place your hands on the side arms and gradually lift yourself off the belt for 20 to 25 seconds recovery before again gradually using the sidebars to lower yourself back onto the belt for the next 35 second effort.

Repeat this 20 times (i.e. 20 minutes) and then cool down again on one of the other machines, or simply walking and bodyweight exercise.

These three sessions are only a very small sample of the vast number of fun and innovative sessions that you can find in virtually any holiday environment. Use your imagination no matter where you are — running up sand dunes was one of the most favoured (and hardest) training sessions in the peak of Australian and British middle-distance peaks.

The Drakensberg and mountain ranges lend themselves to hill circuits where efforts can be switched to powering uphill and cruising the downs, or easing the ups and extending the stride, cadence and agility on the leg-blurring downhill.

Even the greatest concrete jungle has options on stair-climbing sessions up your nearest skyscraper or hotel fire escape.

If you have never tried ElliptiGo bike, then use the holiday experience in Durban to hire from the skate park area and explore Durban’s 15 km of promenade, while developing your running style and maintaining your fitness.

So don’t let the festive period steal your fitness. One of these short high quality sessions per five days will keep your fitness level. Invest in three of these a week and one “longer” 90 minute to two hour training run will boost your short distance times.

Weekend tip


Five hour marathon:

20-30 minute easy with 2-3 x 60-80 m run through with walk back recovery.

Novice marathon:

15-20 minutes alternating 3 minute running at easy pace with 2 minute walking just to loosen legs.

Novice half marathon:

20-30 minutes with 2-3 run through of 60-80 metres with walk back recovery.


Five hour marathon:

10 km race — walk 45 second at tables. Aim to make each 3 km faster than previous or do the Park Run near you.

Novice marathon:

15 km race — put walks in every 2 km, mark for 90 seconds to 2 minutes until 10 km, then run as you feel to finish.

Novice half marathon:

10 km race or Parkrun near you (if on Saturday omit Thursday and do 50-60 minute easy on Sunday instead).

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