THE Witness Maritzburg City Marathon 2019 is the next feature on many runners’ horizon. There are many paths to KZN’s most popular marathon weekend, and which one you choose — and why — can set you up for success or failure for the remainder of the running season. Not everyone runs this marathon for the same reason. • It could be your first ever marathon and you want to take it easy as you feel your way into new distance.• Perhaps it’s the essential Two Oceans qualifier (sub 5 hour) or the new tighter qualification of Comrades at 4 hours 50 minutes. • The Witness Marathon is one of the easier two lap courses, an opportunity for a well-supported attempt on a personal best (PB). • Perhaps it’s your planned long run simply for the social and company towards the 50th Two Oceans Marathon. • One of the shorter distances may be the first step in moving from the more social or health running of 2018 into the world of competitive running. • Perhaps you are looking at the 21 km or 10 km to test your improvement in pace, leg-speed, and strength after training the past few months. After all, the faster you are over the shorter distances, the faster your potential will be over longer distances later in the year.These and many other reasons are the inspiration and motivation for the 7 000 runners who will line up for The Witness Maritzburg Marathon on Sunday, February 24. Each reason is valid and justified, providing you know why, and prepare with this aim in mind. The next six weeks are some of the most critical in the training towards race day. The next three to four weeks should be peak weeks if you aim for a PB or fast time. This would then be followed by two to three weeks of taper down to the race day. This allows the recovery from the accumulated damage and exertion of the peak training. The basic rule is the higher and longer the peak, the longer the recovery needs to be. It is for this reason that each runner must know exactly what they are trying to achieve on marathon day. If it’s doing your best possible then one should have built up to around 10 - 12 hours of training per week for the next three weeks, then taper down to virtually a week of 15 - 20 km total for the Monday to Friday, a short 20 minutes and three - four strides on the Saturday and then a full-out, well-paced race effort on the Sunday.If the marathon is part of the build-up to Oceans or Comrades, then the next six weeks could continue a focus on getting faster over short distances. Do three quality sessions of hills and intervals per week until the final 10 days, which would be less distance and quality to provide a small, short taper, perhaps at 90% of your current weekly total. Then on race day you would run the marathon at a pace that was around 30 seconds per km slower than your best marathon pace. This means a finish time about 20 - 30 minutes slower than your current best time. Sticking to this pace will have massive benefits on your endurance and will prove to be around your best racing Oceans / Comrades pace. This means it has direct relevance to the longer term goal. If you are targeting a qualifier you can find yourself in between the above scenarios. There is no point in racing your best ever marathon in a qualifier for a number of reasons.• Qualifications and seeding are done in 20 minute blocks, which means it is far more logical to run the slowest (easiest) marathon you can to get into your relevant seeding pen. • Runners at the start of Oceans and Comrades go off too fast, so being at the very back of your block, or even the block behind, is often an advantage. What you do in the next six weeks can determine your outcome for the next six months, hence:• Know what you want to achieve • Fit your approach logically into the long term goals and plan the next six weeks around that goal,• Don’t undertake peak weekly distance unless your target is to do a personal best.• On race day, have a pacing strategy that reflects your chosen approach.