Filippo’s Comrades Silver

Well it is very interesting to see all this interest in running a silver. Not only from aspirant silver medalists but also from previous silver medalists. I think this says 2 things about Comrades runners and running a silver Comrades.

  1. Even having run a silver before, there is alway an element of doubt which highlights how important confidence is when it comes to running, especially a distance we only run once a year.
  2. The number of good runners who know they have the ability to run silver, but have not been able to put things together on the day

I would like to spend a few words on this. Too many Comrades runner line up with unrealistic expectations. They draw their confidence from the fact that they can run a 10km in 35 minutes and then cannot understand why they walked the last 20km and blew their silver chances. Bruce Fordyce who should have had all the confidence in the world feared Comrades more than anyone. This was why he always ran a conservative race strategy, preferring to run his own race, knowing that while afraid of
the race, he was nevertheless confident in himself. As aspirant silver medalists, we must take our confidence in the small improvements and consistency and performance we show in our training. Personally I think it’s too early to think about finish times. Rather we should be looking at the small milestones that will allow us to reach our final objective. Only when we have 2 weeks to go can we let ourselves dream about finish times, based on a realistic and objective review of our fitness and preparation. For the moment we should be thinking how can we ensure we use the next 8 months to prepare ourselves with this single gold in

Training for Comrades is an investment. An investment in our fitness and our confidence. When I lived in Joburg I used to run the RAC time trial each Tuesday afternoon. It finishes up Garden road, a long slow climb that hurts, when you’ve pushed yourself. Garden road was my pain bank. Each time I ran it, I refused to let it beat me, knowing that the pain and determination were small deposits into my pain bank. An account I could draw upon during the hard moments of Comrades. We each need to find
a hill, a route, something that challenges us and forces us to draw upon our mental strength as much as our physical strength. There are 2 things that break a Comrades runner. The first is running too hard in the first half. The second is the pain and fatigue that grabs us with 20km to go and tempts us to accept a lesser outcome. The first we can overcome by better race planning and running strategy. The second is only overcome by facing this demon in training and conquering it many times before we
even meet it on Comrades. And trust me, you will meet it on Comrades.

Comrades is too far for us to gain experience quickly by running this distance multiple times in training, so it becomes all the more important for runners of similar ability to talk about their experiences from previous Comrades and shorter distances to ensure we reach our goal.

One thing is for sure, it takes many Comrades before we reach our peak. Even Fordyce only set his respective up and down records after having run many Comrades. I ran my 15th Comrades this year and I still believe I have a sub 7 in me. My first silver was only run on my 10th run.

Where is my training right now. I ran the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge (50km) last weekend and came second in 5:37. Not exactly fast, but then it was a mountain trail run, with 1,700m of altitude difference between the start at 1400m and the highest point at 3100m. I’m in good shape without taking things too seriously. This is too early to start specific Comrades training. For the rest of the year focus on building up consistency of training, without too much hard stuff. Race the odd 10km and half marathon and test you short distance speed. Aim to enter December in good shape and fitness, without tired legs. As soon as your legs feel tired or heavy, back away from the training. Use this time to do other things (I like to do a lot of trail running now, so that if I twist my
ankle I have plenty of time to recover), mountain bike, cycling, etc. If you live in the Southern hemisphere, use the spring as a time to become more active with the pressure and stress of a training program.

I’m planning to the Otter trail run this weekend (42km)
Foot of Africa marathon (2 weekends time)
Amatola (100km over 2 days) in October
Sani pass marathon (end Nov)

Then in December I will enjoy the summer holidays in South Africa with my eye on New Years day – the start of Comrades season.

The reason I like doing lots of trail and off-road running at this time of year, is because firstly I enjoy it, but more importantly it involves lots of very hilly running (up and down). This type of running strengthens the leg muscles for Comrades. One must appreciate that Comrades is unique in its profile. There are very few road races that have such an “aggressive”
profile. It is this profile that tests runners more than the distance. This is why preparation for Comrades is less about speed and more about muscle conditioning. Start thinking about this now. We will address it in more detail during the serious training months next year.

Most people cannot believe that a Silver Comrades is only 5 min/km. We don’t need speed for Comrades, we need muscle conditioning. Why do I do speed work then? Because running fast is one of the best ways to improve cardivascular fitness. It’s also about the pain bank. The faster I run the more comfortable my body feels running at 5 min/km at Comrades.

Enough for now…

Filippo Faralla


Posted: 17 September 2009 at 11:09am on the Comrades Forum


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