December marks three months to the Witness Medihelp Maritzburg City Marathon, powered by Clover and Khayelihle on 26 February, 2017, and also the time to determine what your strategy is going to be for your 2017 goals.
Depending on what your overall objective is for 2017, you would choose to enter a specific distance in the Maritzburg City Marathon.
For instance, if your goal is to race a time in the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, then it will be a late qualifying race (these close on 5th March) which means the half marathon is a good option to focus on the mix of speed and endurance. This works well for those targeting Comrades, but using Two Oceans, (or Om Die Dam on March 18), as a qualifier for the 90km. In such a situation, the 21km can be a good hard effort in the build to the 50-56km and that run at your predicted Comrades pace, makes a good endurance enhancer for Sunday 4 June and Comrades.
Perhaps you are relatively new to running, young, and or still to move up to ultras and have one of the very prestigious Old Mutual Two Oceans half marathon entries. In that case your preference for Maritzburg City Marathon day will probably be the relatively fast 10km distance, to improve your speed.
The 10km is rarely a poor choice at any stage of a buildup to another peak event, as your ability over the short distance is a direct indicator of your potential and / or progress in training for a longer event.
Once you know the longer-term objective it is easy to determine which distance to enter for 26 February and keep in mind this is one of the easier marathons in the province in the early months of the year.
Entries are already open but will be closed at a cap of 5000 so there is a need to determine some decisions in December.
Of course, the Witness Medihelp Maritzburg City Marathon, powered by Clover and Khayelihle, has been the most popular Comrades qualifier for many years, and this is not surprising as it is ideally placed at the end of February, which allows for a solid attempt at a good seeding time to be followed by two to three weeks of easy recovery before commencing the specific Comrades training from mid-March to June.
Another reason to choose this event is that the organizers allow you to drop from the 42km double lapper to the single lap 21km on race day. Although you cannot count for any prize award in the half marathon if you take this downgrade, it does give you the option to appraise your training in the month and weeks before the race then decide what distance to do on the day.
If you do determine conditions or your fitness is not ideal for the marathon on race day you do not need to fret as there are many other events to get a qualifying time before the early May submission date. This alone makes the Maritzburg City Marathon an excellent option particularly for the novices.
The route commences next to the new stadium in Alexandra Park and gradually climbs up towards Oribi conservation area before rolling down past the airport to Golden Horse and the race course, which is the new finish for the 2017 Comrades, then down to the Duzi river, up into the City of choice, around the City Hall, (the start for the Down Run Comrades), and gradually up through the city before re-crossing the Duzi and back up to the stadium. This lap is repeated for the marathon.
It is a course of varying gradients and is about 4 minutes more difficult for a 3-hour runner, 9 minutes slower for a 4 hours’ runner, and 15 minutes slower for those whose goal is 5 hours.
That may seem a lot but it’s all about the pacing and the Old Mutual and Maritzburg City Marathon virtual coach will be producing pacing charts for the race which take into account the hills and drops along the course for the 42km, 21km and the relatively fast 10km.
In theory runners who scrape in with a 4:59 qualifier on a flat course would just fail to make a Comrades 12 hour cut off by three minutes and in Two Oceans they would miss the 7-hour gun by 5 minutes. However, a 5 hour in the Maritzburg City Marathon is an indication that the runner can achieve a 6 hour 45 minutes in Oceans 56km and 11 hours 30 minutes in Comrades.
For those seeking seeding or qualifying times, the Maritzburg City Marathon offers “Mat to Mat” times to show your “real” race time.
If you are out of the province there are additional reasons to include the Maritzburg marathon in your build up. This is the ideal opportunity to combine the race with a drive over the Comrades route, the end 6km of which has changed for 2017.
Arriving for the weekend provides time to run 5-8km easy on the route as a leg loosener on the Saturday, and those flying in can delay their route drive to post race on Sunday on their way back to King Shaka.
It’s also a good time, particularly novices, to look at the location of the expo, book hotels and even restaurant in Durban for the night before Comrades.
The point is preparing for your major race such as Comrades is far more than simply entering and then leaving everything to spur of the moment – December is the ideal month to plan the whole build up, and with races closing entries so many months in advance now a days, start your planning – Get your entry in for Maritzburg and book your room for the night before at least….. be determined to make your December decisions and you will have peace of mind over the festive break, entering 2017 with a clear objective on the ladder to 2017 success.