In June 1985 it was my good fortune to be overseas with Bruce Fordyce and Tim Noakes. We were the support team for the second Leppin South Africa London to Paris triathlon team and by luck Tim and I had the opportunity to run the Edinburgh Marathon the week before the triathlon.
Long story short that this impromptu effort saw me run a PB (personal best) 2:36 marathon and on the flight home from London Heathrow, both Tim and Bruce were proposing that I should focus on obtaining gold medal in Comrades for 1986.
By this time in my four year running career, I had already achieved a few 100 mile (161km) victories in 13 to 14-hour bracket, won the 1983 Star Mazda 1000km race, as well as earned the record from Johannesburg to Durban, and a few Gold medals in the canoe and swim Ultra triathlons together with a top 7 age group in Hawaii: so my mind was tuned into the serious ultra-events, whereas they pointed out that my marathon could deliver a top ten in Comrades.
The bottom line was that, in my heart and mind, I wanted to be regarded as the number one (or as close as I could be) long ultra-runner in South Africa and I rated that higher on MY priority list than a (if I was very lucky on the day) Gold in Comrades.
Tim and Bruce, quite correctly, were indicating my potential to achieve a 5:55 and hence perhaps make it into the golds on the up run in 1986. However, the truth was, that although I was, and am, a passionate Comrades supporter, have a double green (more than 20 finishes) and a 6:07 PB, the Comrades has never captured my imagination and desire the way 100km, 100 miles, 24 hours and ultras such as Western States, Spartathlon and International selection did.
Even if Bruce and Tim had personally guided and trained me for Comrades, the depth of desire and determination required to take me through the wall to success on race day would not have been present.
Only YOU can determine the worth, value and desire for a goal. No one can give it to you.
Knowing what you truly want to achieve is the very first step in evolving the Game Plan for your running. Now is the time to undertake that analysis:
The focus may, and arguably should, be a longer term goal achieved over say two, four, six or more years: Olympians, typically, take 8 years to achieve their desired level, which is not always a medal, but can, (based on their ability), be to make a final, or even just to be at the Olympics.
For many ordinary South Africans, the initial objective is to finish Comrades.
However, it is equally important not to sell yourself short. The reality is that most active people can achieve that level. Anyone who can run a 10km in 63 minutes and a marathon in 5 hours has the ‘potential’ of completing Comrades.
We also know that it is the speed over the shorter distance that determines your potential over Comrades or any other marathon or longer distance.
By example a 63 minute 10km gives you a Comrades finish, a 62 minute puts you in line for a 7 hour Two Oceans, a 55 minute equates to a 4 hour 20 minutes and a 10 hour 30 minute Comrades and a 46 minute can see you in amongst the Bill Rowan medals.
Silver is open to those with a 3 hour 6-minute marathon and a 39 minute 10km.
The question is simply how much, and how many years, do you need to improve your 10km and 5km race times?
Importantly this approach allows for improvement in stages (manageable bites) each year:
A couple of minutes off the 10km each year can see most “club” or average runners improve from being a non-contender to at least a sub-46 minute 10km runner, and/or, the owner of a Bill Rowan medal (or a Sainsbury sub 5 hour in Oceans).
This also determines for instance the objective for each race you enter in the ladder: For instance the Witness Medihelp Maritzburg City Marathon, powered by Clover and Khayelihle, can be a fast marathon and qualifier prior to a recovery and the specific training for a Comrades runner, or a long training run at predicted 56km race pace for those whose focus is on the Two Oceans Ultra:
Perhaps the Maritzburg 2017 objective is a 3 : 35 marathon for the runner wanting to prove his / her Bill Rowan potential for Comrades 2017, but in 2018 will be a 3:45 goal as pace preparation for a Sainsbury in the 2018 Oceans.
The important thing is to have clarity on how the race fits into your overall goal, why, and what that race objective is.
There is one other proviso on this Game Plan – and in South Africa in particular- it is an attribute that only a small percentage of runners have proven to own……
The ability to focus on their stated goal:
Having, or even stating, a goal is one thing:
Having the ability and discipline to keep the focus on the ladder to achieving that goal and not being distracted by events and sessions that detract, or add no benefit towards the goal, …. well that’s something else!!
Now is the time to set your goal, determine the overview, determine the events that are key to building to the goal, and then making a commitment to yourself that you will stick to the Game Plan, without wavering, to achieve the end objective —
Are you MAN (or woman) enough to do that with all the distractions around?
….. If you are then your chances of success, for each year, and for the series of years, are excellent!