Final preparations for Comrades
Well done on putting in all the hard work and training up to this point. Now, don’t forget a very important part of your race preparation – to taper!
There is much advice from top runners on tapering and, fairly recently, more research on this important topic. In 1999, Banister and colleagues conducted a study to see whether it was better to reduce training during a 2 week taper either by a small stepped reduction in daily training volume, or by a rapid exponential reduction in volume. They found that the more rapidly training is reduced in the taper, the better the racing performance. The most effective taper was one in which training was reduced by 50% on the third day of the taper and by 75% on the 6th day, with a continuing reduction for the next 8 days.
It is suggested that the longer the race for which you have trained and the harder you have trained, the more tapering you should do and the less you should exercise during the last week. This is necessary to allow full recovery of the shock-absorbing capacity of the trained muscles. In longer races, inadequate recovery of the shock-absorbing function of the muscles will have a more marked effect on your performance. Possibly the brain must also be adequately rested to ensure that it can continue to recruit the muscles appropriately once the pain of the race becomes increasingly severe.
The scientific evidence confirms that tapering produces a dramatic improvement in performance. The effect is greatest if there is a rapid reduction in training volume in the first few days of the taper and if training during the taper is at high intensity, approximately 5km race pace for runners. There are many different tapering programs that you could follow. The advice from Prof Tim Noakes in the Lore of Running is to do as little training as your mind will allow, but do that little training at a fast pace.
Best of luck with your final race preparations and your race!
Contributer: Juli-Ann Riley, BSc Physiotherapy, Stellenbosch. Information from “Lore of Running” by Prof Tim Noakes