Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 164 December 2023 | Page 89


Ready to Step it Up ? By Ray Orchison

When you open your eyes on 1 January , you ’ ll be thinking about your running goals in the coming months . Here are some tips to get back into the swing of things .

Not all of us commit to New Year ’ s resolutions , but come January and many of us find a renewed motivation to run that PB , aim for higher weekly mileage , lose weight or smash that target race , but is this the best approach ? We need to ask ourselves what should I be doing in January , how much should I be doing , and when and how do I go about increasing my mileage ?

These questions are all dependent on what your main goal or race for the year is , and regardless of what that goal is . And of course , I hope that your December consisted of more than just over-indulgence of food and drink , and that you managed to at least still get a few days of training in per week .
Running the Ultras ?
When it comes to Comrades , many of us start increasing mileage far too early , sometimes as early as January or February , and by the time race day rolls around in June , we ’ re tired , sick or injured . If Comrades is your goal , then you should be looking to qualify around mid-February to early March , and ideally , you would need the minimum amount of mileage in order to qualify in the slowest time possible within your target batch , so that you leave plenty in the tank for Comrades itself . Apart from a few long runs to ensure you can comfortably complete your qualifier , your focus should be on getting faster . This will enable you to cover more distance in the same amount of time when you start your major build-up phase in mid- March .
The Two Oceans Ultra is a slightly different matter . You have 15 weeks from the beginning of January till the race , so that ’ s a solid 12 weeks of training before the start of a three-week taper , and this means you still have enough time to prepare , even if you haven ’ t trained solidly through December . However , if you did nothing in December , then you ’ re a bit behind the proverbial curve , and may need to think more about just aiming for a comfortable finish at Oceans instead of chasing a fast time , as you first need to get your base back in place , and then focus on speed work in the last few weeks . week , with a recovery week every third or fourth week . You can easily adapt this thinking for a 10km or 15km goal race , and don ’ t forget to work on your 5km speed as well , because that ’ s the foundation of going faster at longer distances .
Be careful not to get caught up with doing too much mileage too early on . Our bodies and minds can really only sustain long hard weeks for around six weeks before we start paying the price . Nevertheless , January is the ideal time to get motivated , because the New Year offers a clean sheet with new possibilities . Think of the New Year as a clean canvas , ready for you to apply the brushstrokes of paint and build up the picture that will become your running year . It ’ s time to create your masterpiece for 2024 .
Ray Orchison is a South African-born running coach and therapist . He has completed the Comrades Marathon multiple times and also boasts personal bests of 33:55 for 10km and 2:48:00 for the marathon . He has completed USATF and NAASFP coaching courses , and provides personalised training programmes to his clients . Now based in Perth , Australia , you can find him at https :// runetics . com . au .
Images : Pexels
Build It Up
Of course , you may have other goals , such as a 21km PB . As a general rule , you want to build up to 85 % of the race distance three weeks before the event . In the case of a 21km , that would mean an 18km long run three weeks before . When building your weekly mileage , increase by no more than 10 to 15 % each