How to survive Soweto Marathon's gruelling second half

Thulani Mbele Running Matters
How to survive Soweto Marathon's gruelling second half.
How to survive Soweto Marathon's gruelling second half.
Image: Halden Krog

The second half of any marathon is always challenging, whether the route is flat or hilly, you have run 21km and have stressed your body for more than an hour.

The second half of the Soweto Marathon is the toughest 21km you will run in a marathon this side of the equator.

Do not be carried away as you get pumped up while feeding on the energy from the crowd. You need to hold back and conserve your energy.

While most marathons are two laps of 21km, The People's Race is a single but challenging 42km lap, where every kilometre is new territory, you do not have the luxury of knowing the next kilometre and preparing for it.

While you have been going down in the first half in terms of altitude, in the second half you start climbing again. The one thing that adds to the challenging second half of the race is the blistering sun. Temperatures can soar above 25 degrees celsius as early as 9am.

Nothing is as challenging as running a tough route in scorching temperatures.

In the next coming weeks as you prepare for the race, maybe you should consider starting your weekend long runs an hour later, such as starting at 7am instead of 6am, that you can acclimatize to running in the heat. Two weeks before the race, you can shift to doing two long runs starting at midday.

There are two major climbs you will have to contend with in the second half, the Vilakazi Street hill and the hill on New Canada road towards Main Reef Road. There are other challenging hills but not as long. You will experience a lot of activity on Vilakazi Street and if you have kept to your pace, you should be able to enjoy the atmosphere.

Hill repeats may not be every runner's cup of tea, they are hard to do, although most runners do not like flat routes, they hate doing hill workouts. Hill repeats are a great way to build muscle endurance, speed and strength - the three critical benefits you need.

Running on a hill gives you a holistic workout, working on your hamstring, glutes, quads and calves. You can start small and build up as you progress and getting stronger.

Find a hill 100-200m-long that is not too steep. It won't help you much doing repeats on a hill you can barely run on. Hill repeats are a form of resistance training, just as you would not bench-press a weight you cannot lift in the gym.

The same goes for hill repeats, you want to exert yourself and be able to do between six and eight repeats.

You can then slowly progress to doing 400m, 600m and 800m hill repeats, with a slow jog or walk as part of recovery between repeats. This workout can be simulated on the treadmill as well by increasing the incline.

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