The final lap before the Cape Town Marathon 2016

Are you ready? Set? Not so fast, just before you set off at this year’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon 2016 (and any other marathons you plan on doing), we thought we’d let you in on some last minute pointers from some experts before the big day. Alina Hardcastle takes a look at what runners should be doing during the final lap of their training preparation.

“Marathons are always tough, regardless of how many you have run or what goals you have set yourself, but they can be an enjoyable experience if approached correctly,” says race ambassador Elana Meyer, who holds the fastest time by a South African woman (2:25:15 in Boston in 1994) over the Olympic distance.

Exercise regime

Mauritz Jansen van Rensburg, the head coach at Soul running, gives valuable insight into what runners should be doing as part of their final build up to the event, he advises the following:

  • If you’ve fallen behind in your training programme, don’t try and catch up in the last few weeks. Rather do regular runs to keep the momentum going.
  • Do no long training runs in the three weeks leading up to the race, allowing enough time for recovery.
  • Ensure you have completed a few training runs between 45-60 minutes at your planned marathon pace.
  • Include strides after every easy training run, no longer than 100m each at a 5km race pace.
  • Continue running in the last week before the marathon, but at 50% of your usual volume, to keep muscles awake and ready to fire at the race.

Sean Tait, running coach at Off the Mark , says that consistency and variety is key when training for a marathon.  He adds that if you mix up the type of training you do from session to session, such as different speeds, intensities, surfaces, you will undergo greater adaptations from your training.


Although your training regime is vital, putting nutrients into your body is equally important. Andrea du Plessis, Vital Health foods nutrition expert, offers her expertise on how to prepare your body to go the distance. She advises the following:

  • Drink beetroot juice to build fatigue resistance: Drink 110ml of beetroot juice, two or three hours before you exercise.
  • Take muscle repair after long distance training: Take two heaped tablespoons of whey protein supplement (which contains more than 70% protein), mix it into water or cold milk, and drink within 30 minutes after exercising.
  • Pre-event meal: Don’t try anything new on race day, and listen to your body by giving it what it’s used to during your training programme.
  • Muscle endurance during the race: It’s vital to replenish magnesium and electrolytes, particularly if you tend to perspire a lot. Either take one Vital VOOST Magnesium fizzy before the race, or one tablet of Vital VOOST Magnesium during the race.

Medical advice

Another aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is getting medical advice. This could make a huge difference between earning a medal and missing the cut-off. Dr Jann Killops, representing Mediclinic, offers advice on the best approach to the race from a medical perspective:

  • Treat and prevent cramps: Pace yourself on race day, and if you feel yourself beginning to cramp, stop at one of the Mediclinic points along the route and let one of the physiotherapists assist you. Stretching exercises can also help.
  • Do not exercise if you’re unwell: In the week before the race, if you experience any symptoms, consult your family doctor and consider your safety first. Long term health is more important than any race, and symptoms below the neck on race day are of major concern.
  • Be smart on race day: Remember to apply sunblock, and manage your hydration sensibly at the 18 water stations along the route. The stations are there for your convenience; drinking at all of them is not necessary. Balance your intake to avoid dehydration and overhydrating. It’s far more dangerous to be overhydrated than to be a little dehydrated.
  • Call for help: In case of emergencies on race day, call the medical emergency number (021 417 4150), or go straight to a Mediclinic medical point or the race hospital at the finish line.
  • Keep going: When you cross the finish line or if you stop running, keep walking for a short period, in order to allow your body to slowly adjust to the change of pace and avoid exercise associated collapse.

Final tips

Many have said that conquering a marathon has a lot to with genetics? Tait says, “Nobody is going to be a world champion without the help of their ancestors, but very few run with the desire to be a world champion, and through the correct training, everybody can improve significantly. All that any athlete can hope for is to reach their potential. That’s what the sport is all about.”

Meyer encourages runners to make friends during training and on race day. She says, “The challenge you are undertaking will be much more enjoyable if you have company.

Lastly, she encourages runners to simply have fun and enjoy the race, as this is the most important aspect of participation.

The race will be held on Sunday, 18 September 2016, at 7:00 with a cut off time of seven hours. The race is ideal for both athletes who aim to achieve fast times or first timers who want to finish their inaugural marathon, also note that the race is wheel chair friendly.

For more information about the Cape Town Marathon 2016, click here.

For more information about how to survive a Comrades marathon, click here.

To find out how Bruce Fordyce dominated the Comrades marathon, click here.