Few people in South Africa are better equipped to offer advice on road running than Meyer, a former Olympic 10 000m silver medalist, world half-marathon champion and world record holder over 5km, 15km and 21.1km.
Having set six of the eight fastest times in the SA women's all-time list over the classic 42.2km standard marathon distance, the retired athlete and Stellenbosch resident took time out to share some wisdom with those who will tackle the second Cape Town race, to be held on 20 September.
Elana Meyer on marathon preparation
"Preparing for a marathon, the focus should be on strength, endurance and pace runs," Meyer says. "You need to be strong if you want to run a good marathon. By incorporating strength conditioning it will help you stay injury free and handle the distance a lot better. Also incorporate hill repeats. It will make you tough."
Long distance runs are key, according to Meyer, but it is not necessary to prepare purely on a tar surface. Slower distance efforts need to be included in the training regimen of every aspiring marathon runner, because time spent on one's legs is a vital part of preparation. Speed work, however, also plays a part as it will make racing more comfortable.
"Incorporate time trials, park runs or longer intervals into your programme. It will help with running economy and you will feel a lot more comfortable at marathon race pace."
Elana's top tips
- Make sure you have training buddies when you sign up for the marathon. The journey will be much more enjoyable
- If you can, do most of your runs off road
- Follow a 12- to 16-week programme
- Have fun and enjoy the journey
"Ideally you need to gradually build up from 10km to 21km to a marathon, but there are many people that pick a marathon as a challenge and just go for it. It depends on the individual and the personality," Meyer says.
Experts agree that an active lifestyle contributes significantly towards a healthy life, both in terms of longevity and improved quality of life. This makes participation in an event such as the Old Mutual Soweto marathon as much a lifestyle choice as a personal challenge.
“Endurance sports like road running improve not only one’s physical health, but also mental health, leading to a better family and work life. Among others, it has been shown to improve memory, physical abilities, self-confidence and contributes significantly to an optimistic attitude towards life and its challenges.