Do Specific Strength Training for Downhill Ultramarathons
After his first down-Comrades victory in 1982, Bruce remarked that the down-Comrades was not a race but a “survival trip.” He referred to the more severe muscle damage caused by the downhill nature of the course. Before the 1984 race, he decided that he would have to do something to reduce that damage.
The evidence suggests that strength training of the quadriceps group may reduce the degree of muscle damage during downhill running. So for the 1984 race, Bruce underwent a weekly program of strength training for his quadriceps and included more regular downhill running sessions.
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Frith van der Merwe
The South African Frith van der Merwe (Exercises 8.20) was bom in Johannesburg on May 26, 1964. In junior school she participated in tennis and netball, and she gained state colors for tennis at age 16 while still in high school.
Her interest in running began in 1979 when she won her school’s 4-km crosscountry race despite never having trained specifically for running. In 1981, her final year of high school, she trained more consistently, and won the local interschools 1,500 m in 4:48.
For the following 4 years, van der Merwe attended the University of the Witwatersrand where she trained more regularly but with no greater ambition than representing her university at the annual Inter-University Championships. Despite this relatively low-key approach, she received state colors for 15-km road racing and cross-country.
In 1986, her final year at the university, van der Merwe entered her first marathon, finishing in 3:24. In the following year she ran two marathons, breaking 3 hours for the first time in October; she also finished seventh in the 56-km Two Oceans Marathon (4:20) and sixth in the 90-km Comrades Marathon (7:22) of that year. She recalls that breaking 3 hours in the marathon was the turning point that inspired her to aim for greater running achievements.
Her performances in 1988 proved that her ambitions were not misplaced. In January and again in February, she won standard marathons at medium altitude in 2:47; in March she won the 56-km Milo Korkie Marathon at medium altitude in 3:54; in May she won the 90-km up-Comrades Marathon in 6:32; and in July she won the 50-km City-to-City Marathon, also at medium altitude, in 3:16. In
Exercises 8.20 Frith van der Merwe finishing 15th overall in the 1989 Comrades Marathon.
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