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From January to end of May each and every year tiredness is our constant companion.  I got used to being tired and because it was around me somewhere or other, I unconsciously had a long hard look at it.  Was it friend or foe?  I soon found out that very few of my fellow runners were ever completely honest about feeling tired.  Maybe it was because we all measure it differently.  There are no agreed index of tiredness like there is for your mass and height for example.  I soon realised that there were indeed different types of tiredness for me.  I generally ran a time trial pretty hard and in an 8km T/T I was really getting out of breath, weak knees and aching muscles at about 6kms.  I could decide how far to push myself.  Always there was a competitor close behind or just ahead.  My competitive spirit always called for a little bit more and I started to dig deep.  Now that is my second level of tiredness and I can’t put up with that for very long.  However that tiredness was not lasting and after 20 mins it was a thing of the past.  The more often I went into the second level of tiredness the quicker was the recovery.  There was no effect from that effort in the short term.

While running a marathon and beyond I used to get tired.  It was a pleasant, warm not threatening tiredness.  I could handle it for a long time.  And I am talking about 8 or 9 hours in Comrades.  It never really got any worse when it arrived.  It was my first level of tiredness.  I welcomed it because it was the sign that we are competing and pushing ourselves to some extent. If we had slow runs or short runs I never got tired and I wondered if it was doing any good.  Experience taught me that I could put up with this long term tiredness that is probably more like weariness.  I liked being tired in a long race.  Sometimes I was trying very hard to do a good time in a race and when the first tiredness came I said to myself that I can handle that for the time being provided it doesn’t get any worse.  I wrapped myself in a cocoon and shut out any further pain and tiredness.  I ran on my own for a long time in my cocoon and I was protected from more pain.  It worked for me and in the very rare moments when runners really bare their souls to each other I found out I was not alone with my trick.  I never forgot one race when I never got tired and I thought that was suspicious.  I finished in a very good time and unfortunately could never repeat that experience again on demand.  That was just my lucky day.

Running gives you so many benefits for the times you are not running. You should not be feeling tired and worn out during your working day. Inevitably you get tired relaxing in the evening. If you are constantly feeling tired you need to examine your training routine and try a reduction of distance or speed.  Sensible training programmes should never exhaust you.

Training for a race is a constant competition between your ability and effort compared to the demands being made on you.  There is no doubt that you can train yourself to put in just  the appropriate effort to reach the goal or target.

As a long distance runner you are obliged to study for yourself the effect of tiredness and how to avoid it and how much you can handle for how long.  When I was training for my first Comrades I was out on a Saturday morning run with my mentor Jeff Fisher who had earlier convinced me quite easily to run Comrades, I asked him  "How tired do you get on Comrades"?  The answer was very simple, "Don, you never get tireder than tired”.  After a few Comrades his words always rang in my ears and it always allayed any fears of an imminent collapse.   I know the top runners frequently try out how much pain and tiredness they can handle.  They then run just below the danger level.  It is the same for you.

One final word of advice about tiredness is that to avoid having to learn to handle tiredness, train better and smarter, race carefully and you won’t ever get tired.

Don Oliver
Cape Town
February 2010

Key words: Tiredness
External links: Official Comrades Marathon website

Copyright Don Oliver 2010