Should I push myself in my Comrades Marathon qualifier

This is Ask Coach Parry and today we have quite a detailed question with a lot of info in. It comes from Peter. He says he is relatively new to running and he is doing his Comrades Marathon qualifier at the Pietermaritzburg marathon on the 22nd of February.

He used last year to develop a running base and now he is following your Bill Rowan training programme and is comfortable with the paces. His recent times were as follows; he ran a sub 21 on a flat 5km route, sub 36 on a hilly 8km route, his 15km time is 1’14.

His half marathon time is 1’47 at the Kearsney race which is very very hilly. For the slightly longer runs he feels that he is running within himself and could have gone faster, and he has also done slightly longer training runs at lower intensity.

He feels that he is in pretty good shape for his qualifier. With your training programme, it says that you should be able to run a 3’30 marathon. His question is should he aim to run a 3’30 in February or should he take it a bit more comfortable and run a sub 4, although he feels like he is in shape to run a 3’30.

He is just a bit concerned about his pacing and how he should be running his qualifier. The wise bit of the question here: he says he doesn’t want to over exert himself and risk injury for the bulk of his training in March and April.