Training Route: The Bryanston Half

Since training for my first Comrades in 2011 Wednesday has been used as my long weekday run. During the training for that first Comrades I would complete an 18 km run during many of the weeks between February and April.

It was only after Comrades that I started training with my current training partners: Kirsten, Lindsey and Campbell. It was in September 2011 that I was introduced to the “Bryanston Half”, a training run starting and ending at Kirsten’s house. The Bryanston Half is a 21 km training route that includes 360 metres of ascent (and equivalent descent), and is considered as containing three phases separated by water stops. The first phase is almost exclusively flat or downhill, finishing at our first water stop. The second phase starts with a short, steep climb nicknamed Heartbreak Hill, is followed by a variation of ups and downs, and finishes with the longest climb of the phase to the second water stop. The third phase includes a tough early climb, followed by a long and fast gradual descent, and finishes with a very steep and tough climb of over 2 km.

Bryanston Half - Route Profile
Bryanston Half – Route Profile

For anyone in Johannesburg really excited to give the route a try after reading that description, click here to check out the route on MapMyRun.com.

The Bryanston Half is 21 km of tough running and is a great way to kick-start a morning. After my first running of the route in September I also completed the route once in October and a couple of times in November, all in the lead-up to the race where I set my marathon PB which still stands today. There was plenty of quality throughout the week in my training for that race, but the Wednesday mornings were certainly the key to the mid-week training.

In 2012 our training group ran the Bryanston Half as our regular Wednesday run leading up to Comrades. After Comrades I convinced Kirsten to join me a few times to run it in the middle of winter as part of the training for my 100-mile race at Leadville, and that added the risk of frostbite during the cold sections of the route where we cross or run alongside the river.

Towards the end of the year our training then picked up again and the Bryanston Half once again was included as a staple. It was during October that we were discussing the planning for our Wednesday morning run, but we had a race that weekend and thought that we might need an easier option than the Bryanston Half. Kirsten mapped out a new route for us that started at the river, which is the low point in the area, rather than starting at his house at the top of the hill and thereby avoiding the uphill finish. The new route, which never received a more formal name than the “Easy” Bryanston Half, possibly fell short of what most people would consider as easy. The total ascent was only 20 metres less than the Bryanston Half, and included a hill that was steeper than any climb on the original route. But Kirsten argued (not successfully in Campbell’s eyes) that it was easier since the climbing occurred earlier in the route. It is certain that nobody could accuse our training group of taking it too easy.

Looking through my running logs I counted twenty times that I have run the Bryanston Half to date. But at the end of last year the discussion around the existence of the original Bryanston Half and the “easy” Bryanston Half lead to discussions around whether we should create a difficult Bryanston Half. The result should be easy to work out, but that is a training route that well and truly deserves its own post.

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