Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Marathon Rules are NOT meant to be broken

Finishing a full marathon is never an easy task. Running addicts may sometimes make it look easy but it never is. It takes courage to start training, determination to finish the race, persistence to keep running despite the pain and ,of course, a well prepared body.




Unlike some rules, following a few marathon rules will not only help you finish the race but will also prevent disasters from occurring. These rules include reminders before, during and after the race. These were learned through countless hours reading articles in the net, from lessons in my daily practice as a physician and most through my experience as a runner.

The first rule, I got from one of our lectures during the Cebu City marathon Clinic, is “Respect the Distance”. Never take the full 42 kilometers for granted. It will test not only your body but mostly your mind. As what Runner Millete Chiongban said “The full marathon will be 20% physical and 80% mental. She also said “Any person can run 30 kilometers, but its the next 12 that counts”. All runners feel pain on the 30+ kilometers. We may look comfortable but we never are. Long slow distance (LSD) runs will help you overcome this pain. Knee and Hip joint pains, muscle sore from the thighs, calves, legs and foot, and worst, cramps will start to test your body and mind at anytime during the marathon. Some refer to this time as “The wall”. Its a very unfamiliar time since you cannot train while in it but rather train to prevent it. I have personally encountered this wall during my second marathon. It was at KM 22-25 that I started feeling really weak and lazy. Every 1-2 minutes I would walk instead of just run slow and was constantly thinking of quitting. It was at that time that most of my co-runners from Cebu passed by me. In retrospect, the doctor in me thinks the dehydration could have pushed me to “the wall” but the runner in me kept reminding me that I was running faster than I should have and without water. It started with me being thirsty with no water stations in sight (If there was a station, It would also be out of water). I should have bought water/ gatorade / juice from the convenience stores open at that time but was I proud enough to not use unofficial support. This lead to my disaster. I finished the marathon in 4 hours 55 minutes with cramps instead of my target of 4 hours 30 minutes. But I was humbled after the event. I have learned that the distance will not only challenge my body but will also test my mind.

Goals are critical during events like a full marathon. Some runners fix themselves on finishing a Sub-5(under 5 hours) marathon while others focus on finishing at the top of the list. Goals are crucial in a marathon since it will determine how hard you should train or how fast you should run. The second rule is “Set feasible goals”. Frequently, the first marathon should have only one goal, and that is TO FINISH. A few may not follow this rule but most runners do. Runners become marathoners after they finish their first marathon thus it is vital that you finish it. “Forget the time, Finish the race” is what experienced marathoners tell first timers when they decide to run the distance. Setting a goal too high may predispose you to running injuries and prevent you from finishing the race. Personally, I make more than 1 goal before a race. “BEST GOAL” is a goal short of a dream, “GOOD GOAL” is a goal that can be achieved in the best circumstances like adequate water supply, ample food, perfect weather and a familiar route while an “OK GOAL” is a goal that you can accomplish even in the worst conditions and even with a injury. My goals during my first marathon were OK GOAL-Finish the race, GOOD GOAL-Finish a Sub-5 and BEST GOAL-NONE!!!. My second marathon was different. Goals were expected to escalate since I had experience and better training up my sleeve. My goals were BEST GOAL-Finish in 4 hours 15 minutes, GOOD GOAL-Finish in 4 hours 30 minutes and OK GOAL-Finish another Sub-5. With dehydration and cramps, I achieved only my OK GOAL but friends still commended my efforts. It was really a tough route and the support was very very bad. I ran too fast and too soon during the first half that I reached my wall at KM 22-27. This “More than one rule” helps me accept failures better and keeps me motivated to train harder and beat my last personal record (PR).

“To become the best” is every man’s dream. Athletes train rigorously everyday to achieve this dream. Competitions are staged to discover who is the best in every sport. Unless if you are a full time athlete, Ignore this dream. This brings us to the third rule which is “Run your own race”. Never try and outrun a Kenyan (unless if you are also Kenyan) in a marathon. Set your own pace. Listen to your body. No other person can tell you that you can do more or less than yourself. If you feel any discomfort or pain (no matter how minuscule), determine what is causing it and do something about it. Cramps are very common in distance or endurance sports. It is often caused by 3 factors namely (1) Dehydration, (2) Electrolyte / Energy Depletion and last (3) Unconditioned or Unprepared Body. The first two can be prevented by taking in water / fluids every 1-2 kilometers and gels / energy bars every 10 kilometers (my preference). The 3rd factor can only be addressed thru proper training and injury prevention. When cramps strikes, slow down, recover, drink lots of water and re-energize or replete your electrolyte stores. If this don’t work, then you may still be unprepared to run the race you planned to finish.

These set of "RULES" are only to help you in achieving your dream of finishing a full marathon. Although it will not guarantee a finish, at least it will improve your chances of realizing that Dream.

Running Tips from Jazzrunner

99+1 Beginner Running Tips

Here’s a top 100 beginner running tips collated by a team from the CRN website. Most are applicable in our local running scene and it also can be valuable to all veteran and hard-core runners. If you have other tips you would want to share, please don’t hesitate to share them here.

Apparel Tips

Wear spandex shorts under your regular running shorts so you don’t chafe “down there.”
Cotton socks will only lead to blisters; invest in socks designed for running.
Ladies, do not skimp on a bra. Even if it costs more than your shoes it’s still a bargain.
Buy running clothes you look good in and that will motivate you to run.
Buy new running clothes at the end of the season when stores dump the old season’s line. Think clearance!

Community

Join your local running club—check with your local running store fitness center and/or recreation department to find one.
Volunteer at a local race—meet runners support runners and connect with your Community.

Manners

Remember to say “Thank You!” to race volunteers (e.g. when you get that cup of water at the aid station) and family and friends who support you.
Conscientiously share the trail with walkers, bikers and other runners.
Always try to balance running with the people you love by making a schedule that involves and is considerate of everyone.
Don’t carry loose change. It will annoy those who are running with you.
Don’t neglect and irritate your family and friends by spending all your time running and talking about running.

Motivation Tips

Sign up for a race as soon as you feel up to it.
Find a committed running partner. It is much harder to skip a run when you have someone else depending on you.
Remember that you will have plateaus in your progress and tough days along the way.
It gets easier.
Accept and appreciate the fact that not every single run can be a good one.
Be prepared to remove the words “can’t” and “never” from your vocabulary.
Do not compare yourself to others. Run within yourself and for yourself first.
Don’t expect every run to be better than the last one; some of them will hurt.
Don’t think too much about it or you won’t do it.
Even a bad run is better then no run at all.
If you normally run with music try skipping it and listening to your feet to hear your pace and your gait.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t experience weight loss immediately.
Start a running blog and read other running blogs regularly.
Running is not an excuse to triple your intake of doughnuts because runners gain weight too.

Nutrition Tips

Buy the powdered sports drink mix instead of premixed. It’s cheaper and more similar to race drink mixes.
Each pound you lose makes running a little easier.
Hydrate. Make it a habit to drink water throughout the day.
If you are running very long distance drink enough electrolytes (e.g. Gatorade).
On long runs eat something every hour—whether you feel like it or not.
During longer runs if you don’t like to carry water take some cash in your pocket pouch or a shoe wallet. Run a route where there’s a corner store that you can use as a pit stop to pick up your water and maybe use the bathroom.
Avoid eating spicy foods before running and the night before your long runs.
To aid recovery the most crucial time to eat and drink is in the hour immediately after you run.

Prevention Tips

Use Vaseline or Body Glide wherever things rub. They will help prevent blisters and chafing (guys don’t forget the nipples).
Do not increase your mileage more than 10 percent per week.
Guys: Band-Aids before the long runs. Your nipples will thank you in the shower afterwards.
Log your mileage for your legs and your Shoes. Too much on either will cause you injury.
If you are prone to shin splints and lower leg pain try running soft trails for your Training runs and save the asphalt for race day.
Do not run two hard days back-to-back.
Ice aches and pains immediately.
Pay attention to your form. Try to run lightly to minimize impact that could lead to injury.
Cut your Training by at least 30 percent to 50 percent every 4th or 5th week for recovery.
When trail running don’t forget the bug spray.
Neosporin (or another antibiotic cream) is good for chafed areas (if you didn’t use your Body Glide!).
Make sure you cut your toenails short enough so they don’t jam into your Shoes!
Put some Body Glide between your toes on long runs.
Be careful about running on paths that force you to run consistently on a slant. It’s hard on the hips knees and IT bands.
Don’t stretch before a run. Warm up by walking briskly or jogging slowly for several minutes.
Do not ice for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Do not use the hot tub after a race. It will increase inflammation and hinder healing.
Frozen peas make a great ice pack for aches and pains. A thin t-towel wrapped around them makes the cold more comfortable.

Racing Tips

Race day is not the day to try new shoes, eat new foods, or wear brand new clothing.
Do not try a marathon as your first race.
For races longer than 5k start out slower than you think you should.
If you conserve your energy during the first half of a race, you can finish strong.
When you pick up drinking cups at aid stations, squeeze gently so it folds slightly and is easier to drink from it while you are moving.
A plastic garbage on race day is a very fashionable cheap disposable raincoat.

Safety Tips

Be aware of cyclists approaching you from behind and try to keep to the right. Try to pay special attention when running with music.
Run facing traffic.
Never assume a car sees you.
Give horses wide berths on trails and walk as you pass them unless you enjoy a hoof to the melon.
Always carry I.D. because you just never know.

Shoe Tips

Try shoes on in the afternoon when your feet are bigger.
Doubleknot your shoe laces so they will not come undone when you run.
Buy yourself some actual running shoes from an actual running store because running in junk “sneakers” will destroy your feet and your legs.
Get assessed for the right kind of running shoes.

Training Tips

In the immortal words of Walt Stack famed senior-citizen distance runner “Start slow … and taper.”
At first keep your runs short and slow to avoid injury and soreness so you do not quit.
If you are breathing too hard slow down or walk a bit until you feel comfortable again.
Pick your route close to home (out your front door)—the more convenient it is the better chance you will have sticking with it.
Find a beginner training plan for your first race.
Set realistic short term and long term goals.
Keep a training diary.
Soreness one to two days after a run is normal (delayed onset muscle soreness).
No amount of money spent on gadgets, training programs or funny food can substitute for minutes, hours, days and weeks on the road.
There’s no shame in walking.
Subscribe to a running magazine or pick up a book or two on running.
Four laps around the local the high school track equals one mile.
Lift weights.
It’s okay to take walk breaks (run 1 minute walk 1 minute then progress to run 10 minutes walk 1 minute etc.).
Vary your training routes. This will prevent boredom and prevent your body from getting acclimated.
Speed work doesn’t have to be scientific. Try racing to one light post and then jogging to the next.
Push through rough spots by focusing on the sounds of your breath and feet touching the ground.
Do speed work after you develop an endurance base.
Practice running harder in the last half of your runs.
Do abdominal breathing to get rid of side cramps or “stitches.”
If you can’t find the time to run, take your running gear to work.
Run on trails if at all possible. It will be easier on your body and you’ll love it.
Build rest into your schedule. Rest is just as important of an element as exercise in your fitness plan.
Forgive yourself. Over-ambitious goals usually lead to frustration and giving up on your fitness plan. If you miss a goal or milestone let it go and focus on the next opportunity to get it.
Mix-up your training plan. Make sure your training plan is not too heavily focused on one thing. No matter what level of runner you are your training plan should include four essential elements: endurance, speed, rest, cross-training.

Weather Tips

Dress as if it is 10 degrees warmer than the temperature on the thermometer.
Wear sunscreen and a hat when the sun is beating down—even in winter.
Run early in the morning or later in evening to avoid mid-day heat.
Pick up a pair of Yaktrax when running in icey conditions.
In the winter dress in layers (coolmax or other technical clothing) and wear a headband over your running hat to cover your ears.
For colder climates invest in socks rated to 40 below (usually found in sport/ski shops).
To keep cool in hot weather soak a bandana in cold water wring it out a bit and tie it loosely around your neck.
For hot weather fill your water bottle about half way lay it at an angle in the freezer and just before you head out for your run top it off with more water.

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