Run Your Race
How to train for and tackle marathons, triathlons, nature trails and obstacle courses
Blessed with great weather all year, Malaysia is the ideal location for outdoor activities. The diverse landscape of luscious greenery and glittering skyscrapers make for a unique backdrop for outdoor activities. Malaysians have enthusiastically embraced the fitness craze of marathons and running events, leading to event organisers devising creative ideas for innovative races aimed at offering participants the best experience. Training and taking part in these events is not only good for your health, but also a great way to meet like-minded people who love running and staying fit is so much more fun when you’re part of a tribe.
Running a race is a physical and mental challenge. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned runner, taking part in a race requires discipline and motivation to reach the finish line. Preparation is not something to be taken lightly as running in the heat, humidity and on different surfaces takes a toll.
MARATHONS The most common running event is the marathon, typically divided into two categories: half at 21.1km or full at 42.2km. For a beginner, these distances may sound daunting so try a few shorter races – five or 10km – and this will help you understand the requirements before committing to a full marathon.
Some running events have varying race lengths so that all sorts of people can participate. The upcoming Men’s Health Women’s Health Night Run by AIA
Vitality, set to be held in Putrajaya on 22 July, has 5km, 12km and 21km races along with new 700m and 3km kids runs. That means even the little ones can join in the fun!
Running tips: • Build on your base mileage by running three to five times per week to improve strength and stamina. • Start working on long runs by running longer distances every seven to 10 days to allow your body to acclimatise. The trick is running at different periods of the day so your body gets used to different temperatures. Work on your speed and cardio capacity by practicing tempo runs and doing interval training – sprints, walking, slow jogging. It’s so important to allow your body rest and not overdo any form of exercise to prevent injuries and burnouts. Have sufficient rest and pace yourself during the training period.
TRIATHLONS A triathlon involves multiple stages of competition over three sequential sporting disciplines. Though there are variations, the standard form involves swimming, cycling and running. The standard Olympic version comprises a 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run. Any distance beyond the standard triathlon is classified as an ultratriathlon.
Preparation tips: Get the right gear as it will boost your performance. It’s highly recommended that you train in the outfit you plan to race in. As this is a multi-disciplinary sport, it’s best to seek out a coach or a group to train together and devise strategies for each discipline. Swimming is often the Achilles heel of many, and with freestyle being the best stroke for triathlons, increase strength and flexibility by using weighted wristbands while walking or jogging. Get used to your bicycle, be at ease with gear changes and use clippings as it will help you gain power and waste less energy while pedalling. Running 10km isn’t easy after swimming and cycling, so ensure you practice transitioning from one discipline to another during your training.
TRAIL RUNS A great way to enjoy the great outdoors is to experience trail running. Similar to cross-country racing, trail runs are usually held in mountainous, grassy areas.
Tricks of the trail: • Stay balanced with the proper running motion: elbows slightly apart, away from your body and moving your arms vertically from your hips. This keeps you level on uneven ground and increases running power. Keep your eyes on the trail; maintain focus, be aware of terrain changes and don’t get distracted by the surrounds to prevent falling. Train your legs; agility is key for navigating your way over tree roots, sand and uneven ground. Get the correct shoes with the proper tread to ensure maximum traction. Slipping can cause serious injuries and depending on how deep you are in the jungle or high up the mountains, help might take time to reach you.
OBSTACLE RUNS If you enjoy boot camp and tackling military obstacle courses, then this is the sport for you. Obstacle races are now a major trend with gym classes dedicated solely to workouts for the Spartan warrior within. Not for the fainthearted or those with injuries, this is one for those who are up for a real physical challenge.
Warrior mode on: Spice up your usual training by adding exercises like ladder drills, rope skipping and cone sprints to strengthen your legs, become more agile and enhance balance. Mix up your cardio training to include hill sprints, long runs and intense sprints to match the intervals you’ll face while racing. Carb up! You have to consistently include carbohydrates in your diet as it’s essential to replace lost glycogen after intense workouts, but don’t go overboard with the portions. Replicate the actual race by being as creative as possible to get a feel of the reality of the actual race.
If long hours of training aren’t your thing and your competitive spirit veers more towards the fun run side of things, there are many of these happening all through the year. You still get the kick of endorphins by participating in these runs, and you can participate with your family as these events are usually lots of fun. After a few of these, you may find yourself wanting to take the next step and going for that full marathon! EL