Fellow runners, budding runners, aspiring joggers! I just wanted to share my little exploit which transpired from yesterday’s UEM Charity Run half marathon. I am not a pro when it comes to running a 21k nor am I a seasoned runner but I do know what works and what doesn’t for my body. Therefore do take whatever I’m sharing here with a pinch of salt and remember that what works for me may or may not work for you.
Firstly, the stats. The course ran along the North Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) from the Subang toll all the way to Bukit Lanjan for a turnback, along the way entering Kota Damansara toll and another turnback just after Persada PLUS just before the finish line. Ambient temperature was 26 deg C at 5 AM flag off and about 30 deg C 3 hours later, cloudy throughout. Elevation gain was 173m above sea level, the highest being Bukit Lanjan.
I finished the course with an official time of 2:43:05 which was surprising for me since I was ill with a recurring fever and intermittent coughing. Having said that, I knew what I wanted to achieve and will go all out to get it: I wanted to enjoy what could possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience AND finish uninjured.
THOUGHT 1: Find your goal and fix on it.
Out of the 1,734 runners in the half marathon I finished at 847 and in my category (Men Veteran Malaysia) of 323 runners I finished at 197. In essence, your position in the field shows how well you prepared yourself for it. I know of individuals who ran over 100km the last month unsurprisingly ending up about 20 minutes faster than me but I also know of individuals who consistently ran faster than me ending up further back this time. Why?
THOUGHT 2: Prepare not only your body but also your mind.
Running any race is an investment in time, energy and money. So in that respect you better make it worth your while. It doesn’t matter if it’s for 10k, 21k or 42k. In my case, I made sure I trained for it via workouts and I made sure I had a proven nutrition plan. Never underestimate a proper refuelling strategy, pre and during a race. This will eliminate unnecessary toilet breaks, dehydration and body aches.
THOUGHT 3: Nutrition planning is one of the key elements to finish strong & injury free.
For the race I consumed about 820 calories in the form of an energy bar, gels and isotonic electrolyte drinks (FYI one red velvet cupcake contains about 248 calories which will require you to run 60 minutes to burn off). I did not take any Saltsticks. My body burned about 1,417 calories in the end of the 2:43:05 during which I achieved 98% peak performance at the average heart rate of 163 beats per minute (bpm). What I’m getting at is, do your math with regards to what your body needs during the course of the race so you’ll know how to balance the energy you need to maintain your running form. In my case, my calculations were spot on except for fluid intake; I forgot to compensate for the higher than normal ambient temperature which caused my body to become dehydrated faster.
THOUGHT 4: Know your limits and calculate what you need to fuel up for your body to perform its best.
I must admit I enjoyed the novelty of the run and I achieved what I set out to do. It’s very rare to have so much space to move during a race and to run on tarmac usually reserved for vehicles going above 110 km/h is surreal. But what is most satisfying to me were the ‘mini goals’ which I achieved; this was the first time I ran 21 km without stopping and I only made one trip to the water station at km 20 as my bottle was empty. I didn’t make any toilet breaks nor did I suffer from any cramps, didn’t injure my toenails, didn’t get any blisters on my feet and only had the usual muscle soreness at the calfs. The only pain I had were post-race at one knee side probably due to unusually long inclines at some stretches and the way the expressway tilts to one side too.
THOUGHT 5: Focus on maintaining good running form, speed will come later.
As I’m writing this I am already thinking of how I can improve further for my next race. Perhaps I can use less energy gels and instead use more organic sources of energy like nuts? Perhaps I should rethink my hydration strategy to be more efficient? Clearly improvements can be made and I’m sure after reading this you’ll do the same. We are all built differently so find what works for you and remember, always run your own race!