Tips from Dr. Mat – August 2021

Dr. Grant Matkovich

Dear Runners,

Stretching for runners is always a good thing. However, to stretch correctly is not always easy.

Here are some tips on how to correctly stretch the quads (front of the thigh) and hamstring (back of the thigh) muscles.

These muscles are used a lot with runners and always need same attention!

Quadriceps

Important to stretch this muscle if you have runners knee (pain in the front of the knee behind the kneecap, with a feeling that the back of your knee cap is grinding against the knee joint).

Tips to do it correctly:

  • Remember to balance / stabilize yourself with your other hand by holding onto a chair or a wall.
  • Make sure your knee is next to your other knee when you are stretching.
  • Make sure your upper body / torso is up right, ideally with your lower back slightly arched.

You should feel the stretch in the front of your thigh with the most of the stretch in the thigh slightly above the knee.

Add this stretch into your routine after you have done hill sessions or an especially hilly route as your quads work hard when running up hill.

If you are unable to balance or stand on your one leg you can change position to lying down on your side. Shown below.

Hamstrings

Always tight with runners, just try touch your toes with your legs straight!

This is a good stretch for runners with hamstrings that cramp often or with burning pain around your “bum bones”, the bones you sit on.

Tips to doing this stretch correctly:

  • Keep your pelvis straight with the floor, don’t ‘hike your pelvis.
  • Take both hands (not just one) down the leg on the side being stretched this will help stretch the whole hamstring muscle.
  • Bend your back forward over the leg being stretched this will help isolate the hamstring muscle more.

Like the quad muscles hold this stretch for 30s and repeat 3 times. Its best to do both sides even if the other side is not injured / tight/ giving issues.

This stretch can be painful. The ideal stretch is to find the position that is comfortable but not yet uncomfortable.

This stretch needs to be done regularly to increase hamstring flexibility which will help reduce low back and glute (butt) muscle pain when running.

Next time will be tips on how to stretch glute muscles.

Spotlight on: The Riddles

Stuart and Sheldene Riddle

When did you meet?

1987 Military Tattoo, Stuart was in the Military Tattoo Guard of Honor and Sheldene was doing the Aerobics display at the Tattoo 

How long have you been a member of Stella Athletic Club?

Since December 2019

What was your reason for joining?

Stuart : Ask my wife!

Sheldene: Our friends were members

What is your favorite race distance to run / walk?

Sheldene: 10 km

Stuart: 21 km

What has been your most embarrassing/Funniest running moment to date?

Sheldene: Have you ever done a training walk with Dave Beattie aka Grumpy, need I say more 😊  

Stuart: Too many to mention

What is your favorite meal to enjoy the evening before an important race?

Sheldene – Wine the night before a race

Stuart – Future Life

Name your favorite running shoe brand and why?

Sheldene : Not fussy but I prefer Brooks

Stuart: New Balance wide

Describe your personality in 3 words.  

Sheldene: Committed – determined – and Grumpy over any distance over 7km

Stuart:  Peer Pressure is real

What is your running goal or aspiration?

Sheldene: To complete an 21.1 km and complete the Sani stagger 

Stuart: To Improve my time at the Sani stagger Trail

What to date is your biggest running / walking achievement? (your proudest moment)

Sheldene: Double Gold award at the Adidas

Stuart: sub 2 hours on the Deloitte 21.1 km

Who to date has been your biggest running / walking inspiration?

Sheldene: My friend Sharon Troll is my inspiration

Stuart: Mhlengi Gwala ( The promising SA Tri athlete who was attacked in 2019 with an chainsaw while training near University of Kwa-Zulu natal near Glenwood area and who is back on his bike competing again and headed to Italy for the Para-cycling competition

Which couple do you nominate next for questioning?

Shaun and Kathryn

A new perspective

Kirsty Grobler

After being in Lockdown, which seems to be forever, some dreams and goal have had to be put on hold. 2020 was supposed to have been the start of reaching my dreams, my plan was to run The Two Oceans Marathon that year and then go on to run the Comrades Marathon in 2021. However, the universe had other ideas.

After being injured I was unable to qualify for the Two Oceans Marathon up until the very last qualifying race, which was the Deloittes Marathon (no pressure). I really did not have a good day out there, I fought hard because I was adamant that I was going to qualify. With only a few minutes to spare, I crossed the finish line and qualified! I was broken, but I had done it and so I was one step closer to making my dream come true. Whilst sitting at the Stella tent after the race, with a happy heart knowing I had qualified, I was told that the Two Oceans Marathon had been cancelled due to Covid-19. I honestly thought that they were joking, I had fought so hard to finish the race and to qualify only for it to be cancelled. I felt so defeated. Lots of negative thoughts went through my mind but once I had time to process everything, I realized that I had gained so much from running the Deloittes Marathon. I learnt so much about myself on that day and I am forever grateful.

Shortly after, South Africa was placed in total Lockdown. Running and exercising (outside of your home) was prohibited. Some decided to not let this dampen their spirits and created a running circuit in their gardens. Running in circles, some creating distinct pathways in the process and then changing direction for a bit of variety (I think some gardens are yet to recover). Some may call them crazy… well, we are runners after all.

Although this was a set back, it gave my body time to heal and recover from all the niggles. Eventually we were allowed to run again, but with restrictions, having to run with a mask or buff, making sure you were socially distanced and only being allowed to run between 6am – 9am. I was just happy to be out on the road again, even if it was just within a 5km radius from home.

As time went on, restrictions were eased and we were allowed club runs again. It was so awesome to see all the Stella Stars again. It really made many hearts happy.

Fast forward a few months and going up and down Lockdown levels like a yo-yo, all races, including Comrades Marathon 2020 were cancelled. There was so much uncertainty as to when or if we would be able to run our next race. With motivation and morals running low, we all needed a ‘pick me up’. Just when we thought it was all doom and gloom and that races would be a thing of the past and a distant memory, virtual races were born. Even though it was not the same as a real race, it gave us purpose and boosted our moral. We now had something to train for. YAY!!

We all had our hopes up that by some miracle Comrades 2021 was going to go ahead. Unfortunately, this was not to be and it was cancelled again. In spite of this, the organizers decided to create a virtual race (as they had done the previous year) with various distances. So, a few of us novices decided to get a taste of what we would be getting ourselves into when we got to tackle the Comrades Marathon. We decided to enter the 45km race and oh boy, did we get a taste!!

The route was planned. We would start and finish at Stokers Arms in Kloof and run part of the Comrades route, to the top of Inchanga and back, giving us the experience of a few of the iconic hills. It was the Comrades Centenary Hope Challenge after all…

As the days grew closer to race day, I still did not feel as though I was about to run the furthest I have ever gone, never mind about to conquer those famous hills. I think one thing that Covid-19 has taught me, is to be flexible and be able to take things in my stride. So, my goal was to go out there, enjoy the day out on the road, do my best and take things as they come. And I did just that!

Arriving at Stokers Arms and seeing our fellow Stella Stars, which included many experienced runners and a few novices, was thrilling. It defiantly got the butterflies going. A very passionate Stella Star got everyone’s blood pumping by playing Chariots of Fire and the National Anthem. I can’t wait to be able to experience ‘the real thing’ with them at the start line one day.

5:30am came and we were off. Being surrounded by a few of my favourite Stella Stars was incredible. It was a brilliant day on the road for me, however, it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from our fellow Stella members, manning water tables, supporting us on the side of the road and of course my number one fan 😊. Without them, this day would not have been a success. To see those happy faces and hear those words of encouragement were always well received. So, I thank you on behalf of all of us who ran.

I have always had a huge amount of respect for those who not only complete Comrades, but also those who are there at the start line waiting for the run to go off. However, I now have newfound respect for you all. I now also understand why everyone knows those hills by name, they are a real test mentally and physically. Although I had to dig deep and give myself a few pep talks (we all need a good talking to from time to time) I thoroughly enjoyed my day out there. What an amazing experience.

Although I have not reached my goals and dreams just yet, I have made some new goals along the way. I will never give up and will continue to strive to achieve what I have set out to conquer. Cheers to everyone who is going out there and making their dreams come true, despite the curve balls that have been thrown your way.

2021 PDAC 25km

Siba Tyu

It is true that sometimes in life it’s the unexpected that will bring you true joy.  Here is my story of how I got to run the Pinetown & District Athletics Club’s 25km race. 

Friday 16 April 2021

It was a normal Friday afternoon at the office where I was wrapping up my work and looking forward to the usual 21km weekend long run the next day. Little did I know that I was in for a wonderful surprise.  Gerald, a fellow Stella Star had unfortunately encountered an injury and offered me his entry to run the PDAC 25 which was taking place on Sunday 18th April 2021.  I accepted with extreme excitement.  We contacted the race organisers and the Event Timing staff to arrange for the change of details.  I must say that I was very impressed with how efficient, polite and helpful they were.  By the time I left the office, I had received all the emails and an sms confirming my participation at the race.

Saturday 17 April 2021

Saturday morning I woke up and drove up to Lahee Park in Pinetown to collect the race pack and goodie bag.  Lahee Park is where we were to find the finish line of the race the next morning.  I had never taken part in this race before, and up until Saturday morning I had never set foot at Lahee Park before either.  This for me was unknown territory.   I had hoped to have time to drive along the route on Saturday, but I struggled to find someone to accompany me who knew the race route at such short notice. 

It was now Saturday afternoon, and to sum it all up to this point, 24 Hours ago I did not even know that I’d be running this race, and 24 Hours from now I’ll be running the race without knowing the route.  It was at this point that the good old race jitters set in.  It has been over a year since one had to carry out the “Night before race prep”.  One by one I ticked the items off the preparation list, starting with the kit, nutrition, transport, alarm clock and all the way down to the last but very important cup of coffee before the race.  I was also fortunate to have a last minute chat with a few Stella Stars about the race, race profile and their previous experience. This proved to be very valuable for me on race day.

Race Day: Sunday 18 April 2021

My alarm clock worked as advertised and I got up in time, had my cup of coffee and started my 30 minute drive to Watercrest Mall.  The song on repeat for this drive was Adele – When we were young.  Now I know what you’re thinking, but let me just say that the song gets me going, ok. J

The atmosphere at the start line and waiting area was nothing short of electrifying.  As we drove into the mall, one could see the road closure signs, cones and the red and white tape.  After such a long, difficult year of the pandemic it suddenly dawned on me that this race is actually happening. This was exciting.  Apart from a handful of runners who were doing their warm up drills outside, the rest used the isles inside the mall as a waiting area as the temperature outside was reported to be around 12 degrees Celsius. 

Everyone was so happy, friendly and greeting with big smiles. I was excited to be part of this race, not only because it was a first of many post the pandemic, but also because this was my first official race as a Stella Athletics Club member.  It felt good to see other Stella Stars in their kit and to wish each other well for the race.  

At exactly 05:30 the air horn went off and the race began.  The early start was definitely advantageous as this allowed us all more time to cover some ground before sunrise.  The advice I had received from my fellow club mates came in handy right at this point.  As advised, I ran the first 5 km gently as it was gradually climbing from the start line towards Hillcrest, and I held back on the pace once I was on the downhills.  I believe that this approach definitely spared me from possible injury and allowed me to enjoy the race in its entirety.

I had also been made aware of the two (2) hills that I was to face approximately 3 km from the finish line.  Armed with this knowledge, I reserved 10 to 20% of my effort throughout the race so that I would have enough energy to summit these hills.  I was happy to find that the strategy worked out as planned.  When I approached the hills, I gave it my all and manage to climb both hills without walking.  In fact, I ran the whole race without stopping once for a walk to recover.  After the climb, only 2km remained.  Running into the stadium and seeing the finish line always gives one that extra push and a burst of energy.  And just like that, the race was done.

One thing that was unusual and clearly notable was the absence of crowds of spectators and other athletes post-race. 

Runners were instructed to wear their masks after crossing the finish line and also were encouraged not to hang around at the stadium so as to observe the Covid-19 regulations. 

I am glad that many did observe these regulations, and do truly hope and believe that this race and the way it was organised will open doors for many more sporting events to come.  I finished the race at a time of 02:14:59.  I have set a sub 2 goal for this race for next year and would definitely recommend it to any runner to come and experience it for themselves. 

Happy Running.

Chairman’s Chirp – August 2021

David Beattie

Hello fellow Stars

We are well into the second half of the year and we are yet to see any return to normality in running terms. The COVID third wave seems to be lingering and with the slow pace of vaccinations I believe that we will only see races start again in the new year. As frustrating as that sounds we all have a responsibility to take all possible precautions to ensure that we do not infect and put the health of our fellow athletes at risk. At the club things continue to tick over thanks to our road captains. We are still having our monthly time trial and the regular Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday runs. Whilst the club is not operating at full capacity it continues to cost money to run the club and I urge members who have not paid their 2021 annual subscriptions to do so. The cost is only R 360 for the year. Your club needs your support to get through these tough times.

On 13 June we had a very successful Virtual Comrades race. It was fantastic to see so many athletes on the route celebrating the Comrades spirit.  A big thank you to those people who gave up their morning to man tables and second our athletes on the route. It takes a team to make such an event successful. Our Aches and Pains Braai was also a huge success. The only thing missing was some tall stories from the road. 

A big thank you to all the members who provide support to our monthly Time Trial. We have had an average of 65 runners per month since the return from lockdown and it is certainly not easy to manage the time and record keeping. In August we rolled out the new timekeeping system. We will be making a few tweaks to the system to make the process more efficient. Please be patient during this period as that will make it easier for the timekeepers. We are keeping records of these finish times so you will be able to chart your progress over the months. We are always on the look-out for potential lucky draw prizes for the Time Trail. If you can assist with such prizes, please can you contact me.

Just an update on the pavements and lighting in the Glenwood area. We have seen some improvements thanks to our local counsellor and some hardworking residents. With Spring around the corner, we are going to have longer days so the evening runs should become less of an obstacle course. That does not mean that all runners should ignore all the risks that athletes are exposed to. The human body is fragile and certainly cannot compete with a car. Always give way to the traffic and assume that drivers have not seen you. Please continue to wear bright colours and follow the instructions of the road captains.  

I hope to have some positive news as to the running calendar when next I write to you.

Happy running and please all stay safe.

Heidi’s new heights!

Heidi Groenewald

I turned 40 during 2020. We had just gone into hard lockdown 4 days before the big Four Oh and I had to cancel my fortieth birthday/house warming party. We moved into our new house on the 6th March and were so busy with house hunting, bond applications and packing and unpacking that my dream of being forty and fabulous had fallen along the wayside and I ended up celebrating my birthday being forty and fat!

Needless to say, we were all bored and had to find ways to keep sane during these crazy times. And this is probably where you are thinking that I decided to start running. Nope, I decided to indulge in one of my other pleasures….baking! And along with hubby’s love for cooking I grew even more fabulously fat!

Isn’t it amazing how we only notice what we really look like when looking at pictures? And during November 2020 I saw a picture of me that made me realise that I needed to find a hobby other than baking. A friend of mine was going through a weight loss journey at the same time and gifted me with a weight loss coach and an eating plan. Part of this weight loss program was having to make at least 10 000 steps a day. Ten thousand!? How was I going to do this when most of my day was spent sitting on my office chair in front of a computer!? Queue the running!!

I was serious about being forty and fabulous and went digging through my drawers to find the smart watch which hubby had bought for me more than a year ago. Hauled out my running shoes, which I had only used for gardening up until now. The plan was to start running with Ronnie, but I just never seemed to get around it. Life was always getting in the way and with three very busy kids, two of them being very sporty boys, there just never seemed to be enough time in a day. I decided that the only way that this was going to happen was for me to get up earlier. This being a struggle in itself as I am no early bird. But like clockwork I would get up every morning and jump on the treadmill in the corner of our room to try and get as many steps as I could before my day started. Headphones on and in the dark as Ronnie was still sleeping. I was oblivious to my thud, thud, thud, thud on the treadmill. Ronnie not so much! And on the 17th November 2020 he promptly decided that he would have to get up and do this with me….there was no sleeping through my thudding….but there was one condition….we were going to do it his way. I was secretly petrified knowing that he had completed three half marathons and was very chuffed with himself that he could run 13,5kms without stopping!

He downloaded an app called Couch2 5K on my phone and off we went every morning for me to train to run 5kms without stopping. Because I had to make 10 000 steps every day as part of my weight loss plan, we had no rest days. But this worked for me as routine and a new habit set in very quickly. I am a very organised person and routine is what makes me tick! And on the 27th December 2020 I ran my first 5kms without stopping! (And I lost 9kgs in the process!)

Getting up to go run had become easy and within two days we started the 10K training program. But the running wasn’t getting easier. It was getting hotter by the day and I literally felt like there was going to be nothing left of me by the end of each run. No energy and no fluids. But I pushed through each run.

Finally the day arrived on the 7th February 2020! I was going to do this! Ronnie decided that my first long run should be on the promenade. Just to make it a bit easier. Our son Daemien decided to run with us this day. It was really hot and my legs felt like lead. Admittedly I only start feeling comfortable after about 5kms into a run. But today was not getting easier. Daemien is just a natural runner and was a couple of steps ahead of me without having trained at all. Ronnie wasn’t having a good day and started battling at around 5kms. Daemien was ahead and Ronnie was falling behind. I was struggling in the heat and my legs were failing me. Was I going to give up and start walking with Ronnie? After all, he has always held back so that I can keep up. The urge to just start walking and the heat was just getting too much. My mind started taking over. I have trained so hard to get here and would have to wait a whole week before I could attempt this again. There is just not enough time in the mornings before work and school. And I had already started bragging to everyone about doing this ….no backing out now!

I asked Daemien to go check on Ronnie and he came back and told me that Ronnie was okay and said I must just go. Knowing that he was fine and no longer feeling guilty for leaving him behind put my mind at ease. And at around 7kms I just found my rhythm. Somehow my body just kept going and I managed to find a comfortable pace. By the time I reached Suncoast (running toward Bike & Bean, being the finish) it was extremely hot and I tried to keep to the shade as much as I possibly could. My legs no longer felt like they belonged to me. I remember thinking that I hope I don’t trip and fall down in front of Bike & Bean. And somehow I made it, past everyone relaxing and sipping their coffee and enjoying their breakfast, without face planting. I made it and I still had my own legs, although they felt like jelly at the time. I made it, although I had planned to divorce Ronnie many times in my head when he made me run hills. I had run 10kms without stopping!

And who knows….maybe there is a 21km on my horizon (with Ronnie by my side!)

Chairman’s Chirp

Hello fellow Stars

It’s hard to believe that we have had a year of no road races. Not many people would have predicted in early March 2020 that we would go into a lockdown and be in this situation 12 months later. With the COVID vaccination programme moving extremely slowly there is a long road ahead before we get back to normality.

Whilst some Clubs have pressed ahead with Virtual Races, these races have been run with limited numbers. There is a lot of concern that many clubs will not be able to survive another 6-10 months with either no races or limited economic activity at their premises. Stella AC is one of the Clubs that was fortunate enough to have had their 2020 race and the profit made on that race will sustain the club to and beyond the 2022 race. In terms of the 2021 race, our title Sponsor, Marshalls World of Sport, has agreed to defer their sponsorship to 2022. The 2021 race will however remain part of the Vitality Series, with a virtual race being run on 1 / 2 May. Solly M Sports will be sponsoring the event and all entries will receive a R 50 voucher for each of the KZN Vitality races entered. These vouchers can be redeemed with purchases at Solly M Sports. Runners will have a choice of 3 distances, namely 5km, 10km or 21km. All members are urged to support this race by spreading the word to their friends and family at other Clubs and to participate on either of those days. We would also like to encourage our members to run the other two events in the series, namely the Checkout Challenge on 15 / 16 May and Peace in Africa race on 29 / 30 May. All Discovery Vitality members will get additional Vitality points for completing the races.

Another worrying factor for many Clubs is the slow pace of membership renewals. As at the end of March only 35% of Stella AC members had renewed their membership. Members are urged to at least pay their R 360 annual Club membership. We understand that we are living in tough economic times and are happy to discuss a payment plan with those members who cannot afford to pay this fee in one payment.

With the Comrades Marathon cancelled most athletes are waiting to hear the final plans relating to the Virtual Comrades race on 13 June. Please watch this space as some interesting options are being discussed by the Stella leadership group. The options currently under discussion include various distance options being run on the Comrades route on either a point to point, or out and back basis. The aim of this approach is to give the novices an idea of what it’s like to run on the actual Comrades route. Once the final arrangements are made there will be a notice sent out to all members via all the available communication channels.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those members who have recently gone out of their way to make Stella great. We have seen some innovative Saturday runs that have drawn big crowds. This includes our visit to the Stainbank Reserve and the Gillies run with members of Bluff AC. The road captains will continue to plan runs that allow for a regular change of scenery. This certainly makes for interesting training and it has been fantastic to see so many people stay for coffee afterwards. We have also had a few smaller events at the Den that have boosted morale during these difficult times. It is welcoming to see members with so much passion for the sport also willing to go to great lengths to make the Club experience enjoyable. Please keep up the good work. The Leadership Team would welcome any suggestions that you may have to improve the Club
experience.

The Committee would like to thank all the businesses that support Stella AC in various ways during the year. The sponsors names are mentioned after each event and I urge members to please support these businesses in return. As many members may be aware, Peter Limbouris from Dirks Butchery passed away recently. The Committee would like to send their deepest condolences to his family. Peter was a good friend of Stella AC and will be sorely missed.

As we start to move towards Winter I urge all members to take extra care when out training. Please wear bright clothes and do not forget that vehicles will always have right of way. Please also train in groups. There has been a spate of recent muggings and I would hate one of our members to experience such a traumatic event. If training with a group on a Club night, please listen carefully to the instructions given to you by the road captains. Do not let the groups become too fragmented and allow members to be left running or walking on their own. Regroup as often as possible and if anyone is lagging behind please drop back and encourage them. Even though COVID has had a devastating effect on society and the sport that we love, I firmly believe that Stella AC is well positioned to get through this and become stronger than ever. We urge all members to continue to support the Club through this process. If everyone does their little bit,
we will flourish.

Happy running and please all stay safe.

Road Captain Rants

Its hard to believe we are in the second quarter of another crazy year. With lockdown restrictions lifting, we have been able to start running as a club again. This has been such a bonus to us as we can safely mingle and encourage each other along.

There has been a steady flow of people joining in on the runs, and we have tried to be a bit more creative, especially on our Saturday runs, where we have run at various locations for a change of scenery, and they have been well supported. Gerald van Wyk has joined the road captaincy team and it has been beneficial to all of us with some new meanders happening. Kevin Hendrikse will definitely get the title of “King of the Mountains” as you are guaranteed of a challenging route when he leads! So, between the team, we try and add to the running experience and cater for all to the best of our ability. We welcome any suggestions or tips, as we try make your training experience a
pleasurable one.

Winter is fast approaching, and we have seen a definite change in times with the sun disappearing earlier in the evenings or rising later in the mornings. The roads are not always well lit, so it is vitally important that we are visible to traffic. MIB’s (Men in Black) might look cool and have a slimming effect but it does not help in the dark where you become incognito! “Bright sparks” is the name of the game – wear light, white or bright luminous colours that make you stick out like a sore thumb. Lights on your head or shoes or safety belts are a good investment.

Running the pavements these days has also become a challenge with trenches been dug and rubble on the sidewalks. Please be careful as we are forced to use the roadsides. Single file when traffic approaches and if necessary, stop to allow cars to go past. Not all road users are considerate, so be aware of vehicles at all times. Just this week a cyclist was taken down by a speeding vehicle. We do not need casualties.

With not many races on the calendar, we have tried to have a few longer runs planned to keep us motivated. Comrades are having their virtual run again, and we will train towards this as a club. The options for a 45k, 21 and shorter will be made available and we will work towards having Stella ready by 13th June!

Keep plodding, keep moving! Running is amazing therapy with multiple benefits!


Running in the heat of Singapore

Hello fellow runners, my name is Marie Griffiths. I’m married to Steve and we have two daughters – Casey aged 16 and Jodi 14. With Steve being given an opportunity to work in Singapore, we moved in July 2018.

I joined Stella around 2001 after meeting Steve in 2000. He was a “well seasoned” runner and had been a member of Stella since 1995. We ran countless time trials, races, Marathons and Ultra Marathons proudly for Stella. Even after we moved house from Morningside to Kloof, we chose not to change clubs. Our hearts have always belonged to Stella. Steve and I ran Comrades and Two Oceans together in 2009.

Moving to Singapore was a very exciting time for us. We holidayed here as a family in 2016 before we moved and really enjoyed it. Steve travelled here for work over 50 times before we moved, so Singapore was like a second home to him.

Experiencing life in Asia is very different. Singapore has a strong influence of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Westerners, making for a mix of traditions and local customs. We recently celebrated the lunar Chinese New Year – 2021 is the Year of the OX. Gong Xi Fa Cai (pronounced gong she fa tsai) means Happy New Year in chinese.

This diversity of culture is also reflected in the many languages spoken here, including English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Casey and Jodi are studying Mandarin Chinese at school and both really enjoying the challenge. 

With a population of 6 million, Singapore is a small Country/City/Island, measuring 50 km from East to West and 27 km from North to South, with nearly 200 km of coastline. Despite its density and many high-rises, Singapore has an active greening policy, which has covered the island with tropical plants, paths and parks which makes it a pleasure for running. Some running highlights include waterfront running around the beautiful Marina Bay area, the extensive East and West coast parks along the ocean, the iconic Gardens by the Bay, the Mac Ritchie Reservoir and the Bukit Timah Reserve. With the sun rising around 7am and setting at 7pm all year round, many of Singapore’s running spots are well lit. The crime rate is low, so running alone at night or early morning is not a concern at all. Singapore’s location close to the equator makes for the hot, humid and tropical climate with occasional thunderstorms which cool things down…slightly.

Singapore has an excellent public transportation system. The best way to get around is the MRT system (which is a combination of trains, subways, and light rail) and the local buses. Taxis are more expensive but very convenient and available at any hour. We don’t have a car.

My first introduction to running in the ‘heat of Singapore’ was running the “Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon” in Dec 2016. I was training for my 9th consecutive Two Oceans the following April and when I found out the Singapore Marathon was being held the weekend we were visiting Singapore I thought it would be a great training run while sightseeing at the same time. 

I was very wrong ! The heat & humidity was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I walked more than expected, taking photo’s of the early morning city lights and eventually the sunrise to pass the km’s while I cooled down and sorted my head out. The marathon started at 4.30am to beat the heat (ha ha). I finished the race with my feet squelching with sweat in my shoes.

Similar to most overseas races, your time only starts and stops when you cross the start & finish line mats. There isn’t a big running club scene here like there is in SA and you don’t have to be part of a club to enter a race, so majority of the runners race in the race vest provided in your race pack. You do however see elite runners either racing or training as groups in club kit.

We get top quality race backpacks and vests which are part of your entry fee as well as a “finishers” T at the finish. The cut is tailored slightly differently for men and woman which is great so it’s not a one size fits all. Coke is not supplied along the route, only cups of 100 plus isotonic drink and water. To be honest, I’m not a great fan of running races here. I find them boring. There are very few spectators along the route to cheer you on (the races are held so early before the sun rises), you don’t know any of the other runners to chat with along with way, most have headphones so they wouldn’t hear you anyway and its dark so you don’t even get to enjoy the sights.

With nearly 3 years having passed since we moved here, my body has definitely acclimatised to the heat. The temperature gets up to between 37-40 deg C at certain parts of year,  so running in a vest instead of a t-shirt is a must ! Drinking water with sachets of rehydrate, wearing a cap and sunblock is a necessity. Unfortunately I have experienced severe dehydration which was not great so I am now very careful with keeping my electrolytes stable. After the marathon experience, the only distances I have entered have been 10 & 21k races. Further than 21 is just not enjoyable in this heat no matter how fit you are.

Park Runs however are very enjoyable and well attended. They are held every Sat morning at 7.30am in 4 different locations on the island. Steve and I ran our very first Park Run soon after we moved here.

Similar to the rest of the world though – due to COVID, parkrun’s and all road races have been cancelled. The only races available now are virtual. They are free to enter (unless you want to purchase the race t-shirt which gets posted to you).

These are great as you get motivated by entering the race and they can be run when and where it suits you within the specified date period. I enjoy running on my own so these suit me. I have just finished a 168km’s in 21 days race. I tackled it by running 8k’s each day. It was a huge challenge especially in this heat, but I felt really proud of myself for completing it.

When I’m not running virtual races, I tend to stick to 3-4 runs a week of about 5-8kms each run. This seems to keep me fit, keep my mind free but also not deplete me.

My daughters and I also entered and ran the virtual Comrades race last year. They ran 5k each and I ran 10. Comrades was such a big part of our lives when we lived in SA, so we felt proud to be participating in this virtual race. Unfortunately Steve was recovering from a hip replacement operation so he was unable to run with us, but he enjoyed cheering us on outside our house as we ran past.

In closing I would like to thank Sandy for asking me to share my story about our life and running in Singapore. I have really enjoyed reading all the expat stories and look forward to reading new ones too.

To all our Stella friends, we miss our time trial evenings/braai nights and send you all our love.

Yours in running

Marie

For The Love of Running

When you love running as much as I do, it is very difficult to rein yourself in when you need to!

2019 was where it all came together. I had completed the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon as well as the Cape Town Marathon, which was a highlight in my running career.  I had achieved two massive goals and nothing could go wrong….or so I thought!!!  At the end of that 2019 year I was enjoying a training run, a week prior to the DHS 10km. After the run I could feel a niggle in my right knee but didn’t want to overthink it although it didn’t seem to want to go away. 

The day of the DHS 10km arrived, I was still sore. My wife said rest, 10km is not worth an injury,  BUT I had to run. So off I went and unfortunately near the end as I entered the Crusaders ground my knee locked and it was over.  After lots of rest the swelling subsided but I still couldn’t run. I went to my specialist and had an MRI scan which confirmed I needed an op. 

It was a slow, long haul that for me felt like forever. All I wanted to do was hit the road but even a walk was too much.  After many motivational talks on my wife’s part, I listened and rested, took it slow and thankfully Stella began a beginners group which I started running with. It was the best thing I could have done.  It kept me in check and helped regain the strength I needed to finally get back to where I needed to be, to run again without pain. 

The moral of my long story is like running a marathon you need a plan, strength and endurance and this will help you get to the finish line, but life seems to throw curve balls all the time and you need a plan, strength and endurance to get through it as I had to do to get over my injury.  Always listen to your body, respect it and rest it when need be, for the love of running!

  – Gerald Van Wyk