Running Tips

From Walker to Runner: A Tribute to Dave Beatie

By: Ronnie Groenewald

2 years ago I phoned Stella and asked if I could join in some sessions as I tried running in the park but ended up with more injuries than gains. Pat Freeman suggested that I start with the walkers. I met Dave there as he had been walking instead of running due to an injury. I told him one day I would really would like to run.

After some basic training sessions Dave suggested I do a club time trial. I came stone dead last with a time close to 50 minutes in pouring rain but he told me these words which probably changed my life: “We going to make an athlete out of You”. Why these words meant so much to me at the time was because I’m 1,89 meters tall and at that time weighed over 125 kg. I was built more like a tractor than a athlete.

This started my running and weight loss journey from 125 kg+ all the way down to 105 kg doing Durban Runner 21 km. All these milestone but I still didn’t complete my biggest: I wanted to run. All the races we did we always walk/run and Dave never cared once about his own time but rather encouraged and helped and almost dragging me over the finish line when I wanted to give up, he never gave up and always pushed me. We did a Saturday Stella Gillies once and we walked from the club all the way to the top at Maris Stella and told me: “one day You will run up this hill” I thought he was full of nonsense as I was out of breath just walking it.

When we were in Level 5 Lockdown I was fortunate to have a treadmill and didn’t have to run around my garden. I decided I am going to a do a couch to 5 km program so that I can run for  5 km. I finally accomplished this goal in June 2020 on the road. It was a small personal accomplishment but I was over the moon. I decided to step it up and start another 17 week beginners program.

Today, 15 August 2020 I went out to do a 13 km (as per my program). I ran past Musgrave Centre and usually I need to start walking there but I felt good so just kept on plodding along (remember tractor size not Superbike). Before I knew it I was right next to entrance of Maris Stella and realised I just conquered a hill Dave told me one day I will be able to run. I realised all I achieved in these last 2 years thanks to his encouraging words and support and guidance. I ended up running through hilly Morningside all the way home, 13.5 km without a walk conquering every hill and every step.

Thank you Dave Beattiie for being there for the beginner runners. Today I honestly felt like I achieved that athlete status you spoke about 2 years ago.

How to avoid training burnout when training for a race

By Dr. Grant Matkovich 

The start of every new year gives a chance at a new beginning and even a ‘restart’. As runners the new year allows us to set new running goals, whether its new races, longer distances, going for PB’s or refocusing after an injury.

An important part of being able to reach your goal is to take the time out now to plan your training. Divide the months and weeks leading up to your event into phases. With each phase focusing on different parts of your conditioning to get you to race day in peak condition. This will help prevent overtraining. The symptoms of overtraining may include tired and heavy legs, slower running times or even injuries start creeping in.

Here is a basic guideline to help focus your training, so that you can avoid overtraining with the unwanted fatigue and injuries.

Phase one: Preparation Phase

This phase is aimed at easing back into training for 4-12 weeks, this should include easy aerobic conditioning and even a bit of cross training.

Goal of the phase:

To slowly improve your general fitness and being able to run at your comfortable pace.

What can be included:

  1. Easy club runs should be the focus during this period.
  2. Cross training may include cycling or swimming

Phase two: Base Training Phase

This phase is aimed at building a solid fitness base over 8 to 12 weeks. The focus is on slowly increasing your training intensity to develop a decent fitness level and to avoid injuries.

Goal of the phase:

To increase the endurance capacity of your fitness. Meaning that by the end of this phase you should be able to run longer distances at your comfortable pace.

What can be included:

  1. Increase the duration of your runs from your preparation phase, these should still be at a comfortable pace (60 -75% effort)
  2. Consider adding in one additional run per week into your schedule
  3. Occasional hill running, however this should be done at a lower effort to avoid injuries
  4. If you have any technique issues (running up/down hill; stride etc) this is the time to address them

Phase three: Building Phase

For the next 4-8 weeks the focus is on building on your base by increasing intensity and race specific training

Goal of the phase:

To increase your fitness and conditioning to be able to run at your desired race pace, but without the risk of constantly running at your highest levels.

At the peak of this phase you should be at your physiological peak. This is when you will be at maximum intensity of training. Shorter distance runners may be able to hold this peak for longer, however longer distance runners will not be able to. The peak of maximum intensity training should last 2 weeks.

What can be included:

  1. Add some tempo runs, runs which are at a slightly faster pace than your comfortable pace
  2. Fartleks and longer interval runs
  3. Runs on terrain like what you will be racing on
  4. Run that is close to or over your race distance, but at a lower intensity (slower than your race pace)

Phase four: Taper

The aim of the next 1-2 weeks is to allow the body to recover after the intense training whilst still maintaining fitness levels.

Goal of the phase:

To allow the body to recover after training so that you are in optimal condition on race day

What can be included:

Rest! This is a difficult phase as you feel strong and want to run, however you need to fight urges of wanting to train or doubts of feeling undertrained, trust your plan!

Shorter runs at a VERY comfortable pace are important.

Phase Five: Race

Phase Six: Recover

Remember to allow sufficient time to recover after your race. Runners are often back on the road way to soon after a race. Take time off and recover properly.

 

Other tips to avoid burnout when training:

1. Choose one race and make that race your priority

Choose ONE race as your goal and design your training schedule to that race. It is difficult to race many races without facing burnout and fatigue. When training for long distance and Ultra races it is hard to maintain your physiological peak for long periods of time due to the strain training places on your body. Choose one race that is your goal race, and make sure your training ‘peaks’ for that race.

 

2. Know your paces:

This might sound a bit obvious but is so often over-looked by runners. Know your comfortable pace, your tempo pace (Slightly faster) and your race pace (faster).

Likewise, realistically the pace of your club run, 10km, 21km and 42km pace can’t all be the same. Get to know what your comfortable pace is for each distance. When training allocate paces to your runs, irrespective of the distance you are running.

Race paces should be done very infrequently (Time trials etc). Tempo paces can be done more frequently. Allocate comfortable pace runs often, to allow your legs to recover especially a run after a hard run or hill session.

If you run every run at your fastest pace you will pick up injuries, varying your pace (to slower paces) allows your body to recover whilst still running!

 

3. Training runs are training runs:

Take training runs easy. Stop for water, chat, regroup. Its about time on your legs. Often runners use road races as training runs, which they plan to run slower. This is difficult as it is easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of the race. The other runners next to you pull you along often faster than you intended. The water table stop you from stopping for water. The crowd support on the side of the road can make you run a bit faster.

This often causes runners to run their ‘race’ on a ‘training’ run, because the legs have not recovered from the training run which was faster than planned.

 

4. Listen to your body

During training the body will get tired and feel heavy. There will be days when you will not want to get out of bed. That is normal during the Base training and Building phase of training. With the correct Taper phase, the body will recover. However, if your body is in pain and you have injuries or persistent niggles that are getting worse, you need to listen to your body. That is often a sign of over-training and fatigue. Often backing off on the intensity, modifying your training or a couple of rest days will do the trick in getting you back on track. Not listening to your body, however, might cause you to stop completely!

DIPPING UNDER 3 (Hippo Marathon)

By Siya Ngcobo

Siya

 

It had to happen! The barrier that had been on my mind since the beginning of 2020, I had no choice but to run a Sub 3 marathon. Runners might find it arrogant, but my mind was made up, I was going to go to Richards Bay on the 22nd of February 2020 and run a marathon in under 3 hours, so please allow me to share the best 2 hours and 55 minutes of my running life.

In August 2019 after the Mandela marathon, Gcina and I decided to go run Hippo Marathon in Richards Bay the following year because we had great reviews about the course, flat they said, they lied to us! There is no such thing as a flat marathon especially after 38km where a speed hump feels like a hill.

We left Durban on Friday at 12:04 and were at our destination in no time, collected and whined about not having plastic sachets on route, especially with 34° expected on race day. Oscar was kind enough to show us the route so we could strategize. I find it easier to run when I know what’s coming. At 6:20pm on Friday we did a 4km jog at 4:22/km to stretch our legs and get a feel of the roads and the air in Richards Bay, found the humidity not to be as bad as Durban, and that made me happy.  We got back to the hotel and prepared our drinks, but we had a challenge as no one was there to second us. Oscar was kind enough to find someone to do that job, but that was a disaster as we only met the guy 15 minutes before the start. He could not process the information fast enough to do an efficient job (we only met him at 27km for the first time), he popped up at 38km when I was expecting him at 32km, was already running on grit at that time but that caffeine GU gel was heavenly when I got it at 38km. Now this is how the whole race went.

The gun went and I said “Valar Morghulis”, Game of Thrones fans will know these words very well, but at that moment I was prepared for a battle, the battle of dipping under Sub 3. In racing terms, you only have to maintain 4:15/km for 42.195km to finish in 2:59:59, I had bigger plans than that. I had told myself that every part of the race must be like a training session, and had planned to replicate all my sessions in one race. As soon as the race starts you climb a monster 350m hill, my mind went into Hill repeat mode and I was done with it without any trouble, I knew that the next 13km was flat and undulating with gentle climbs popping up now and again, these gentle climbs became monsters in the second lap. The first half went well, I could stay at 3:55 without breaking a sweat and put the hammer down to 3:45 on gentle downhills. I had expected our guy to be waiting for us with the magic stuff at 12km, but “dololo” he was nowhere to be found, bought time and only took the GU gel I had with me after 15km, felt the magic as I crossed the halfway point at 1:22:50, climbed the 350m hill at 4:05/km and went on cruise mode trying to stay at 4:00/km.

My face lit up when I met our drinks man at 27km, took my second gel and decided to push a bit because I had expected to see him in the next 5km’s, but that was not the case. Went through the 30km mark in 1:59:35, that is when I knew that Sub 3hrs was in the bag, now it was a matter of how low can I dip under the magic figure, Sub 2:50 started to pop in my head but that all vanished when I got to 32km and did not get the most important gel in my race plan, I needed that high caffeine gel to turn me in to running lunatic. I did not know what to do, the temperature was rising with each stride, so I could overheat at any time and stop on the side of the road like an old Toyota (I drive one too). Decided to drop the pace to 4:30-4:35/km as I knew this would get me a 2:55 without much trouble.

Gcina came into this race carrying an injury, and when I started seeing him on the road, I knew he was in trouble, I ran with him for about 150m but he could not keep up, so seeing my running mate battle at a race messed up my head for a while but he told me to go, and that made me feel at ease with the decision of living him behind.

I got to 38km and I started to feel my legs getting heavier with each stride, it was getting hot, above 30° I reckon. I was in the dark hours, now the last 4km were a challenge but I started to think of the people who would be disappointed more than me if I did not get the Sub 3. I thought of my wife to be, my club Stella who have been supporting with kudos on Strava and just general encouragment, my head went back to a track session I did with a mad Surgeon Henry Van Niekerk, surely this last 4km is a breeze compared to that madness we did two weeks before Hippo. I do not remember the last 4km except asking people to move and leave the yellow line to me, I do not know what was that all about, but I just wanted to run in the yellow lane until I finished, and when I entered the finish point I said “Valar Dohaeris,” meaning “all men must serve.” I had served a 2:55:17 (2:54:43 official time) on a steaming hot day in Richards Bay, now let the “Chasing Silver” slogan take over in preparation for Comrades. I have dare to dream “Iphupho lam” and hope to achieve it.

The Running Race!

By: Sandy Mullins

There is nothing quite like the homosapien species called the “athlete”! There are sub species in this category who hit the pavements, roads, and earthy terrain to “move it, move it”, namely the walker, runner and cyclist. They will get up at a ridiculous time – before the birds have decided to open their beaks, and lace up, leave the comfort of Duvet Street and move at a considerable pace along the streets and byways for a few hours, clicking up the kilometres (which is then beeped on the watch to the computer and downloaded to  record the mileage and rake up points!).

The beauty about the athlete is that it knows no boundaries. The love of the sport unites young and old, the doctor, the baker, the candlestick maker, and total strangers greet each other in passing, because they recognise the dedication and the unvoiced respect for what they are achieving. I remember running on the beachfront one morning with one of my race T-shirts on. A guy running in the opposite direction in a similar shirt smiled at me and the telepathy was – “I know what you went through to earn that T!”  

The bonds that are built along the road is strong. You might not know each other from a bar of soap, yet you can talk the same language. You share the pain, the anguish of injury or sickness, but delight in the achievements and goals reached, however great or small. Its not generally a selfish sport. What one gleans from one, is passed on to another to encourage and build and to see personal bests achieved. Its thanks to the selfless input of those in the know that has got me to places I would never have dreamt possible.

It is not necessarily a glamorous pastime. One sees each other at the worst, still with sleep in one’s eyes, hair amok, moods subdued or grumpy.  Not everyone looks like a super model in running gear. And when the need to go to the loo arises on the road… well put it this way, we would never dream that the bush could be such heaven! Its funny when you see runners in the mall all dressed for the day, how you almost don’t recognise them!

Seconders rate extremely high on my respect list. They get up with us to cart us around, provide for our needs on the way, and give us the rebuke or encouragement we need to get us going again. And don’t forget all the photos they take of us to record our amazing feats! Many have pulled me through some of the toughest challenges in my running career. Again total strangers come to the rescue. Comrades 2016, I was coming down Fields Hill having lost my electrolyte potions along the way, and the inevitable cramps kicked in – both calves. I looked like a ballerina on points – gone wrong! Two lovely spectators came running up and asked how they could help. I leant on one while the other helped undo the spasms. I really thought my race was over. Thanks to them I hobbled down towards Pinetown. Just then another runner doing his 9th came along side me and gave me a packet of the same electrolytes I had been taking. He told me to take two every half hour and then carried on his way to his green number. I tried to remember his name on his vest but to this day, I will never know who he is, but he saved my race and I was able to complete the challenge. Comradeship at its best. It is humbling.

So to all these crazy characters who make this world an interesting, better place – I salute you! Keep moving forward and run the race that is set before us – this is a paradigm of life!

Don’t be a litterbug, bitter cup!

By: Sandy Mullins

Calling all our Stella athletes to go green! We live in an environment that is marred by litter wherever we go. We see it when we run the streets and trails, and it would be so good to do our bit and be a part of the solution. 

Part of our road etiquette is to be aware of our surroundings and assist where possible, especially in races. There is so much littering with water sachets and coke containers, and though there are bins available, the mess that is left to clean up afterwards is unnecessary.  Sadly the wind also carries the litter into the surrounding areas and makes it difficult to clean up. 

When we are wearing our Stella kit, we are ambassadors of the club, and people recognize you by your colours. Let us not have a negative response but be known to be friendly, helpful and a club that cleans up after themselves!

Go green and gold, go Stella!!

South Coast Marathon – Lessons from a fellow mortal

By: Tawanda Vakisai

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Build your base

The South Coast Marathon has always had a special place in my heart. This is where I achieved my first sub-2 half marathon and my first sub-4 marathon. I set my sights on running another sub-4 marathon this year. Although I have had good luck on the two occasions I ran the South Coast, I knew this alone was not going to be enough to have a comfortable run or get the result I was after.  One of the tips I was given in my early running days was to ensure my total mileage for the week is at least equivalent to the race distance I will be training for. I was also warned the mileage goals increase as the performance goals increase. We are fortunate at Stella to have organised runs during the week and a longer run on the Saturday. These were enough to get the minimum mileage required. I have recently also started joining Sandy on her hill training sessions on Wednesdays. These have really boosted my fatigue resistance and I encourage everyone to join.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing 

I normally treat myself to a massage after some hard work before the race. Unfortunately for me, I could not get an appointment on the days I wanted to go. When I shared this with my wife, she reminded me I had invested in a foam roller as a more cost-effective alternative to sports massages. I tried to get on to the foam roller but just could not bear the pain when I tried to foam roll my ITB.  After having a few laughs at how much I was struggling, my wife offered to massage me. I have previously shared with her YoutTube videos on massage techniques and “volunteered” to be her model so I knew I was in good hands. A few days of this put me in good stead to achieve my goal.

Tapering

My strategy for the week of the marathon has always been to have one slow run on Tuesday (Wednesday latest) and to maintain a good eating plan. I always struggle with the latter as I am blessed with a very healthy appetite. This saw me having a chip and cheese mutton roti for Friday lunch. I was regretting this decision on Friday evening. Luckily, I had some Rennies at hand to neutralise the situation.

Do not try new things

On Saturday evening, as I prepared for race-day, I was contemplating whether I should use the hydro-pack I had recently purchased for the marathon. Being able to carry my own fuel for the race was such a compelling idea. I had missed my opportunity to try it out during training. It was decided, I would take it with me. What could go wrong? I lay out my kit and everything I needed for the morning, planned my breakfast and was in bed nice and early.

Enjoy it!

We got to the start of the race 1 hour before the scheduled start and after taking a moment to enjoy the beautiful sunrise on the South Coast, we began to get ready. My hydro-pack was suddenly feeling heavier and not as minimalistic as I had imagined. My running mates gave me a look of disapproval as I tried to adjust it to fit more comfortably. I heeded their dirty looks and left it in the car. I was not going to let this get in the way. We made our way to the starting line and met other fellow Stella Runners there. We all shared our goals for the day as we waited for the gun. The sun was already out and we could see it was going to get warm. There was also promise of headwinds so it looked like we had a real challenge ahead of us.

With the bang of the gun, the runners burst into full flight. My immediate mission was to get over the first 10 in under 1 hour. I still remembered how tough the race was at the end so I planned early on not to do too much in the beginning. Holding back was going to be key. I made it comfortably over the 10km mark in just over 55 minutes.  The next mission was to get over the 21km mark at about 1:55. The route was so beautiful at this point it took your mind off the running with the gentle breeze helping to keep us cool. This however took a turn just after the 20km mark as we were now facing the head wind earlier promised. The hill sessions immediately came to mind.  If I had conquered the hills of Howard Road, the wind was going to come out second best. I self-talked myself through the wind and got over 21km one minute faster than planned. At this point, we were now more exposed to the scorching heat. My left calf was starting to feel a bit tight. One of the most useful tips I have adopted is from an article Dr Grant Matkovitch wrote earlier this year. He advised that “if a muscle is causing pain and tightness whilst you are running, consider taking 3 minutes out of your run/race to stretch the muscle on the side of the road”. I decided I would take some time off on the next water stop to stretch and recover.

While I was down stretching the sub-4hr bus passed. I looked at the time and still backed myself to stick to the plan. Once the stretching and re-hydration was done, I was back on the road with a new lease on life. I caught up to the sub-4 bus at the 27km mark. I was feeling very strong at this point and thought I should pass the bus as they would probably slow me down. I looked at the clock and we were still ahead of time. A little voice told me to hold back. I stuck with the bus up until 32km. I knew at this point that there will probably be less running after 35km so decided to leave the bus and increase the pace a little. I got to 35km and I was still feeling strong. I was happy going up the hills and felt all the training had paid off both mentally and physically. The moment I got on to the grass, I knew the mission had been accomplished. I burst towards the finish line, to the cheers of my second family, Stella Athletic Club. Although challenging, this was one of the most enjoyable marathons I have ever run and will definitely go back for more.

 

“Twinkle twinkle Stella Star, please be visible from afar!”

Safety Tips from Road Captain Sandy Mullins

Road running is great fun, especially when we run as a club, at training runs, races or even alone, but there are running laws to adhere to for one’s safety. There have been too many incidences of late, and for new runners as well as experienced runners, it’s good to be reminded of running etiquette and safety.

  • Always run facing oncoming traffic so that you and drivers are aware of each other. The only time it is advisable to run with the flow of the traffic is if there is a foot path on that side only. We don’t need to play dodgem cars and chicken!
  • You need to be able to hear what is going on around you. Avoid running with headphones. If you really have to listen to music when you run, turn it down and only wear one ear piece, so that you can be aware of your surroundings. Most races do not permit the use of headphones.
  • “Light and bright at night”! Especially during winter, you need to be visible! MIB’s (Men in Black) might be cool, but you are not visible! These days you get really great running tops that are reflective, and just plain white T’s are also advisable.
  • If you intend changing direction, cross a road, or come to an intersection make sure you signal clearly where you intend going. Often drivers are looking right to cross into a road you are in, they do not see you coming and many a runner has met a car by accident. Rather run around vehicles than presume that you have been seen.
  • Early birds and late runners need to be very aware of drivers who could be fatigued or under the influence. Some drivers have no respect for runners, and they own the road rather than share it. We too need to realise that we don’t have exclusive rights to the road either and should preferably run on the pavement.  Rather assume that all drivers are bad and have not seen you. Be safe not sorry!
  • Be courteous and acknowledge drivers who have made an effort to give way to your athletic efforts. Swearing and cursing drivers is a no no! We also have to honour our club – we want to draw people not chase them away!
  • If you are not well or intend to cut short, please let someone know so that runners don’t wait for a no show. We have had an incident where a new runner collapsed and it could have been serious if it were not for a guardian angel who came to her rescue. Run responsibly!
  • Sadly, these days, running alone is not always an option. There have been numerous accounts of runners being accosted, and some not so nice experiences. If you have no alternative, make sure you run in daylight and on roads that are popular to avoid unwanted company. Ideally join us at Stella or run with a mate, and make sure your route is known to the special people in your life.

These few simple points can make your running experience a lot more pleasurable. Lets arrive alive and in one piece, and come back for more tar therapy because we can!!

To stretch or not to stretch….

by Dr Grant Matkovitch

DrG
Running training, especially when increasing mileage, adds a lot of stress to your muscles.

When a muscle becomes fatigued it becomes shorter. As the shortened muscle gets used over and over it becomes more shortened. Until the muscle becomes so shortened that the runner feels the ‘tight’ muscle, which feels weak, painful and limited in its movement. The muscle may even start cramping.

To stop the effects of tight muscles it is important to stretch as stretching helps lengthen the shortened muscle back to its normal length.

There is a lot of conflicting information about stretching (When to stretch, how to stretch). This has made it confusing on when and how to stretch.

As a specific guideline: Should you stretch?
Yes, it is a good idea to stretch, because as mentioned earlier, after months of training your muscles are very likely fatigued and would benefit from regular stretching, even if you can’t feel the tight muscle yet, they are there!

Which muscles should you stretch?
The best muscles to stretch are the Gluteus muscles (Max, Min and Med) otherwise known as your butt muscles, your hamstrings (back of the thigh), your quadriceps muscle (front of your thigh) and calf muscles.

How should you stretch?
‘Static’ stretches are the best. This means finding the position where you can feel the muscle stretching and holding that position. When you feel the stretch in the muscle it should be a pleasant sensation. It should have that “nice” pain sensation if it’s more than slightly uncomfortable then back off on the amount of stretch.

Unfortunately the idea “no pain, no gain” does not apply with stretching as if it’s too painful you might be aggravating the muscle and causing damage. Do not bounce in the stretch position (known as ballistic stretching) as this can badly damage the muscle!

How long and often should you stretch for?
Keep the stretch position for a recommended 30 seconds. This will help give a chance for the muscle fibres to lengthen. I would suggest introducing stretching of muscles 2/3 times per week. It can be done either in the morning or evening, no time has been shown to be better, so whichever time suits your schedule.

If you are having an issue with a specific muscle and it feels tight, painful or is hampering your running performance, then I would suggest increasing stretching to every day of the painful muscle. If a muscle is sore during a run, then stretch that muscle after the run.

Remember that if a muscle is causing pain and tightness whilst you are running, consider taking 3 mins out of your run/race to stretch the muscle on the side of the road. This might help release the tightness and lead to a more comfortable rest of the run (without the need for painkillers/supplements!).

As an add on to stretching consider putting a heat pack on your muscles whilst stretching or watching TV. The heat will increase blood supply to the muscle which will help flush the muscle of Lactic acid and metabolites that cause the muscle fatigue. It will also help promote healing in the muscle.