Running Tips

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.