Last year, 27-year-old PE teacher Alex Ong clinched second place in the 42Km Men’s Local category of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS), while personal trainer Anne Qi Hui, 33, emerged as champion in the 42Km Women’s Local category at the same running event.
In this article, Alex and Anne will give some training tips on how to gear up for the SCMS 2014 race – in a Question and Answer (Q&A) format.
On an average, how much time would a runner generally need to train for a 42km marathon, in order to complete it to his or her satisfaction?
In my opinion, a 12 to 16-week training programme would be an ideal preparation for a marathon.
Four to five times per week with two to three days rest. Each training session shall be around 60 to 90 minutes.
What are your comments on the types of runs needed?
Good training is balanced and this means that the runner has to incorporate various types of runs in his/her training. A typical training week should involve a long run, and two fast paced runs (spaced a few days apart for recovery).
On “fast” days, the runner may perform speed work, intervals or tempo runs. The long run develops endurance and provides “time-on-your-feet” practice (that is, helping the body to get used to the time spent on your feet that is required to complete the marathon distance).
On the other hand, the faster runs develop running efficiency so that the runner will feel more comfortable when running at marathon goal pace.
Good training for a marathon should include a variety of different running-based exercises. These are hill intervals, speed workouts, tempo runs and the long run. As well, you should add cross training e.g. swim or cycling into the mix so that your running muscles can take a break, thus preventing over-use.
On top of these, a runner training for a marathon should also should add strength, power and endurance together with flexibility and core after most of the session. This is achieved by doing strength-training exercises, such as push-ups, chin-ups and other weight-bearing exercises.
Most important a runner shall rest well and eat well whilst preparing for a marathon, as you will definitely need the energy levels.
Why do you think that after running for several years, some runners may plateau on their timings and can’t seem to improve further?
The human body needs to be physiologically stimulated in order to achieve a better performance. Runners plateau as they may have been doing the same type of training repeatedly over the years. As their bodies remain in the comfort zone, limited physiological adaptations occur – resulting in stagnating marathon performance.
- Because they do the same types of training and simply run within their comfort zone only
- They do not continue to set new goals in running for themselves and are happy with simply being able to complete their races within the cut-off times.
- They may get injured and this puts a major setback on their running and training regimes. So they are unable to progress further.
- Their age catches up to them and they thus are unable to improve further.
If a runner wants to improve on his or her previous marathon timing, how would you recommend that he or she train, in order to do so?
I think it would be wise to increase his/her weekly mileage gradually and devote some practice time towards his/her goal marathon pace. For example, on one of the “fast” days, he/she may perform a marathon goal-pace run for 10miles to get used to running at goal-pace.
- They should analyze their weaknesses and figure out what they did wrong.
- Set goals for themselves and work towards those goals.
- Design a training programme for their next race and stick closely to it.
- Be patient and consistent with doing your training and results will eventually come. Do not expect results immediately, as running a faster marathon timing is a gradual process and not an overnight one.
- Rest well and eat well, as this will help to recharge the body and give it energy to tackle each day’s training sessions – and you will gradually improve.
- Develop a stronger mind and believe that anything is possible – as long as you set your heart and mind to it.
Could you give a brief example of an effective marathon-training programme?
As mentioned, do a long run day, which falls typically on a Saturday/Sunday, and have fast workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then do easy running in between these three workout days to promote active recovery and develop aerobic fitness.
How does cross training help with marathon training, in your opinion?
Cross training maintains balance in a training programme. It also provides an opportunity to rest our tired legs while maintaining cardiovascular fitness. Good forms of cross training include spinning or cycling, working out on the elliptical machine, and swimming.
How would you recommend that an average runner fit a marathon-training programme into a busy week full of work and other activities?
My personal preference would be to run in the mornings before going to work. I find that I’m more focused at work after I get in my workout in the mornings. It would also be good to meet up with a few friends for a run. Running with good company makes the process more enjoyable.
How do you know whether you are doing just enough training, or whether you are undertraining or overtraining?
A good measure would be the resting heart rate. Runners can invest in a heart-rate monitor. Alternatively, there are various apps for the iPhone and android phones, which are able to measure resting heart rate.
Using these apps to measure heart rate in the morning, runners can record and monitor these values over time to get a sense of their usual resting heart rate. Any reading above their usual reading indicates that he/she may be overtraining.
If I am undertraining, I can feel it, because my fitness levels will drop and I will find myself struggling to cope with my regular workouts.
If I am overtraining, I may:
- Suffer injuries as a result
- Start to feel that running is a chore, rather than being something that I am excited to do
- Feel more fatigued and tired than usual, and want to rest more often.
- Find myself sleeping much more than usual.
- Fall sick e.g. getting colds more often.
What are your comments on sleep and how this helps with a marathon training programme?
Research has shown that sleep is extremely important for recovery. The body is only able to repair damaged muscle tissue and cells during sleep.
Personally, I would rank sleep as a more important variable in training, as compared to nutrition. Research has also shown that athletes who sleep more and enjoy better quality sleep tend to perform better.
Personally I sleep seven hours a day. When I wake up, I feel refreshed and have the desire to train. If you don’t get enough sleep or sleep too much – your body and mind wouldn’t be in top form to handle the training intensity you are planning to do so.
Therefore putting extra stress by doing marathon training will cause one to get sick or injured easily and your training will be affected and regression will happen.
Any training tips you would like to leave with runners doing the SCMS race?
Conservatively pace yourself for the first 32 km of the race. Thereafter, bravely run with whatever you have left in your tank.
You should train with a group that has a good leader or coach to guide you and aid you in your progress. As well, it is very important to train smart and listen to your body at all times.
Click here for running tips by Mok Ying Ren.
Click here for Q&A tips featuring Mok Ying Ren.
Click here to find out about fuelling and nutrition for SCMS.
Click here to find out about the GEWR run fringe activities.