Straits Times Run: Q&A Running Tips by Mok Ying Ren and Dr Lim Kay Kiat

During the weekend, 2013 SEA Games marathon gold medallist Mok Ying Ren, a Doctor (Captain) in the Singapore Army and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Lim Kay Kiat, gave an informative talk to prepare runners for the Straits Times Run, which takes place at the end of this month.

Runners were also invited to field questions to the two speakers after the talk, in a Question and Answer (Q&A) format. Here are some highlights of the Q&A.

Dr Lim Kay Kiat (left) and Dr Mok Ying Ren (right) taking questions from the public.

Dr Lim Kay Kiat (left) and Dr Mok Ying Ren (right) taking questions from the participants

Do you recommend that kinesiology tapes be used to minimise pain?

You need to know what you are trying to correct with the tape. For example, if you have over-pronation, tape can support the arch of your foot and minimise pronation. As long as you know what you are taping to correct, it can be quite comfortable and definitely reduces pain. So if used correctly, I support the use of this.

After a marathon, how many days should you take to recover and is it safe to do two marathons within two weeks or a month?

Firstly, recovery is different for different people. Some people may feel sore for a few days and that is perfectly normal. Normally, you need one to two weeks to recover completely from a full marathon.

Whether you can race one to two weeks after that depends on what was the goal in the earlier marathon. Did you go out to achieve a personal best, or just aim to complete the event? It is not a good idea to put two key marathons so close to each other.

Maybe one can be a warm-up that you really want to run to enjoy the atmosphere and test out something. But two weeks is generally quite short. If you really want to do that, at least one to two months apart is a good gauge. But if you want to run the marathon well, you should do them once or twice a year, at least six months apart.

What can we eat or drink before a training run?

In the morning, my runs are usually shorter. Generally I run twice a day and I do half an hour to 45 minutes in the morning, maximum one hour and I don’t eat anything. I just get out of bed and run. When I come back, I put in food half an hour later, usually milk with cereals or a milkshake.

How about food during the early mornings for race-day? What do you recommend?

You want to eat something that your body is used to, and is easily digestible. Take high GI foods because you want something that is absorbed fast into the bloodstream. Half of your glycogen and energy stores have been used up when you are sleeping, so it is not advisable to take part in a race on an empty stomach.

So when I wake up, I take a packet of gel. The idea is that it has a high GI and is digested really fast so it can be stored by the body as energy. I also take bread or cereals two hours before the run, because it will be in the stomach for a longer time and when you reach the starting line, you will not feel hungry. Make sure that you try this out about two weeks before the race though. Wake up two hours before one of your longer runs and check if this regime works for you. If you feel good, you can do it during the race. Do not do anything different.

On race day too, try and take a power gel about 45 minutes before the race and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

How do you stop stitches?

To stop stitches, try and change the pattern of your breathing. For example, if you have been breathing whenever you land on your right leg, try changing it by taking a deep breath when you land on your left leg.

How should you hydrate yourself adequately during a long race?

Singapore is warm and humid so try drinking at the first water station. Start taking drinks and fluids early to stop dehydration. Taking isotonic drinks in addition to water is also good because they will help to replenish the minerals that you have lost through your sweating.

How do you pace yourself during a race?

I think that pacing is very important and we should run at an even pace. To check if you have run at an even pace for say, a 21km race, check the time splits for the first 10km and the second 10km and if they are the same, then you have executed your race well. Even better is when you have more energy in the second half and you push faster. That is called a negative split.

But most of us do a positive split, which means the second half is slower than the first half because we have run too fast at the start. That is a very common mistake that runners make because they get so excited about the race and think that if they run faster now, they can slow down. But you should decide on your race pace and execute it very well for at least the first half of the race. If you are feeling good with your pace by the third quarter of the race, try and push it. Do not push too early though otherwise you will run out of steam.

How do you cope with the mental struggles and tiredness faced during a long race when you feel that you can no longer cope?

That happens to everybody. Ask yourself whether you started at the right pace. If you started too fast, you will definitely feel fatigued and it will be a very painful run towards the end.

That happens to me as well. For example, when I was running at the Gold Coast Marathon two years ago, I was trying to break the national record of two hours and 24 minutes. That means I would have to run the first half of the race in one hour and 12 minutes. I managed to do that and I felt quite good. I followed some guys and came to the halfway mark at one hour and 10 minutes. I was running at a pace of three minutes and 20 seconds per kilometre.

But after that, the last nine kilometres was so painful that I was running at five minutes per kilometre. That is how slow it gets. My second half was one hour and 16 minutes so it was a really bad positive split.

So if you start out the race too fast, you can definitely feel the fatigue in the third quarter. But if you stick to your race plan very well, you will find that you can even go faster in the latter part of the race. Try doing this for a couple of runs, pace yourself and speed up in the second half and you might even do a faster time. Use the first couple of kilometres as a warm-up and ease yourself into the race. Then it will be a wonderful race as you can feel you can keep on going.

How do you improve at running?

Everyone has a different starting point in running. But by the end of the day, follow your own progression and train hard and you will fulfil your whole potential. Everyone has different commitments in life. Maybe you have so many commitments that you can only train a few times a week. You must expect your improvement rate to be slower.

But basically for running, the more time you spend on it, the better you get. Be patient and you will improve over the years. Do not rush things. You may see very fast improvements at the beginning. When you are new to running, your improvement will be very fast because the body is still getting accustomed to the sport. But after a while, the rate of improvement may slow down.

Do runners have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis because of the sport that they engage in?

No. In fact, studies have found that runners actually have a lower risk of developing osteoarthritis, but then again, perhaps that is because they have a lower BMI. Generally speaking, there is no evidence or research that shows if you run a lot you will get osteoarthritis.

But there are certain conditions that may increase your risk, for example, if you have bowlegs or have experienced significant knee trauma or injury. If your knees are good though and you have a reasonable training programme and you are not overweight to start with, then there is no additional risk.

Does being overweight have an impact on your running?

Running is a weight-bearing activity, so that means you will carry your own weight. So if you are lighter, you will definitely be able to run faster.

By taking up running, you will definitely drop weight at the beginning and eventually come to a plateau after a while. Do not go crazy over losing weight though because there will be other implications such as not having enough energy to run. So just simply eat normally and your weight will take care of itself.

How do you decide a reasonable time target to train towards for your next race?

It is very hard to set a target. Normally for the newer runners, if you can cut down 10 to 15 minutes from say, your previous 21km race, it would be a good target. Start consistently and run at a pace that is doable for you. You can use the Macmillan running calculator to decide on what sort of pace to train at, but then again that is measured based on your last race.

Before your race, do a couple of longer runs at your intended pace and see if you are able to last a certain distance. Then as the race draws nearer, you decide on a reasonable target. Train at an appropriate pace too.

Click here for some basic running tips by Mok Ying Ren for the ST Run.

Click here to find out more about fuelling and nutrition for runners.

Click here to check out a brand new, revolutionary pair of running shoes by Puma.

Click here to find out about the scenic Angkor Wat Marathon – and run for charity.

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