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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Running 101 for Newbies Part 2

Continuing from previous post

The competitive world of running is divided into 3 main type of races - track & field, road runs and trail running. As the name implies, track & field refers to events that are held on a track, more specifically a stadium running track. Events are mainly the shorter distances like the 100 metres to 800 metres race, relays like the 4 x 100 metres or 4 x 400 metres or hurdles and decathlon. These sort of events are held at competitive level in schools and for major meets like SEA Games, Asian Games and Olympics Games. Generally, here in Singapore, it is generally safe to say that once out of school, people do not participate in such races unless they are elites and representing running clubs and country. Most recreational runners will not be able to meet the qualifying times to even get on the starting block.

The most popular type of running races is the road race. These are generally held in public areas like parks and public roads and distances varies from 5 km to a full marathon. Generally the most common distances for a road race are

5 Km Race - Locally there are very few 5 km road races. Most are fun events as the logistical cost of organising a short race is equal to that of a longer distance races so I figure organiser probably find it more beneficial to their pockets to have 5 km races as fun events where every Ah Ter and Ah Kor can take part. Some clubs do organise occasional 5 km time trials for their members but if you are wondering how to take part in such time trials, likely you have not acquire enough running experience and contacts to qualify for one.

10 Km Race - First thing first. A 10 Km race is not a 1/4 marathon! A marathon is 42.195 km. 4 quarters of a 10 Km race is 40 Km. 2.195 km short of a full marathon. So please do not go round saying you ran a 1/4 marathon. There is no such thing.  10 km road race is the most common road race here and dare I say the whole world. In term of challenge, the distance is sufficiently long enough to make it a good workout and yet short enough for almost every runner wannabe to take part in. A person can walk the whole 10 km and still finish in a decent time of say 2 hours. So if you are a new running convert, this should be the first race distance for you to try before stepping up to the next level.

Half Marathon - A half marathon is half the distance of a full marathon i.e. 21.0975 km. In term of level of difficulty, it is consider an endurance race but it is an achievable distance for most runners. Running a half marathon takes an average runner about 2 hours or so. Walking a half marathon (not encouraged) will probably take 5 hours. So take part in this only if you has sufficient training and is able to run 10 km or more distances comfortably. People have died from trying too hard in a half marathon even here in Singapore so do not do this unless you have trained sufficiently and got used to our hot and humid weather.

Full Marathon - A full marathon of 42.195 km is the ultimate road race for most runner. It is the holy grail of running something to check off the bucket list. The average runner in Singapore will takes more than 5 hours to run/jog/walk the full distance. A full marathon is not for newbie. It is an endurance race and only those who have trained sufficiently should do this. In theory, a runner needs to do an average weekly mileage of 60 km with long runs of up to 30 km before he/she can do a full marathon. People who thinks it is a walk in the park as in, that they can simply walk the full distance will be in for a rude shock. Walking 42.195 km is not akin to walking 8 hours in the shopping mall where you have air condition, coffee breaks. In our hot humid weather, walking the full marathon 100% of the way will most likely take more than 10 hours. Those who do a slow jog/walk will need to take at least 7 - 8 hours if not more by which time, the water station may have ran out of water, the sun is high up in the sky and one can easily get cramps, dehydration and heat stroke. Do this only if you have at least 1 year of running experience and is able to complete a half marathon comfortably in under 3 hours. Most prudent and responsible race organisers will set qualifying time, checkpoint and race cut off times to weed out the unfit and reduce their logistic nightmare of catering to the mass of marathon souvenir collectors wannabes.

Ultra Marathon -  Officially, any distance that is more than a full marathon is considered an Ultra marathon but most people recognise ultras event at certain regular distances like 50 km, 84 km, 100 km, 100 miles, 160 miles and so on. Ultras are not for the faint hearted. It can take anything from 5 hours to complete a 50 km ultra to more than 36 hours or even days to complete longer distances. For this reason, most ultra organiser will require participants to provide evidence that they have completed certain distances in a certified race before they can sign up. So if you have never run a half or a full marathon, don't even dream of doing an ultra. 

Of course in between all the above, there are the quirky distances like 15 km, 32 km and so on. These distances races are good and useful for those training for the half and full marathon and can serve as good training races.

Trail Races - Trail races are the equivalent of road races except that it is held mainly on trails in forests and jungles. Here the level of difficulty rises due to the different terrains, ground surface, inevitable hills and climbs. Special equipment like trail shoes, hydration bags, torches, headlamps will be required for longer distances. For those who are new to running, trail races should only be done after familiarising oneself with the trail and getting the feel and hang of it. If you do not like mud, uneven surfaces and is worried about snakes bites, bees and other creepy crawlies, trail running is not for you. And if running in the dark alone in the forest at night is not your idea of a night out, forget about running a 50 km or even a 42 km trail race. 

There you have it. Running 101 for the newbies. See where you fit in and join the correct races. That will help you to improve your running competency, reduce your chances of getting injury and provide a good experience and a chance to shout out that you ran all the way without walking!

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