Best foot forward for the StandardChartered marathon
Rebecca Tsui looks at the importance of getting the right balance when it comes to long- distance running
The Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon has become quite a trendy event in the city. It attracts a few thousand runners each year but a lot of them are inexperienced. A lot of people are injured during the competition - especially teenagers. This is either from lack of practice or inadequate equipment. Last year, there were about 6,000 people who did not feel well at the marathon, and 4,000 of them were injured. Looking at the runners over the past few years, you can see that they were not well prepared - they ran in normal T-shirts and Converse trainers. Renowned marathon runner and long-distance running coach Lee Kar-lun said a pair of good running shoes is key for marathons. 'Runners, especially those taking part for the first time, must wear running shoes with air-cushions to absorb shock,' he said, adding it is very important for runners to protect their feet. He said keeping warm is also essential: 'Marathons require lots of energy; we must keep the body warm to prevent unnecessary energy loss. If the weather is cold, say, below 15 degree Celsius, it is better to wear a jacket to start off. And a hat is needed if it is windy. You can take them off whenever you feel hot,' he said. Lee advises runners to try out equipment during training: 'Don't wear brand new clothes or shoes during the competition as you never know whether they really suit you.' After getting the right equipment, runners have to start training. 'For those who have never tried long distance running, they should spend three months training for the 10km. If they want to try the half-marathon [21km] straightaway, they should prepare for six months. I wouldn't suggest they take part in the whole marathon [42km],' he said. 'It is better to train three times a week and start from 5km. Then, add some distance every three weeks. Training intensively a few weeks before the competition often leads to injury,' he said. Lee also suggested runners start training on flatland, such as sports grounds or cycling paths, and practice either in the morning or the evening. The coach also said weight training is a good idea. 'Runners have to train their thigh, arm, abdominal and back muscles. It's better to do some exercise at home like sit-ups and push-ups,' he said. Besides training, runners have to be aware of their eating habits. 'On top of a balanced diet, I'd suggest runners eat more red meat for iron and protein. Bananas are also a good idea for maintaining blood glucose levels,' he said. When it comes to the day before the competition, Lee suggested runners do not eat too much and have plenty of rest. 'You must sleep or have a nap even if the competition starts very early in the morning. You must have breakfast, but don't get too full. It is nice to have an energy-rich, hot drink like hot chocolate or Horlicks.' Runners are also advised to arrive at the venue an hour early. This gives them enough time to get changed, store personal belongings and warm up. 'In addition to stretches, they have to do some slow running to keep their bodies warm,' Lee said. 'If you are not a fast runner, don't stand at the front of the crowd. It is the most dangerous place when the competition starts. Runners might push each other and people could fall easily. If you get a stomachache or any leg pains, run slower. If it's still painful, you have to stop. Beginners are often overjoyed when they finish the race. 'But don't forget to cool down after you cross the finish line,' he warned. This year's Standard Chartered Marathon is held on the Island Eastern Corridor. 'It's very windy; runners should have enough clothes and are better off wearing a cap,' said Lee. 'Also, it is a bit steep which is tough for beginners.' This year's marathon, which will be held on February 17, had an entry quota of 50,000 which was quickly filled up. Those who have enrolled should start preparing now.