You could say Daniel Kiprugut too has been training to be an international elite marathon runner for as long as he can remember, albeit unknowingly. In a small village in Kenya, where Too grew up, school was 5 km away from home and running was the way everybody reached on time. So, ever since he was a seven-year-old boy, Too has been running at least 10 km every day.
Today, the 31-year-old elite marathon runner, whose personal best time is 2 hours, 8 minutes and 38 seconds at the Paris Marathon in April 2009 (where he finished 10th), is one of the top contenders in the race to the win the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday.
Getting it right
Too fits your stereotype of a long-distance running champion — he is lean, tall, and well-built with an enviably long stride that you have to run to keep pace with. Of course, the fact that he is from Kenya, the country with a distinct running culture that has given the world many of its champion runners, also adds to his credentials. But for a determined long-distance runner who has run eight marathons over the world, Too is an extremely shy individual who is so soft spoken that you have to strain to listen to him. It’s only when he talks about his running that you hear him loud and clear.
“There is a danger of over training ahead of a big run like this but I think I have managed to train myself just right for the Mumbai Marathon,” says Too. The key to long-distance running, he adds, is interval training and fartlek, which boosts endurance levels like nothing else.
“I run for two hours everyday, an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Since I mostly do interval training, I might do a fast 10 km run in 30 minutes in the morning and follow it up with a slow 10-km run in an hour in the evening. I also like fartlek training, during which I alternate between a slow run and a burst of speed every minute for 12 km,” says Too.
Using the landscape
This easy-fast training routine as he prefers to call it, was something that he first started doing as a child and has really helped him build his stamina. “I grew up in a hilly region in Kenya. So going up the incline and down the slope was how I always used to run,” says Too.
And apart from some heavy-duty practice runs, stretching exercises are another thing that Too swears by.
“Stretching exercises help avoid running injuries and are great to do before and after a run.”
When you’re not running...
What he doesn’t practice excessively as a marathon runner though, is strength training. “I stick to lightweight dumbbells and don’t lift heavy weights in the gym,” says Too. For an elite marathon runner like Too, whose body is already conditioned to long-distance running, too much of strength training can do more harm than good simply because huge muscle bulk tends to slow you down on a long-distance run.
And two days prior to a big marathon, Too makes sure he is well hydrated, gradually drinking 3-4 litres of water in a day. His diet is a mix of carbohydrates and protein. “Rice, beans and chicken is what I usually eat. And a day or two before the marathon, I take it easy. I don’t train hard. I may just jog for about 40 minutes a day and catch up on my sleep to be well rested for the run,” he adds.
The first thing to remember about training for long-distance running or a marathon is to not expect huge changes in one day. Instead, just aim for a gradual week by week progression with your training routine. After a month, you will definitely see a great transformation in yourself.
Traditionally a marathon training routine is spread out over 16 weeks and is made up of three phases: the base phase, the speed phase and the taper phase.
The base phase is all about gradually increasing running volume over a period of two months with 1-2 hours devoted daily. As a recreational runner, you also need to do some strength training to prepare you for a long run like the marathon. But that doesn’t always have to mean hitting the gym and lifting heavy weights. Exercises like Pilates and hill running can do wonders for your core strength as well.
The speed phase is a long, sustained effort when you start putting speed in your runs and improving your time. But beware; most injuries happen when people run too fast. This is the time where your strength conditioning will come in handy.
The taper phase is usually the last one week when you are at the end of your routine. This is usually right after you have peaked in your training in terms of the distance you run and the speed you run at. After a week’s break from the training, you can start over with a new routine and peak again. Ideally, you can have two peaks in a year.
Running and knee injuries
Runners, especially in Mumbai, seem to believe in this myth that running injures your knees. But that isn’t true. In most of such cases, the cause is usually wearing the wrong kind of shoes or even very old shoes.
A lot of people will wear very old, weathered shoes to run long distances and that’s a big injury risk. Spend some time getting yourself a good pair of running shoes that are a right fit and offer the support and comfort level your feet need. There isn’t a single rule to go by for buying running shoes as different people have different feet and therefore varied needs. But once you buy a good pair of running shoes that are a perfect fit, don’t ever buy another variety of shoes, even if they are trendier or fancier!
— Scott Larsen, running expert, Racers’ Toolbox, Singapore
Don’t just keep trying to run longer and faster.
Bring in variations like interval training and fartlek:
Interval training: Consists of repetitions of high-speed or great intensity work followed by intervals of rest or low activity.
Fartlek: A method of training in which strenuous effort and normal effort alternate in a continuous exercise. It’s similar to interval training, but while interval training is more structured, fartlek is more spontaneous.
Always stretch to avoid injuries.
Do some strength training, but with light weights never heavy ones. Too much muscle slows you down.
Before the marathon, make sure you’re well hydrated. And eat a mix of carbs and proteins.