Week 4: What does it take to run?

August 27, 2009: 58 days to the 2009 Standard Chartered Nairobi MarathonCaster_Semenya_998062280.jpg

The 12th annual International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) competition ended last week in Berlin and, I must say, I was truly proud to be African, as I watched our men and women compete and win in the various races!

Of particular interest was South Africa’s Caster Semenya, who, at only 18 years old, won the 800 metres in the record time of 1 minute 55.45 seconds… Unfortunately, before Semenya could even get home to South Africa to celebrate, the IAAF announced that she would have to undergo tests… to rule out the possibility that she might be a man!

There has been a lot of debate as to her looks and form, that are undeniably “mannish”. To be quite honest, as I myself watched her for the first time, in the heats, I thought to myself (and forgave myself the pun, so you must too): “Boy does she look like a man!”

athlete_shape__2147442_376321177.jpgI will leave it to Semenya to prove her “real” gender to the world, still, this incident did make me wonder: Can women really make it in athletics with a truly feminine body? As I watched other female athletes, I noticed that their bodies too were very toned, all with washboard stomachs, well built biceps and triceps, and sculptured legs and thighs… Really, quite “mannish”.

When I take a look at my own body, (granted I am not a professional athlete), I wonder how I will ever make it through this half-marathon I am training for, with all the ‘comfortable padding’ that coats all parts of my body- legs, arm, stomach, thighs –dang, even my nose is overweight!

I wonder, if I don’t shed all this fat, will I be able to run a good time in the upcoming Standard Chartered Marathon? I realised I needed a “Marathon Plan” to quickly get my mind and body in tune for the big race. I therefore did some research on the Internet and compiled my own “Marathon Training Tips”. My disclaimer stands that, although this may work for me, it may perhaps not for you, so I advise that you consult with your doctor/nutritionist/trainer and/or God before using my tips!

My_10_tips_976688685.jpgMy 10 Tips for Training for the Marathon

1.    Don’t ignore mind training. If you can’t convince your brain that you are going to train for this race, then there is no point even getting started.

2.    While self motivation is great, it helps to have super aggressive and disciplined trainers who will push you to train daily.

3.    Running on the treadmill is NOTHING like running outdoors. Make sure you focus on outdoor running.

4.    Your health is very important. If you injure your leg during training, then you’re in trouble! Also, ensure you avoid people who might have the flu (including swine) or other infectious ailments, as they will get your body down.
5.    Just because you are working out extra hard doesn’t mean you can eat anything! Ensure you have an actual (but practical) Nutrition Plan during your training, and particularly take note of what to eat a couple of days prior to the race. Some experts advise loading up on carbs the night before the race.

6.    Practice running during cold and warm days, as you never know what the weather will be like on your race day. This is especially important, as with the current climate changes going on in Kenya, one can’t predict whether it will rain or shine on marathon day.

7.    Invest in proper shoes and running gear to avoid injury… And if you are a DIVA like me, ensure you also look fabulous! (Get rid of the oversize t-shirts and baggy shorts NOW!!!) Do make sure you protect yourself from the elements by wearing the appropriate protective gear, if necessary: sun cream if sunny, a light raincoat should it rain etc.

beer__1352384_126300472.jpg8.    Avoid alcohol during training, and especially in the days before the race. In last year’s marathon, my running mate showed up with a hangover, as he had spent the evening before having a few drinks… Let’s just say he didn’t make it past the 3 kilometre mark!

9.    Have fun during the training! Don’t treat it as a chore, but rather an extra-curricular activity. It’s the hardest thing to be disciplined so make the most of it.

10.    And finally, tell everyone you are taking part in the race! It will naturally boost your morale, and you just may beget your very own fan club of screaming friends and family!

Next week: About the greatest race on earth! And Why you should take part.


The writer is a 30 something year old Kenyan, who is passionate about being online, but can’t stand Facebook! She is currently employed by the Capital Group Ltd and resides in Nairobi with her two children aged 10 and 2 yrs.

Editor’s Note: Are you training for a big event, marathon or race? Share your experience on what it takes to run a 10K, 21K or a full marathon. Post your comments below.

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