Best Running Tips for Starting the New Year

If your new year is already in full swing but your running routine has fallen behind a bit, then here are a few tips to get your running routine up and going so that you can make the most of 2021.

Pick a race and enter it

If you are a short distance, half marathon or full marathon runner now is the time to start deciding which races you want to enter this year. Get a head start by planning ahead – pick a date and stick to it. Create a planned running schedule to improve your fitness levels and you’ll be more likely to achieve your running goals this year. 

Try something fun and different from the norm

Sometimes all you need to boost your levels of inspiration and motivation is to try something different from the norm- breaking out of routine once in a while can be a refreshing change that might even inspire you to tackle marathons that are outside of your comfort zone. 

Concentrate on your weaknesses

As the year starts to slowly gain momentum, now is the time to identify weaknesses in your running style and work on improving them through increased and more rigorous training methods.

Find a running partner

Running with someone as opposed to going solo can help distract you from those grueling runs when you feel like giving up. Having a running partner to run alongside you will not only motivate you but may also motivate others to follow suit. 

Work it into your schedule

Finding the right balance between family, work and fitness is tough.  Managing your schedule better will enable you to enjoy your run without the stress of having a list of todos to distract you from a good run. 

Join a 30-day challenge

There are many 30-day running challenges to help you jumpstart your year. Being committed to a thirty-day program will help you to instill a daily habit and before you know it will become a way of life if you consistently stick to the program. 

Run, run and run and some

Running like with anything else in life will only get better the more effort you put into it. Try to aim to run 3 to 4 days a week and to push yourself a little further with each run. Regular longer distance runs will help to improve your endurance and fitness levels. 

Staying on top of your running game will require mental planning and physical preparation coupled with a commitment to get better and you will be well on your way to achieving your goals this year. 

How to Stay Fit During the Holiday Season

As the year unwinds or winds up rather finding time to keep up with your fitness routine may be challenging especially when it comes to trying to fit it in amongst all the busy activities that compete for your attention during the holiday period. Your routine will most likely be impacted by the busyness of the season but all you need to do is make a few adjustments to ensure your fitness level stays on track.

Plan ahead

Scheduling some runs in and between holiday activities will make it easier to plan ahead and ensure that you get that time in so that your normal routine stays somewhat on track.

Work it out

If, however, your holiday calendar is jam-packed and you don’t see any other way of getting around to it, planning a good workout session or sessions is still a viable option to maintain your fitness levels when you aren’t able to get on the road and take a run. Who knows, you may even feel more inspired to find ways to up your running game after taking a break by doing other forms of exercise in the interim.

Put on your running shoes

Wearing your running shoes as much as possible will provide you with many opportunities to take advantage of a small jog or walk in-between holiday preparation activities. Take the stairs rather than the lift or park a bit further away from your destination so you can maximize that time and get those extra steps in.

Spring clean like it’s nobody business

Looking for a thorough workout that will really work your muscles? Spring cleaning your home before your family arrives will not only ensure that your house is in mint condition for your family’s arrival but it can also be a great form of workout too.

Mix fitness with pleasure

If you are looking for fun activities to do with family and friends during the holiday season when you have extra time on your hands why not make it an active activity that the whole family can join in on such as for e.g. early morning beach walks together, cycling on the promenade or late afternoon strolls taking in the soft glow of the fading sunset as the sun begins to dip.

Be mindful of your diet

Being extra mindful of your diet over the holiday season will ensure that you don’t overindulge in unhealthy foods and compromise your fitness levels in any way. Start your day with a protein-rich breakfast; this will make it less likely for you to overindulge later on and will keep you fuller for longer.

Maintaining your fitness level during the holiday season is not as difficult as it sounds if you remain dedicated to finding other ways to include exercise in your day, doing so will help you finish the year as strong as you started it.

How to Prevent and Get Rid of Side Stitches

Side stitches are quite possibly one of the biggest hindrances (aside from blisters, headaches etc.) to running well.  The mysterious cause of stitches still remains unknown, however, there are a few practices that you can implement that can help prevent and get rid of this common condition.

The most likely cause

Scientists hypothesize that the cause of stitches is linked to the diaphragm, a muscle that can become overexerted when running. This condition usually attacks new runners that haven’t developed their technique properly but can also happen to more experienced runners as they increase their running tempo too quickly. 

Another cause could also be linked to weak core muscles as weaker core muscles aren’t able to withstand the high impact that we experience when running. 

How to Prevent them

  • Exercise your core muscles

Strengthen your core by doing exercises such as planking or yoga multiple times a week. A strong core can also improve your balance when running which can be really helpful for trail runners in particular. 

  • Eat right

Foods high in sugar, fat and fibre can cause stitches as the latter simply take longer to digest. This can have a negative knock-on effect on the diaphragm so be sure to be extra conscious of what you eat before a run. 

  • Allow for an adequate warm-up time

A rapid and irregular increase in your breathing rate can cause the movement of the diagram to move more erratically which can lead to a stitch. Rather increase your pace gradually to prevent this from occurring. 

  • Make sure you are breathing deeply and evenly

By following the general rule of two breaths in and one breath out, this will help you breathe more deeply, allowing for more oxygen to reach your working muscles including your diaphragm.  This can also be applied to when you are actually experiencing a stitch and want to make it go away as fast as possible. Reducing your pace slowly and gradually can also help with this. 

Experiencing a painful stitch is something that all runners will experience at one stage or another. There are coping mechanisms available, however, that will make this annoying condition more bearable.

As with most issues that are running-related, ensuring that you are equipped with helpful tips on how to combat this is key to avoid and prevent a stitch from developing and ruining a potentially great run. 

EAST LONDON ATHLETIC CLUB 85 YEARS ON

East London Athletics Club is way older than any other in this region and in fact, there was a club of the same name that launched in July 1883 just one month after Queenstown Athletic Club.

There were in fact only five athletic clubs in the country at that stage as chronicled by Dewald Steyn in his documented history of the sport. One in each of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage made up the numbers. 

The first ELAC – acronym for the club today – became defunct during World War 1 and it was only in 1935 that Trevor Gee and several of his athletic friends formed East London Amateur Athletic Club.

Included in the pioneers were Jock Muller, Ray Leadingham and Rob Symons who lived in King Williams Town.

The club started out with a strong track-and-field focus before cycling was added and became equally prominent.

Gee and others served during the Second World Way 1939-1945 and during that time the Jan Smuts gravel track was changed into hockey fields for women.

In 1950 the athletes were allocated a sight in Amalinda to establish both an athletic track and a cycling venue, which they did on the back of their own labour. Speaking to Gee this week he looked back with feeling for that era and rated the building thereof as a highlight which offered opportunities to socialise.

It was at this juncture that the club was able to host runners from Port Elizabeth for monthly track meetings over a weekend, where Sunday picnics became a part of proceedings and great friendships formed. “It does not happen today” Gee lamented.

A good number of international runners visited the city to compete, inclusive of German, British and American athletes.

Members other than Gee who excelled in that era and gained national recognition and colours included Bruce Phillips a superb sprinter, Jannie Breed, Kenny Davis and Des and Trevor Torr.

Amongst other marathon runners, Dave Kirby and Mike Warren stood out with meaningful wins.

As marathon running grew ever more popular from the mid-1970s and into the boom years of the eighties the likes of Stan Kruger, Gordon Shaw and Herman van der Wilt found their way to the podium.

Shorter distance races were slowly added and versatile athletes, many from cross country came to the fore in the red and white of ELAC. Elliot Valtyn, Ernest Alwin, Temba Boso, Rob Joiner, Sivuyile Dyalvane, Edgar Moyo, Fanekaya Banjatwa, Tony Viljoen, Mlamli Nkonkobe, Tembinkosi Bishop, Tony Jebese, Neville Burton and Brian Tiltman spring to mind.

In the early years of women’s marathon running Estelle Tiltman was one of only two on the provincial roads, but as the sport surged so too did the participation of an ELAC women’s brigade inclusive of Cynthia De Jager who dominated her age group, Bea Domoney who won dozens of races in hers and Paula Richardson too.

It is indeed a proud history and one that all can look back on with pride. It was a club that embraced the Ohlson’s Road Running league in the 1980s and 90’s claiming victory on more than one occasion, often from more fancied opponents.

Gee admits that “change” in the sport of athletics was not always easy for those from a pure athletic background and yet he, who has seen so much change, remains, at the age of 96 supportive of those who steer the ship today.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 85-year celebrations have been postponed until early 2021.

Best Diets for Long and Short Distance Runners

Following the correct diet, whether you run short or long distance, is important for your overall performance. Foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, some healthy fats, and foods high in calcium are the fuel your body needs for optimum performance. Water is also non-negotiable. There are also other dietary stipulations that you should follow depending on your running style.

A Healthy Diet for Short Distance Runners

Short distance runners should ensure that they eat small meals frequently leading up to a run; skipping meals and a diet low in carbs should be avoided. Eating foods rich in carbohydrates such as fruit, yoghurt and whole-grain bread will give the body sufficient time to absorb all the nutrients and energy needed to run efficiently.

A Healthy Diet for Long Distance Runners

Long-distance runners will have to do more preparation when it comes to their dietary requirements. The majority of their diet (around 60%) should consist of carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk or yoghurts.

Foods rich in iron are also super important to ensure that you don’t develop anaemia, experience an increased heart rate, become short of breath, run out of energy and get fatigued much quicker.

Always remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

What to eat before your run/race

If you are running shorter distances (5km to 10km) then carbo-loading before your run is not really necessary, so long as you ensure that you are following a healthy well-balanced diet. For long-distance running carbo-loading must be done a couple of days in advance to ensure that the body has ample time to break down the glycogen reserves into energy.

An additional energy source is also needed to combat the depletion of glycogen when into your run, so make sure to take along a snack of sports beans or gel for a quick source of energy. Energy drinks can also be used as a carbohydrate supplement.

 A well-balanced diet and lifestyle are crucial for any runner. Making sure you tweak it to suit your running style will ensure you have the physical energy to complete your run and finish well.

How to Run Faster and Further Without Expending All Your Energy

If you are new to the sport of running, then you’ll know all too well the feeling of being winded and utterly depleted if you’ve pushed yourself too hard or too quickly at the start of your run. This might lead you to feel demotivated. But it may not be your fitness level that is the problem, but rather your speed and technique.

A Proper Warm-up Routine

Your warm-up routine will play an important part in how well your run. One way to measure how well you run is to use an RPE (Rating of Perceived Effort) This tool will help to measure the rate at which your heart is working – the higher the rating the harder your heart will work; a lower rating will indicate the opposite.

You should try to aim for at least a 15-minute warmup; this will prepare your muscles properly in anticipation for the run ahead. This is especially important if you are preparing to run in cold weather as it will get the blood pumping, increase your core temperature and also the blood flow to your muscles.

Monitoring your Heart Rate

Monitoring your heart rate is perhaps the most important starting point. You can measure this by subtracting your age from 220. The maximum limit that your heart rate should be (beats per minute) is 65 per cent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) or lower. If you find that you can run at this rate without getting winded, then you can gradually increase your pace until you reach 85 per cent of your MRH.

Maintaining Correct Posture

Make sure your torso is taut and upright and that you are breathing from your diaphragm. This will help with your breathing as opposed to bending over while running which puts more pressure on the lungs, which will increase your breathing at a faster than normal rate.

Swinging your arms at a 90-degree angle will help in your overall technique so that most of the strain isn’t put on your legs alone.

Another interesting method to see if you are pushing yourself too hard too quickly is if you cannot say a complete sentence while running. If you aren’t managing this, it may mean you need to slow down the pace.

Get a Rhythm in Place

You’ll know you got this right if you take a breath for every two strides you take. This rhythm, called LRC (locomotor-respiratory coupling), will ensure that you get into a natural relaxed rhythm of running which will also help in improving your endurance levels.

And lastly, mental strength is of paramount importance; focussing on the finishing line instead of your speed is a much better alternative. After you’ve employed all these techniques successfully, your endurance ability will automatically improve and you will be able to run faster and further than ever before.

Running Tips for Your Latter Years

Exercising, or rather running is a great way to keep fit and healthy as you age.

Although it is a good way to stay fit, it is important to remember that it is considered a high impact sport and thus can be heavy on your muscles and joints if you don’t adapt your training to meet your evolving needs. 

An interesting fact is that running continues be a popular sport, and is becoming more so in the age group 40+.

It is important to know your limits though as training in your more mature years is decidedly different in comparison to when you were in your 20s and 30s when you are at your physical peak. 

As you age several factors affecting your training routine should be considered. One of those is your cardiovascular endurance starts to decline, muscle density becomes less, and strength, coordination and balance also start to decrease. 

Becoming fit in these age groups should comprise a more holistic approach and lifestyle, and diet and genetics all play a big part in this. 

So, the best approach to figuring out your best fitness routine is careful planning to ensure that you work smarter rather than harder. 

The first step is to start slowly and increase distance running gradually to avoid injury. 

Be realistic and kind to yourself regarding expectations. Don’t compare your goals and aspirations to those when you were younger as these will most likely be unachievable. Rather, set your sights on goals that are comparable within your age group. 

You may need to take more days off to recover after a long run. So, consider adjusting your running routine to every other day with sufficient rest days in between. These so-called ‘rest days’ don’t have to be unproductive however, and can be interchanged with lower impact training such as yoga, swimming and cycling. 

Strength training (such as lunges, squats, planks and push-ups) are ultra-important as we get older and will ensure your muscles are less susceptible to injury. 

Do make sure that you work on your balance and flexibility with simple exercises such as balancing on one leg for short intervals, and stretching and doing proper warm-ups before races. 

Getting a sufficient amount of sleep is also important to ensure you stay mentally fit and healthy, so try to get in as much shut-eye as you are used to. 

With these small changes, you can still enjoy running in your latter years and can remain just as competitive whilst still enjoying all the benefits that running has to offer.

ATLANTA OLYMPIC MEN’s MARATHON 4 August 1996 – Chapter 4

The day and evening before the marathon were taken up with preparation and produced a healthy array of nervous energy.

Each of South Africa’s runners would have a different coloured (sprayed by the back up team) drinks bottle at the refreshment stations, filled with a favoured energy drink or plain water if preferred. Not surprisingly the colours chosen were one of the blue, red or green of the South African flag and allocated to Gert Thys, Josiah Thugwane and Lawrence Peu.

At the media briefing the afternoon before, the team manager was asked who of the team was most likely to medal. The answer was not readily embraced by members of the SA media corp. in particular, but it would prove profound the following day.

On the morning of the race the team members were supplied with anything they chose to eat or drink and were transported in buses to the start outside the Olympic Stadium where the world’s top marathoners would warm up.

Motivationally the three South African’s chose mainly to warm up together, showing a superb team spirit garnered in their long build up in Albuquerque, at the opening ceremony and in the final hours down in Atlanta.

From the gun the three South Africans were in focus and for the three-person management and back up team watching intently that was all important. They constituted three men who had very different paths to this moment, with different views on many aspects of the journey to-date. They sat side by side in the stadium watching proceedings on the big screen, chatting away nervously.

Before and through the half way three runners in the green and gold colours of South Africa led the strong international field as they ran shoulder to shoulder. It was a proud moment for all their countrymen and women back home.

At around the 30km mark Thugwane had started to make a move and looked full of confidence. At 32km, the mystical wall of marathon running, he broke more decisively from the leaders who included pre-race favourites Martin Fiz of Spain, and the Mexican, German Silva along with a handful of other top-class athletes. Thys and Peu had lost contact.

The pack must have thought Thugwane would fade and come back at them, but the 44kg South African was looking ever stronger. An archive view of the race will confirm how he was chased, but never tired.

Fiz in particular started looking menacing at 35km, but try as he might Thugwane maintained a healthy lead, contending instead with Korea’s Lee Bong Ju who had accompanied Thugwane when he broke away, testing the pace and Kenya’s Eric Wainana and who had more belatedly joined the front three.

The final kilometres were nail biting for all and although the Korean looked ever menacing and the famous finishing kick of most Kenyan’s were top of mind, Thugwane still looked the part and would have had his detractors scratching their heads in disbelief.

Thugwane entered the stadium a mere 2-3 metres ahead, Bong Ju who was still chasing hard, as was Wainana.

South Africans, those in Atlanta, in South Africa and indeed around the world were on their feet, bellowing at television screens and radios. It would be the closest Olympic Marathon finish in history and the winner was a 25-year-old man from Mpumalanga – the first black man from the southern tip of Africa to win an Olympic gold medal. It was huge; it was ground breaking and a story without parallel.

The media were beneath the stadium, where Thugwane would meet them for the first time as more than an equal. One of the South African contingent, who the day before could not believe Thugwane could feature let alone win, looked across at the team manager who had tipped him to medal and received only a smile in recognition.

ATLANTA OLYMPICS 1996 – Chapter 3

The build up to the Opening Ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics in Georgia, was filled with excitement and expectation, embraced passionately by the South African team of 84 athletes.

Included in the overall team of athlete and management were East Londoners, Gideon Sam who would go on in future years to take over at the helm of SASCOC, boxer Masibulele “Hawk” Makepula, a highly popular team member who became the flag bearer, hurdler Karen van der Veen (nee Wilkinson) and the scribe as marathon team manager.

The bus trip to the ceremony was tempered only by those who could not attend and for the swimmers who were up for competition the very next day, including double gold medallist Penny Heyns, who set the tone for the team by winning both the 100 and 200m breaststroke finals.

The wait in the adjacent stadium to Centennial Park, the home of the XXVI Olympiad, as the games were known, was a long one.

Walking down the ramp into the main stadium, to be welcomed by 85,600 cheering spectators, lifted the spirits ever higher for the athletes and none more so than the men’s marathon team. Closely aligned to the men were the distance runners in the women’s component, more specifically Colleen de Reuck, Elana Meyer and Gwen Griffiths.

The ceremony itself would take four hours with much high-class entertainment. The musical entertainers included Gladys Knight who sang Georgia’s official state song, Georgia on my Mind. 

Celine Dion was ever impressive, singing The Power of the Dream, written by David Foster who played the piano and was accompanied by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Centennial Choir. Emotions ran high.

Celebrities introduced during the ceremony included many heads of state, inclusive of then Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki and the Games were opened by Bill Clinton, President of the United States, accompanied by his wife Hillary.

From the entertainment and business world Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, were given rousing welcomes, while a most emotional welcome was bestowed upon Coretta Scott King, wife of the late Martin Luther King jnr.

The stadium absolutely erupted when boxing icon, former Olympic Gold Medallist and heavyweight champion of the world, Mohammed Ali was introduced. Ali was given the honour of lighting the Olympic Cauldron.

A few members of the team met up with Ali in the Athlete’s Village earlier in the day and that was highly motivational to them.

It was around this time that Xolile Yawa, one of the medal hopefuls in the marathon was feeling discomfort on his training runs. Always a leader and always as honest a runner as any, Yawa would come to the decision, backed up by the medical staff, that he should withdraw and return to South Africa. It was a blow to the team, but an opportunity at the same time.

Peu had earlier come to the conclusion that his part in the team as backup had fulfilled a purpose and he decided to fly to France to take part in a half marathon to which he had been invited. His flight was due two days before the opening of the games. TWA Flight 800 from JFK Airport to Paris crashed 12 minutes into the flight, over Long Island. There were no survivors. Peu had changed his mind and was not on the ill-fated flight.

With Yawa on his way home Peu was drafted into the final team and with the run itself on the horizon his life took on new meaning in every way. The race would be epic.

ATLANTA OLYMPIC MARATHON – Chapter 2

The South African team for the marathon to the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games was finalised in March of that year and as documented last week comprised Xolile Yawa, Gert Thys and Josia Thugwane with Lawrence Peu as the travelling reserve.

Elana Meyer was selected for the women’s marathon as the only one to qualify within the stipulated time frame. Selecting Colleen de Reuck would have bolstered the team dynamic, but the rules of selection precluded her as she had not qualified in the period under review, despite possessing all the qualities and already having proved to be a world class marathoner. De Reuck was selected instead for the 10000m on the track.

The men travelled to Albuquerque some four weeks ahead of the departing South African team as a whole, supported by SASCOC.

As with any team regardless of size there would be dynamics at play with different personal coaches, needs, agents, team management and of course the national interest.

The late Jacques Malan was appointed to set up the initial camp through his international agent contacts. At the time of selection he was an international agent liaison for both Thys and Peu. Whilst in camp Malan kept in touch with the management structure back in South Africa and together they were able to iron out any issues encountered.

Albuquerque was the chosen venue given the advantage it offers for high altitude training. The other option being Boulder where De Reuck has since lived. Numerous other international teams or individual runners were also stationed in the same New Mexican desert town, which experiences 310 days of sunshine per annum.

When the balance of the SA team arrived they were transported initially to La Grange, Georgia and accommodated at La Grange College. Also there was the Ethiopian team with their great athletes inclusive of perhaps the greatest of all time Haile Gebrselassie, the meeting of whom inspired most. There were still two weeks to go to the opening ceremony, by which time the team would be transported to the Olympic Village in Atlanta.

The marathon team management travelled to the men’s team in Albuquerque and spent about 10 days with the team, overseeing the final build up to the games.

The athletes spent their days, training, eating, sleeping watching some television and reading. The facilities were good, with comfortable accommodation, inclusive of a small private gym, a track was close to the athletes as well as a beautiful mountain hike on the outskirts of the city, green on the living side and wide open desert upon cresting the summit.  

Real life cowboys would be encountered on the longer training runs and American country life eagerly embraced.

When the time came management returned to Atlanta to meet Meyer at the airport and a few days later the men’s team came down so as to attend the opening ceremony, something that was felt absolutely necessary so that the team could experience the feel of the games, after many weeks in isolation from the build up and excitement down in the village.

The women’s marathon was just a week after the ceremony, but the men would have another week thereafter to prepare and it was agreed that they return to Atlanta, from altitude, the day before the race.

Drama awaited and would follow in those two weeks.