Guest Blogger Thomas Denning
Colleen De Reuck is an Olympic long-distance runner who was born in South Africa and now lives in Boulder, Co. She has made it to four Olympic Games, has won the Honolulu and Berlin Marathon, and has medaled in the 2002, 2004 and 2005 IAAD World Cross Country Championships. She continues to run long distance and has also become a personal trainer.
Thomas: Colleen, you have raced at an international level including the Olympic games. I’m running The San Francisco half marathon this year. It’s three and half months away. How should someone train for a race that is more than 90 days away given the goals may include racing for time, or just finishing?
Colleen De Reuck: I am sure most runners are following some running schedule, either off the Internet or from their coach. While training for a race, always listen to your body. Many runners forget that simple rule. They think they have to follow their training schedule to the letter-no matter what. It’s what runners do. If you have not had good nights rest for example maybe your kids were sick or you are working on a big project at work, don’t push your body. There are times where you will train better, and even get faster when you listen to your body and just take the day off. If you don’t rest, you could eventually get sick. Then you miss even more time and more workouts! All of this could lead to you even getting sick, or even worse, injured . Another thing to consider is that long runs are important and can be fun when you meet a group of friends. But be careful. If you have a tendency to get injured, there is no need to run every day. You should cross train by using the elliptical, swimming, biking or hiking. Each is a great option to an off day of running and will enhance your overall program.
Thomas: Many experts talk about the importance of diet in preparing for a full or half marathon. Given that there are so many individual preferences for diet, what are some of the common themes you pass along to runners in terms of eating and drinking during the training cycle?
Colleen De Reuck: There are so many diets that runners follow. I suggest following a diet that works for you. Everything in moderation! If you are a vegetarian or vegan make sure that you receive sufficient iron in your diet. Never try any thing new leading up to your race. Never-talk about a recipe for disaster. Train how you are going to race-that way there will be no unpleasant food surprises. This is especially important in the longer runs, really for all races. In addition, hydrate with a sports drink. I use Powerbar race drink. It has electrolytes and calories that we won’t get just from drinking water. Water isn’t enough for a full or a half marathon. I also use Powerbar gels for extra energy.
Thomas: When it comes to actual race day there are so many little things one must keep in mind. What advice do you give runners when considering what to eat the day of a full or half marathon; and during the actual event?
Colleen De Reuck: I think it is a good idea to have a dress rehearsal before your race day. In that way you will find out if any thing you eat will upset your stomach. Most runners I know drink coffee in the morning, as it gets the system moving. During the race, make sure that you hydrate before you are feeling thirsty. And consider the set up and distance of each of the aid stations. It does get crowded at the first couple of aid stations. Runners want to make sure they are drinking enough but there are others who try to stay on pace and this creates some confusion as well as potential for lots of spilling. You want to make enough time to drink what you need, so walk through them if you have to. And if you can, don’t hit the first few stations as everyone tends to stop right away. Those first couple of stops have lots of runners, the race hasn’t really spread out yet so they can cost lots of delays as they are so crowded. All the little things lead to a good rule to follow-practice! You put yourself in a race situation during your training and then when it comes to race day there are no surprises. You eat, hydrate and train just like you would for a race. When race day comes you will be ready.
Thomas: Let’s shift to more competitive runners for a question. If someone is racing to meet or beat a specific time pacing is key. How should runners pace for the event to ensure they have enough in the tank to finish, but push themselves to meet a goal?
Colleen De Reuck: Pacing is very important, especially in the marathon. Don’t forget this. Runners tend to get caught up in the excitement of the start but a few seconds too fast in the beginning becomes minutes in the final miles of the marathon. You just wear your body down by running faster than your projected pace at the beginning of a race. You need to do some sessions at marathon goal pace so you get the feel of the pace. As I said, the first few miles are tough to stick to your pace due to peaking for the race, and all the energy at the start of marathons. But do it anyway! You will run faster and finish better than the reverse. Your tempo training runs will give you a good indication of what you are capable of racing.
Thomas: You are a former world record holder at both 10 miles and 20km. That is an amazing accomplishment! From time to time many runners will shoot for a personal best at a particular event. How do you know that a goal is realistic?
Colleen De Reuck: I always go into a race to push myself to my limit. Some races I use as a stepping stone for my main or goal race, so I will not be as rested. But still give it my all. That is racing. Remember to
keep drawing from your great workouts to give you strength during the tough patches in the race. Think about all those miles you put in training and you will be through the tough parts on race day.
Thomas: San Francisco has such an iconic landmark in the Golden Gate Bridge. For runners in the event this will be a special place to compete or even just run to finish. Have you ever run in San Francisco and if so can you talk about your experience there?
Colleen De Reuck: I have raced in Bay to Breakers twice, back 1993 and 2002 (I think). San Francisco is my favorite city. It has so many sights to see. I remember one vacation Darren (my husband) and I ran over Golden Gate Bridge, and that was really an awesome experience. So I know that runners will be thrilled to do run across the Golden Gate during their event. What an awesome experience.
Thomas: Final question- of all the places you’ve run internationally and events you have competed in, what places or events stand out over your career?
Colleen De Reuck: I think each and every Olympic is special. You are competing against the best in the world and then there is so much press coverage and all. And 2002 World Cross Country in Ireland was special for me as well. Our USA women’s team came in 2nd and I was 3rd, and that was truly special. Overall there are just so many incredible place to run and I have been so fortunate to have been able to travel and meet such wonderful people. I have met some of my best friends through running and I am so blessed.