Ask Kikay Runner: How to Run Non-stop in Races

    

This is a section on my blog where I answer questions people ask me. If you have any questions for future Ask Kikay Runner entries, contact me!

I love being on Twitter because people can ask me questions and I can reply on-the-spot. Yesterday as I asked my followers what races had happened over the weekend, I got this question from Monica (@xeniamonica):

Hi I joined my second fun run this morning… @TEN_Moves at the Ayala Triangle. The first I had was last year in January. Can I ask for your advice? Coz I got leg cramps so I finished the race limping/walking and not running… It was supposed to be 2.5 kms… I ran about until one-third of the race then I just walked after. Honestly, my exercise daily would be my brisk walking from dela Rosa to Mapua Makati. If you can call that exercise. :)

On the surface, Monica’s question was about how to avoid leg cramps. But reading deeper, I saw that beneath it was fundamentally a question most beginners ask. How do I run non-stop in races? How do I train so that I can run a distance without getting tired?

Since this was a question asked over Twitter, I also answered it there initially.


Sure, you can treat races as a social event where you get to hang out with friends and feel healthy, but you’ll feel most successful only when you run regularly. If you want to run non-stop at a race you have to run more often than just at the races. Many times I hear of people who sign up for races but it’s the only time they will run.

Muscles tend to cramp up when they’re not used to the kind of activity you’re asking them to do. Running more often will accustom your body to the demands of a race. It takes time for your heart, muscles, and bones to adjust to the greater physical challenge of running. This couch to 5K three-days-a-week program from Cool Running is a great place to start.


If you want to run non-stop during a race, you have to be able to run it non-stop in training. (This applies to distances below 21K; for half-marathons and marathons most training plans require a longest run of about 80% of goal distance before the actual race.) It’s also during training that you figure out how fast you can go without losing steam, or how often you need to hydrate. By the time you run your goal race, you’ve already worked out what you need to do, which will help you feel successful.


For beginner runners, pacing oneself is one of the most important things to learn. The reason people start walking during a race instead of running the whole way is because they run too fast from gunstart and quickly burn out their muscles (unless they’re doing the Galloway method with regular pre-determined walk breaks).

The longest sprint distance is 400 meters. Distances up to 3,000 meters (or 3K) are known as middle distance races. Long-distance races comprise events longer than 3K. Running a sprint is very different from running middle- and long-distance races, and the difference is in anaerobic vs. aerobic energy systems.

Sprints use the body’s anaerobic energy system, which is suited to short quick efforts. During a sprint, the body is unable to get enough oxygen to help break down sugar to power the muscles. This creates a byproduct, lactic acid; the build-up of lactic acid causes that feeling of fatigue and muscle burning.

Middle- and long-distance runs are aerobic because you’re able to breathe enough oxygen for use by your muscles so that when they break down sugar for energy, the byproduct is merely carbon dioxide and water which your body can efficiently clear away. So, you can run far longer aerobically than anaerobically.

The easiest way to determine if you’re at aerobic running pace is if you can talk without having a hard time catching your breath. You’re probably running too fast if someone asks you a question and you can barely get a word out. So if you want to run non-stop during a race, run at a slower pace. Again, it’s during training that you figure out how fast or slow you can run your goal distance.

Running takes some time and effort to feel successful at, but trust me, it’s worth it!

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