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Running in Singapore: Marathons coming up and how to get started

Lots of brave new runners were out there last month, determined that 2014 is their year to shape up and get fit. In future instalments of our regular running column, we’ll share favourite routes and talk about shoes, gadgets, treadmills, nutrition, racing, hashing, children’s running and much more. This month, Verne Maree gives some pointers on getting started.

Yes, I can do this! It's going to hurt, but I can do this! 

People who try running and don’t like it often say that it’s boring. I think it’s truer to say that it’s hard until you’ve become used to it, and that takes time.

That said, my own initiation 24 years ago was spectacularly tedious. Friend Jackie and I signed up with Run/Walk for Life, which held sessions at various fields all over South Africa. Along with assorted others – none of whom we fancied even a bit – we jogged around Bulwer Park Primary School field, three times a week, week after mind-numbing week.

Their reasoning was spot-on. To avoid injury, it’s vital to start slowly and gradually, and that’s because tendons and ligaments take longer to build up than your lung capacity does. Also, grass is kinder to joints than pavements and tarred roads.

Only after three months, when our distance was up to about 8km and we’d almost lost the will to live, we tried our first 4km in the hilly neighbourhood. From then on, what kept me going was the terrible dread of being sent back to the field.

Walk, Don’t Run
Twenty-five years later, the thinking is different. Current advice to new runners is to start with 30 minutes of walking interspersed with brief spells of running – as little as a minute at a time to start with – and gradually extending the running until it takes up the entire 30 minutes. When you want to increase the total time or distance, make sure it’s by no more than 10 percent a week.

I had to do this myself about five years ago, after I’d broken my right foot. At the end of eight weeks in a moonboot, it was a month before I could walk for the required 30 minutes, and then another couple of months to work up to 5km. So it’s tough, but doable.

5-point starter plan

#1 Pick a time
Early morning or evening are best. The joy of mornings is that it’s done, so nothing that crops up can mess up your running plan.

#2 Decide on a route
Preferably flat, to start with – from home, or from a park or somewhere else scenic. It can be helpful to do the same route until you’re fully on track.

#3 Commit to a programme
I like coolrunning.com’s nine-week Couch-to-5K programme. It proposes three manageable workouts a week: you start with jog-walking for 20 minutes and end up running 30 minutes non-stop.

#4 Get some kit
Sales staff at general sports shops here tend not to have the necessary expertise to fit you with proper running shoes. Try a specialist store like Running Lab, at Funan Centre and Velocity@Novena Square. And for a woman blessed with anything bigger than beestings, a “maximum impact” sports bra is an absolute must.

#5 Just do it
Most importantly, diarise your run as you would any other appointment or commitment!

The EL team at the Terry Fox Run 



2          2XU Compression Run, 4.30am, 10/21/42K, Nicoll Highway

2          Men’s Health Urbanathlon, 7am, 14K, Nicoll Highway MRT Station

8          X-Bionic Venus Run, 5pm, 800m/5K, Marina Barrage

16        PAssion-North East Run, 7am, 4/14K, Pasir Ris Park

16        New Moon Khcycle MetaSprint Series: Duathlon, venue TBC, metasprintseries.com

23        Nathan Singapore City Race, 7am, between Esplanade and Float

29        Twilight Ultra Challenge, 7pm, 16 hours, East Coast Park


13        New Moon Khcycle MetaSprint Series: Triathlon, Changi Beach Park

27        NTUC Income RUN 350, 5.30am, 350m and 10/21K, F1 Pit Building


To ask a question, make a point or contribute to this page, send an email to verne.maree@expatliving.com.