9 running tips revealed by sub-3hour marathoner

Recently, I signed up for "Hammer Nutrition Malaysia - May I Inspire" session initiated by 2ndSkin Asia on 27th August 2017 at Desa Park City. 

For your information, I have not attended any running clinic since I started running in 2010. All my running knowledge I have learned so far is from running friends, Facebook postings, internet, running magazines and books. But as my running journey has hit a plateau recently with the marathon time on the decline, I refuse to attribute it to ageing factor. Hence, I'm more desperate than ever for a breakthrough in running. 

Why I signed up for "Hammer Nutrition Malaysia - May I Inspire" session then?

Here is why...
"Hammer Nutrition Ambassador and Sub-3hour Marathoner Darren Looi will be all hands on deck and share with you his insights into how to improve your run, training and nutrition. This is your chance to throw questions at him left, right, center and learn as much as you can from him and his experiences. The good guys from Distance Force will be your rabbits to chase down as you gun for your 5km PB on the day!!" - by 2ndSkin May I Inspire Community
I have heard so much about Hammer Nutrition from my running friends and triathlete cousin. And Darren - who achieved 2 hours 58 minutes in Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2017 - is simply awe-inspiring!

I thought it would be a great opportunity not to be missed to learn about running, training and nutrition from an elite runner.

Who knows? Perhaps I can have a breakthrough in my own running journey after learning from the great! 😉

Running conversation with sub-3hour marathoner & his sharing with participants

Perhaps I'm a first timer in attending a running clinic and I'm so desperate and eager to learn something new, I take "This is your chance to throw questions at him left, right, center and learn as much as you can from him and his experiences." very seriously. lol!

Besides what Darren Looi has shared with all of the participants during the public sharing sessions, I also tried my best to stick to him like a glue so that I could have as many running conversations with him as possible.

I told myself this, "Ask and you shall receive."

I took the courage to ask him many running questions that have been bothering me for a long while. 

It's truly awesome and inspiring to hear and learn from a very humble, low-profile, kind, patient, experienced elite sub-3hour marathoner.

Here is to share what I've learned from Darren Looi - through the public sharing sessions as well as me one-to-one conversions. I hope readers can also benefit from his sharing so that we all can be inspired to improve our run, training and nutrition together.

1. About pre-run preparation 

Darren:  For 5 km run / race, it's important to prepare our body into race condition before race starts.

He then asked us to take the Hammer Nutrition Super Charged drink. It's cherry flavor. (He smiled - almost cheekily! 😉 Later I found out it was the interesting taste! haha!) 

Darren then asked us to run slowly in the open car park two loops as warm-up. 

After which, he stressed, "Getting our cadence ready is important." 

He then got us to do speed work running as fast as we could from one end to another end until panting. If I remember correctly, we ran three times. 

Before we walked towards the start line, with the help of Hammer Nutrition Malaysia's Kelvin, each of us took one pack of Hammer Nutrition power gel.

We were ready! :)

2. About pushing your limits 

We were told to push for our limits and try for our personal best time for a 5 km run. If we couldn't keep up with the faster pacer, it's okay to fall behind. 

Darren: Only 1 km to go. Push yourself and run as fast as you can.
Vincent: Okay, I will try. (highly motivated but panting and running out of breath!)

3. About high running cadence 

Vincent: What's your running cadence?
Darren:  During training, my running cadence is around one hundred and eighty steps per minute (180 spm). During race, my running cadence is around two hundred steps per minute (200 spm)

Vincent: Wow! You have such high cadence, especially during race! Amazing! 
Darren:  I have to.  Look at the Kenyans. They have such long legs. The only way to catch up is to increase running cadence.

4. About forefoot running

Vincent: I noticed you wear Newton running shoes. May I ask what model do you wear?
Darren:  I wear Newton Gravity for training. For races, I wear Newton Distance. 

Vincent:  If you don't mind me asking, why do you choose Newton running shoes then?
Darren:   I need the push to keep me forward. It helps. 

He showed the out sole and 5 lugs on his Newton Gravity running shoe to me while explaining how it works.

Vincent:  That means you are a forefoot runner. I was a heel striker. I'm trying my best to land on mid foot now. Should I try to learn to land on forefoot to be more efficient in running?
Darren:   Look at all the Kenyans. They are mainly forefoot runners. Their calves are stronger than their thighs. They push forward using forefoot as they run.

Vincent:  How do I learn about forefoot running?
Darren:   Google for running form or running drills. You can find a lot of information and knowledge on it. The running drills train our forefoot and the calf strength. It can be boring but do it at least twice a week. 

He then demonstrated to me three types of running drills on the spot. I tried to do the running drills as he demonstrated. I was so slow. I found his steps were quick, fast and smooth. All his landing was on his forefoot. I could also tell that Darren is very familiar with the running drills. That means he must have done a lot of it during his training. Truly a pro and seasoned runner.

5. About carrying water bottle during race

Vincent:  Do you carry water bottle during races?
Darren:   Yes, I do. I pack my water bottle with Hammer Nutrition High Energy Electrolyte powder. Very thick but no water. (He grinned! 😉) I fill the water at selective water stations. 

Vincent:  What's the benefit that you find in carrying water bottle to run?
Darren:   I can drink my electrolyte drink anytime I need. It also saves me time from not stopping at too many water stations.

During the sharing session by Darren and Hammer Nutrition Malaysia's Kelvin Lim, they mentioned that it's not recommended to consume isotonic sports drink because of its sugar content and carbonized gas. It's better to consume water with electrolyte drink and power gel. 

6. About uphill running

About 1.5 km into the 5 km run, there was a u-turn. After the u-turn, there was a little uphill slope. 

Darren   : Kick your butt! Kick your butt! Kick your butt!
Vincent  : What? Kick my butt to run uphill? 

I was perplexed and confused. Kick my butt while running uphill? What? 😊My usual self would just drag my whole leg forward in smaller step while maintaining the cadence. Butt kicking is something new to me! Not knowing what Darren meant, I continued the usual way of running uphill. But later, I managed to seek Darren's explanation on uphill running technique.

Darren   : Why butt kicking is effective when running uphill? As you push your forefoot backward and kick your butt (literally speaking), your leg and thigh will automatically move forward for your next step. This helps you to land your feet on your forefoot first. You can then push it backward and kick your butt again.

7. About weekly mileage

During sharing session with about thirty five of us enthusiastic runners and learners, Darren Looi mentioned that he runs 100 to 150 km per week. Wow! I was so impressed by his high weekly mileage! He has put in so so much effort and hard work for his running. No wonder he is a sub3 hour elite marathon runner! 

With weekly mileage of only 40-50 km per week, no wonder I'm still where I'm in terms of running time for a full marathon. Salute to Darren for his strong determination and perseverance!

8. About breathing pattern

Vincent:  How do you breath during race? Three in two out? Two in two out? or Two in one out?
Darren:   Seriously, I never pay notice to my breathing pattern. But I use my mouth to breath in and out.

Vincent:   I usually face the problem of hitting the wall during full marathon. What shall I do?
Darren:   Many runners will slow down to catch their breath. But in fact, there is no need to slow down. As you continue running at your speed, have very deep long inhale so that you can get as much oxygen as possible into your lungs. Do it several times without slowing down. After a while, you will find that your breathing is back to normal at the same speed without having to slow down.

9. About post-run recovery

Darren was very patient in getting us to do post-run stretching exercises to cool down and relax our leg muscles. 

He then explained the importance of nutrition for post-run / post-race recovery. 

Two Hammer Nutrition products he mentioned specifically: 
  1. Recoverite: After long run, it helps in faster recovery so that you can have your energy back to do the next run. 
  2. Tissue Rejuvenator:  It helps in muscle tissue recovery especially if you are injury prone.


I hope this article about Darren Looi's unselfish sharing on his 9 running tips can help you. He is so generous in his sharing. Such a wonderful great guy! I'm so grateful to him!

If you are like me - with lots of unanswered questions in your head about how to improve your run, training and nutrition, I'm sure you will be excited to learn from his running experience. I sincerely hope that I got all the information correct though with my limited running knowledge and short memory. :)

Now, I must say that I'm full of hope about further improvement, and highly motivated and inspired to be better. 

Hope you will feel the same too. 

Keep running! Keep becoming better!

Written by Vincent Khor on August 27, 2017.


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