ST Run At The Hub 2015: Feel your way in 18.45k

Above: The ST Run at the Hub 2014 saw participants run the 5km, 10km and the half marathon.
Above: The ST Run at the Hub 2014 saw participants run the 5km, 10km and the half marathon.ST FILE PHOTO

The first of a six-part Straits Times Run At The Hub special with Dr Mok Ying Ren, a former SEA Games triathlon and marathon champion

This year's The Straits Times Run at the Hub will feature a new 18.45km category to commemorate the paper's 170th birthday (it was founded in 1845).

Chances are you have not run a race of this unique distance.

At about 3km short of a half marathon, and 8.45km longer than the common 10km race, it will be difficult to pace yourself based on your previous race performances, especially if you are used to running with a fixed pace in mind.

Start too fast, and you risk burning precious glycogen fuel too quickly and hitting the wall in the last quarter of the race.

Start too leisurely, however, and you will find yourself sprinting down the home stretch chasing a new personal best.

  • RUN WITH MOK - WEEK 1

    MONDAY

    This will be a short fartlek session to increase your leg turnover. You can do this along your favourite route, preferably free from pedestrian traffic.

    Start with a 10-minute easy jog and some stretching.

    Once ready, set your watch to a one-minute timer on repeat. Start your timer and run fast until the minute is up, then slow down gradually to a jog. Repeat eight times.

    If you find yourself tiring before the minute is up, adjust your pace so that you can finish strongly. Finish the workout with a 10-minute, cool-down run and some light stretching.

    WEDNESDAY

    This will be your race-pace run. Ideally, you would have run a race before and roughly know your race pace. You can do this with running groups such as Running Department, who run on Wednesdays at 7pm at UOB Plaza. There are experienced pacers who would give you a better idea of your race pace.

    Start with a 6km run at race pace. Some of you may feel intimidated by running with other people - don't be. Use this opportunity to run with your pacers, who will guide you to a perfect finish.

    THURSDAY

    This is an optional run for those who are keen to put in more training or have higher fitness levels.

    Do a 30-minute run as an easy effort. You may replace this with an easy 30-minute swim or cycle. This active recovery will allow your body to get ready for Saturday's long run.

    SATURDAY

    This will be your weekly long run and probably the most important session for you each week, where you will complete 12km at an easy effort. Two possible routes are three laps around Bedok Reservoir, or along East Coast Park.

    Remember to plan your hydration along the run, using vending machines or water coolers. The above two routes would have plenty of them.

    Training effort description

    Easy/long run: You should be able to hold a conversation comfortably during the run.

    Moderate (race pace) run: You should be able to speak in phrases but not in full sentences.

    Hard (fast) run: During these intervals, you should only be able to speak in sporadic words.

Yet, as simple as it sounds, the key to racing well over 18.45km is by feel, rather than being held hostage by a Global Positioning System watch, which has become common in the last decade.

This means being tuned in to your body's signals, and knowing when to push and when to back off during hard training sessions, to the point where you know exactly what it feels like to be "red-lining" (pushing your body to its limits) in the last kilometre.

During the race, ask yourself these questions:

How hard are you breathing?

Can you continue this tempo and finish strongly?

How should you be feeling at the halfway point?

The ST Run's unique distance also caters to runners who have just had a long break or are coming back from injury. The reason is that, whenever you run a familiar race distance, you will not be able to resist the temptation to compare it with your past efforts.

This comparison can be avoided at the ST Run as you probably have not run 18.45km before, and is ideal if you are just shaking the dust off your shoes. In runner's language, this can be a perfect "rust-buster".

Finally, the ST Run represents a good chance to get a personal-best (PB) time for 18.45km, since you many never run this distance again.

But really, don't put too much pressure on yourself.

Case in point: When I first came to Boulder, Colorado, I ran a fun 4km race. At 1km short of the usual 5km race, it felt weird. The race course was also not as scenic as what you will experience at the ST Run.

But I gave myself no expectations, and basically ran free, something that I have not done in a long time.

It put me in a stress-free position, as I did not feel the need to check my watch.

It turned out to be a fun experience. In the end, I clocked 12min 37sec, a decent time for my first race at 1,600m elevation.

And sometimes, that's how running really should be - once in a while, stop chasing that PB and just have fun.

•Have any questions for Mok?

E-mail them to stsports@sph.com.sg with the subject "Run with Mok" and he will try to answer as many as he can in his weekly column

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Feel your way in 18.45k'. Print Edition | Subscribe