About Endurance Walk

From the starting point it seemed easy enough though, especially now that it was only 30km, how hard could that be, compared to 75km of Mossel bay? The route was of loose small rocks at the beginning and everyone was optimistic including your’s truly. I remember saying to one member of the well-known strong teams in the competition that this is going to be ‘child’s play’. I’ve done most of the difficult routes like Mossel bay Vasby, Mossel bay Khoikhoi Stamp, Polsmoor, Kanaland, Gaansbaai Endurance walking competitions to name but the few, so I did not expect much difficulty with Tulbah.

As I sat on top of Tulbah Mountain, thinking if only I could get water, I could exercise this advice (pour water over my head and the back of my neck), and maybe I would feel better, but where was I going to get water from? I only had a half 500ml of energy drink and was hoping to keep that until I could see the next water point a mile away. I had begged my team members to please leave me behind I would be OK and I would find my way back once I feel strong enough. I promised them that if I am not feeling better I would call in and tell them and they would send in help and they promised to call every 30 minutes just to be sure, and they did.

It was embarrassing really, within only one kilometer into the walk I had realized that I was having difficulty breathing. It was like my nostrils were closed, the oxygen I was breathing was not enough to sustain by labored breathing. I was feeling more detached second by second. So I breathed thorough my mouth which was a very bad move. Within seconds it was like I’ve been chewing gravel and swallowed it without full processing it. The pain was so excruciating as if someone had sand-papered my chest inside.

My walking shoes were finding it difficult to stick to the ground, and you can blame that to my legs turning to jelly. I kept on stumbling and was afraid I would break a leg. My heard was swimming and lolling as if I hadn’t have enough sleep. My vision distorted, try though I did close my eyes, when I opened them my vision was still nowhere near improvement. I did not understand what was happening to me. I’ve never been an excellent sports woman even at school level I have to admit. I played to the best of my ability though that could never have won me a Sports Woman of the Year Award, but this was pathetic, I though grudgingly.

I tried all kinds of sports I could get myself into at school but was not an excellent athlete, with the bird frame body I have my primary school teachers always hoped at first, until they realized that I lack the energy to go faster. In athletics, I easily got tired, even at 100m or I would drop the baton, who does that really? Even asthmatic kids did better than me.

So I tried something I knew I CAN DO, walking. Walking is easy right? I mean you walk for kilometers no end but the end result is you’re walking, how difficult could that be? I grew up in very rural areas where walking very long distances was a daily ritual. I had to walk 6 kilometers to and from school every morning and afternoon throughout my junior and high school, raining or not no school bus. Or a long walk visiting friends or relatives living far away, so walking was my thing. I might have not be a serious athlete or played any particular sport with excellence but I knew I could walk.

Maybe it wasn’t so wise after all really boasting that I had competed in the great Mossel bay Vasby 75km for the first time with the known killing beach walk and had earned a bronze medal. Or that I had also competed in the Gaansbaai Endurance walk and came up with a silver, and today I was going to scoop a gold medal. Although I wasn’t just pulling his leg, I just couldn’t help but remind the competition that we were there to win. I had actually competed in almost all the small competitions including the ones I mentioned and received medals although not gold yet and I reckoned I was fit. My team members kept talking about how difficult this route was on our way to Tulbah but I just discarded that as non-optimism.

Try though I did I increasingly found that I actually walked better with my eyes closed. That was impossible though because we were not walking on a tarred road but on a part of route that had a mini-stream with dangerously slippery rocks. I kept on walking and tried to guard my steps but it became difficult with every step. Especially because we were the first team in front and there were groups of people behind us anxious to pass and there was only one path and I was being very slow on it. My team mates tried to put me in front of the team for morale. One dragging me with a makeshift bandage rope tied in my middle and other pushing me from behind but they eventually understood that I was a semi-hospital case.

Someone from another team joked as they passed us and I realized he was from the team I had boasted about my achievements to earlier. “You guys are a strong team ‘dragging a trailer all the way to the finishing line’, typical competitor of cause. Being a hospital case on top of the mountain where no vehicle could ever reach was a very dangerous joke. The closest we had to paramedics in any case were wild-fire fighters, standing at the water points a kilometer apart. Now if I happened to get very sick on that top of the mountain maybe I could get help, but help from a paramedic seemed better than that from a wild-fire fighter.

So I decided that they must leave me there at least I could make my way back to the starting point we had left behind in an hour and some tens of minutes ago. I would rest then make my way half way down and find the support vehicle at half a kilometer back, have lots of water then get back to the starting point with my spikey tail between my shack legs. Although it was very disappointing for my team mates to leave me behind they had to continue now individually with the competition.

I surely had let them down I thought, we were not very good contenders to the gold medal but together we knew we could make it. I was feeling very bad about that more than I was feeling bad about my immediate predicament. I had broken the team spirit, now they had to compete a woman for herself. Every team passing me lying on the ground felt sorry for me and asked if there was anything they could do and I said no, I was fuming inside. Even the elderly teams over 50’s were going strong and I was almost half that age, what was wrong with me? Having trouble finishing even the first two kilometers of the walk.

Lying there I realized that feeling sorry for myself and disappointing my teammates are not every attracting words put together. I was giving up and I felt helpless like that no good for anything child I had been in primary school over again. Oh! And the reality of why I suddenly lost energy hit me, I was even embarrassed to admit to anyone. I did not eat breakfast, I fashionable skipped the every first and most important meal of the day, so I was hungry, jeez! The added strain on my body was draining my energy source and guess what, there was nothing to drain from because there was no food in my stomach, how foolish of me?

I always get anxious so much that eating becomes difficult when I’m going to travel to a faraway place. So I usually just take my food with in the morning and eat when I arrive but that morning we were a bit late and just minutes after arrival the walk was about to start. I couldn’t eat and since it was just a mere 30km I thought that I will make it, but I was very wrong. And guess what? I hadn’t heeded to the organizer’s advice, (if you don’t have back-up help carry some sweets, energy boosting chewable tablets, banana, headache pills etc. in a moon bag around your middle.)

Fuzzy though I was, I was determined to walk and finish my walk, now that I knew I was not really sick but I did not have the strength because I was just hungry. Although I was very behind my team, I was definitely going to finish the walk. Giving up was not an option where I am concerned, and besides endurance walking was a newly found passion, the only thing that I thought I’m good at, giving up on it would be betraying that thought. Jelly feet, shaking hands, swimming head, distorted vision and all, I attempted to stand up and walk. I could not let this Tulbah Mountain defeat me. Even though there were very few birds on that mountain, but those small things appeared be laughing at me, the looser!

Instead of walking back towards the camp though, I was walking up the mountain in the direction of all the other teams that had passed me feeling sorry. I was damned if I was going to give up and be beaten by a 30km route? Never! The first team I passed could not believe it. One wide-eyed member exclaimed, “Did you just wake up from the dead? Unbelievable!” “Oh yeah and I’m here to stay”. I said edging past the team, still weak and shaky but was determined to go forward. As I continued in the route one thing and one thing only was on my mind I was going to complete this route no matter what. I could feel that I was getting stronger and stronger as I went up the mountain. Maybe the sight was helping me to get stronger surrounded by the mountain brush and Cape fynbos, the fresh air on top of the mountain helped me regain my strength.

By the time I made it to the next kilometer I had recovered and feeling much stronger. So my next goal was to catch up with my team mates. They were not going to believe what they were going to see. They kept through to their promise to call every 30 minutes and a few times I told them I was heading back to the starting point. When they called every time after that I would tell them that I’m either nearer the starting point or I have arrived and I’m well. So with that re-assurance they walked on full speed to the finishing line. They were as surprised as every competitor I had passed on the route, when I came into their view a few meters to the finishing line.

They kept asking how I did it. I was definitely a semi-hospital case and they’ve seen that when they left me behind. We made it together with my teammate across the finishing line. Although we did not win the gold medal for the firstplace because of distance between team members and check point reporting technicalities, I was nevertheless proud of myself for enduring!

Barefoot Running

Wearing a minimalist shoe causes certain modifications of the body that allow the exerciser to do more work with less demand on the body, such as more efficient stride lengths and frequency. And, it’s less fatiguing than running in traditional shoes because it leads to lower energy consumption, thereby delaying the onset of fatigue. Another benefit is that it helps to improve proprioception (the body’s ability to sense stimuli). When a runner isn’t encased in all that running shoe technology, the little sensors in his/her feet can actually feel the surface beneath and then allow the foot to react appropriately-thereby reducing injury and improving balance. And, it helps strengthen all those muscles in the feet and ankles because they are recruited more for support. Finally, most traditional running shoes have a heel lift. By removing this, it helps the Achilles tendon and calves stretch and lengthen, thereby reducing injuries such as calf pulls caused by short, tight tissues.

Now that you have decided to make the switch, transition slowly to running in this footwear because so much more ankle and footwork is required, and those muscles and tendons are not accustomed to the stress. Begin by doing various activities of daily life in these shoes, such as gardening or cleaning the house. Then, begin to adopt a progressive overload approach. For example, wear them for 10 minutes at the beginning of exercise and another 10 minutes at the end. Slowly, add in another 10-minute bout. For the first 2 weeks, keep the total training time to no more than 30 minutes per session. Be mindful of how your feet and ankles feel after wearing the shoes, and slowly progress the amount of time exercising in them as long as you are pain-free.

Beware, however, that there are cons associated with this type of running. As I stated earlier, minimalist shoes don’t offer a lot of sole-support, so one has to be very mindful of the surface upon which they run and be on the lookout for glass, rocks and other sharp objects. And, because one’s calves and Achilles tendons are accustomed to a more supportive shoe, minimalist running may over-stress them in the beginning. So, follow the progressive overload protocol I outlined above. Finally, this type of running may be contraindicated for those with diabetes because peripheral neuropathy (a common complication of diabetes) can lead to a loss of protective sensations in the feet.

Prevent and Treat Pulled Quadriceps

Pulled quads generally happen in runners because of the strength imbalance in the legs. Runners’ hamstrings are used more in the process of running and will get more developed and will be much stronger than the quads. This imbalance causes weakness which can result in a pulled quadriceps.

To treat a pulled quad, you need to use the RICE treatment that most runners are familiar with. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. First of all, you want to try to stay off of it for 24 hours. Apply ice to the affected quad. You don’t need a fancy ice pack to do this – you can put ice into a washcloth and use it. You use only ice for 15-20 minutes at a time. For the first 24 hours, if possible, try to ice every 2-3 hours. This will help keep down the swelling.

Apply a bandage to your quadriceps. You can find quad wraps and elastic bandages at any drugstore or grocery store. Also, to help with the swelling, keep your ankle leg elevated. Taking ibuprofen will also help keep the swelling down.

When you continue running again (slowly), make sure that you are stretching properly before starting out and also, try to avoid during any speed work until the quad is completely healed. If you are still experiencing pain after 2 weeks, you should go see your doctor.

To prevent pulled or strained quads, you should implement leg exercises. The best exercise to do is to do leg extensions on a weight bench. If you don’t have access to a weight bench, they can be done with some things you have around your house. Take a couple of cans and put them into a bag. Put you foot through the bag so that the bag hangs from your ankle. Sit on a couch or chair and slowly straighten out your leg until it is straight out in front of you. This simple exercise will help strengthen your quads.

Also, before and after your runs, you should stretch your quadriceps. A great stretch is one that I’m sure you’ve seen many runners do. Stand where you can hold onto a wall or tree for balance. Grab your foot and gently pull your heel toward your buttocks. You will feel this stretch in your quads. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds. I usually do this about 5 times before and after I run.

Finding Running Zen

Running used to scare me. I would literally run from just the thought of well, running! I never understood when people said to me how much they enjoyed running. How it cleared their mind. It was relaxing to them. What? When I ran, I did it because I had to for cardiovascular exercise. I did it because it was a healthy way to keep my weight in check. I did it because it was part of a training plan. I never did it because it was my “zen”.

I always told people who were “athletes” that I was not a runner. I was not a runner and when I did run I was not a good runner. Then along came the quote above from John Bingham. It got me thinking about all of those other “runners” out there. Were they all athletes and I was not? Were they all born to run? How was it that they were all better than me and I have been incorporating running into my active lifestyle for years and years? I decided to take the quote from John Bingham and apply to ME! I would like for all of you to do the same and apply what is meant for you to you. Perhaps when I share my thoughts, it will allow you to find your running zen. The place that will allow your body and mind to believe that you are an athlete. A runner.

I decided I could no longer compare. We all do it. It is hard not too. We all want to cross that finish line before the back of someone else’s shoes. This is not a bad thing. It is a good self motivation challenge. You need motivation and a goal. I just stopped comparing my time to their time. I had to set my own goal and find what motivated me.

I used to think let me just get this over with. Run as fast as I can so that I can be done. That was a major downfall and played against me for the most part. Not only would i want to go fast, I needed to go far. How was that going to play out for a non running athlete? It was only when I decided to sign up and run a half marathon that I learned a valuable lesson about time and distance. The two do not go hand in hand. If I were to complete the distance I needed to forgo the time. If I was to go for time I could not complete the distance. Make sense? I had to let go of the “let’s just get this over with” mentality. I needed to find my happy pace, my zen pace, the pace within myself that allowed me to go the distance and actually enjoy the journey. I could not believe it. I found what everyone else around me had been talking about. I find the ability to enjoy running.

Proper Way To Ice A Running Injury

Icing a running injury is done for several reasons. First of all it will help reduce any swelling that occurs and reduce inflammation. The icing will decrease the blood flow to the affected area which will help reduce the pain. And, just the icing itself will help to numb the pain right away for some instant relief.

You want to make sure that you are getting the ice on the area as soon as you get in from your run. The sooner that you can ice the area, the quicker it will help. Studies have shown that icing really doesn’t help much if you wait 24-48 hours.

When you are icing your injury, move the ice around in a circular motion. You don’t want to let it sit in one spot very long. Basically what you want to do is to have an ice massage over the area. As you are icing, you should keep the area elevated. This will also help keep the swelling down.

Don’t ice the area for more than 15 minutes. You don’t want to ice for too long and possibly cause frostbite. Then, after about an hour, you can begin icing again. You can keep repeating the icing process as long as you allow the area to warm up. Make sure that it is warm again and feeling normal before you start icing again.

My favorite way to ice an area is to put ice cubes in a washcloth and use that for the massage. This also keeps a layer of cloth between the area and the ice. Many runners use ice in Ziploc bags. This works great, also. Another way to have your ice ready is to keep paper cups filled with water and frozen in your freezer. Then you can just peel part of the cut away and use over the injury. And, I’m sure you’ve heard of runners that use packages of frozen vegetables. There’s no need to go out and buy a fancy, expensive ice pack – there are several things that you have around the house that works great.

Icing a running injury is a great way to get back on the roads. Hopefully these tips will help you to do it properly!

The Stretching Debate

Many old-school runners feel that you should stretch before you go out for a run. However, research has found that it is actually not good for you to stretch cold muscles. Stretching muscles before they are warmed up can cause injury. The best way to warm up before a run is to go for a walk – or just run your first mile slowly for a warm up.

If you still feel that you want to stretch before your run, you can go for a walk as a warm up and then do your stretching before you head out.

Stretching is fine after you come in from your run. Your muscles are adequately warmed up. However, if you have been on a longer run (90 minutes or more) be careful with your stretching as your muscles are fatigued. Make sure you are gently stretching those sore muscles.

Runners who are advocates for stretching also say that running will prevent injuries. Studies have found that this is not necessary the case. The studies show that running injuries are prevented more by strength training and balance exercises. However, stretching will increase your flexibility. And, in my opinion, increased flexibility will help your overall running and make you a more efficient runner.

Many runners just like to stretch after running just for the simple fact that it makes them feel good. It also helps them to relax – so that can be a definite benefit.

If you do want to stretch after running, the important areas to stretch are the quads, hamstrings, calves and hips. Here are some quick stretching tips: stretch slowly and hold for 15 seconds, stretch both sides (not one leg and not the other), don’t bounce a stretch and make sure you are breathing – don’t hold your breath.

The stretching debate will probably continue on and on for years. I personally like to do some light stretching after my runs. That’s what works for me. Do whatever feels good for you. You may find that you love stretching or that you don’t benefit or all. As always, listen to what your body is telling you it wants.

Eating Before A Marathon

First of all, you should be eating and taking in carbs during your long runs when you are out there for more than 1½ hours. Under that time, you are basically using what has been stored up in your muscles previously. A great way to get carbs during your runs is through Sports Drinks or Energy Gels. You can even get Sports Jelly Beans little Energy Bites. All of these work – and some runners even eat gummy bears or other candies. But, you want to try anything during your training runs – not the day of your race. Find out what works for you and gives you energy and have it with you for race day.

The most important rule of eating leading up to race day is to not eat anything that you are not accustomed to eating. Carbs are important for energy on race day. You should be eating meals that are high in carbs during this time to be fueling up. Also important is to get some protein during this time. Another thing that you want to stay away from during the few days before the marathon is anything high in fiber or any food that you know gives you gas or any stomach distress.

Some good things to eat are pasta, bread, cereal, pizza, bagels.

Two days before the marathon is when you really want to make sure that you are getting fueled up. This may be the day of your big “carbo-loading” meal. Also, two days before you want to be making sure that you are drinking water throughout the day to start getting properly hydrated and getting a good night’s sleep.

The day before race day you want to make sure that you are still drinking water and eating some complex carbohydrates. This day about 75% of your calories should be from carbs. You should have your normal 3 meals plus a few snacks throughout the day. You should be finished with your last meal around 6:00 so that it can be digested before you go to bed.

On race morning you should have your meal about 1 – 1½ hours before race start. This should be something to get you fueled for the race – but nothing big or heavy. It should include carbs and a little protein. My suggestion is a power bar – that always works for me! Other suggestions are cereal, oatmeal or a bagel with peanut butter. Just make sure that whatever you eat is something that you have eaten prior to running in the past. It is important that you don’t experiment on race day.

When To Replace Running Shoes

You can take the shoes that you’ve been running in and look at them from behind. If they are starting to wear out, they will not sit flat. You can see the wear on one side. However, your shoes may be starting to break down from the inside even before the outer soles show signs of wearing out. The cushioning on the inside of the shoe which keeps your foot stable and protected will usually break down before the outer sole. Wearing shoes that are broken down can cause injuries if run in for many miles.

The general rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes between 300 – 500 miles. How soon they break down depends on your body weight as well as the surfaces that you run on the majority of the time. Also, how your foot strikes the ground can be a factor. If you are a heavier runner – you should be replacing your shoes around 300 – 350 miles. Lighter runners can usually get 450 – 500 miles from a pair of shoes.

Be aware of any aches and pains when you run. This could be a sign that your shoes are needing to be replaced. Another test is the twisting test. If you can twist your shoe, it may be breaking down. It should be firm.

Keep track of the mileage on your running shoes in your running log. Whenever you write your run in your log, in addition to the usual entries (weather, mileage, course, etc.), write down which shoes you ran in.

Also, you should have 2 pair of running shoes that you are running in at the same time. Rotating your shoes can also prolong the life of them. Wear one pair and then the next time you run – wear your other pair. This will allow each pair to thoroughly dry out on the inside before you wear them again. Even if it is not raining, your feet sweat and will make the inside of your shoes wet.

Gold Rush Marathons

Four cities born out of the gold rush of the nineteenth century. Today in each of these, one can run a marathon. Two centuries ago, prospectors went there in search of a different gold.

On 24th January 1848, James Marshall found a few tiny gold nuggets on the banks of the American River at Coloma near Sacramento. Thus began one of the largest human migrations in history as half a million people from around the world descended upon California in search of instant wealth. Dubbed the “Forty-niners” (they set sail in 1849), the gold hopefuls from the Americas, Europe, Australia and China, panned every inch of the streams and riverbeds in California. Gold worth billions of today’s dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few. However, the majority returned home with little more than they had started with. Many more, didn’t.

On 19 October, 1872, the Holtermann’s nugget was found in Australia. It is the largest specimen of gold ever found, measuring 150 x 66 cm, weighing 286 kg and with an estimated gold content of 5000 ounces (57 kg). Entire shiploads of prospectors bound for California took a U-turn to rush down under. The resultant infrastructure and population boom shaped Victoria and especially Melbourne city. Bernhardt Otto Holtermann invested his wealth wisely, building a magnificent mansion in Sydney, complete with a stained glass window depicting himself and the nugget.

On a Sunday in March 1886, George Harrison stumbled upon a rocky outcrop in South Africa. He had indeed hit a reef of gold. But Harrison was a lot less lucky than Holtermann. Out of force or foolishness, he sold his claim for 10 Pounds, and was probably killed on his way back home. Undeterred, fortune-seekers from all over the world flocked to the area, and soon the dusty mining village of Ferreira’s Camp bloomed into modern Johannesburg. The “Golden Arc” stretching from Johannesburg to Welkom was once a massive inland lake, whose alluvial silt had formed massive gold deposits. Till date, it is the largest discovery of the yellow metal, ever.

In 1896, discovery of gold along the banks of Klondike river led to a major gold rush to Alaska. Miners of all shapes and sizes, called “stampeders”, were on their way to the gold fields, some of them not even knowing where they are going. Within six months, around 100,000 gold-seekers set off for the Yukon. Only 30,000 completed the trip. They were men from all walks of life from as far away as New York, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Not just paupers or wild prospectors, but even teachers, doctors and a mayor or two who ditched their jobs to hitch on to the bandwagon. One such stampeder was William Howard Taft, who went on to become the27th President and later the 10th Chief Justice of the United States, the only person to have served in both offices.

Weighing over 300 pounds (140 kg) on average, Taft was physically the heaviest American president ever elected. Amply mustachioed, he was the last president sporting facial hair. As Governor-General of the Philippines, Taft once wired Washington, D.C:

“Went on a horse ride today; feeling good.”

Concerned, Secretary of War Elihu Root enquired: “How’s the horse?”

Out of the Alaskan gold rush was born Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska.

Fortune and tragedy are the two facets of gold rush. Wealth was bestowed upon a few. Death on many – by rowdy violence, scarlet fever, lung disease, mine collapse. Their shadows still roam those places, for spirits never die. The eerie, paint-worn, crumbling edifices of Bodie near Nevada desert host the hissing gold rush ghosts making nocturnal visits, the creepy silence broken only by their rustling white robes. Come morning, the sun peeps to scurry a hasty look at the dusty tables, flaccid armchairs and dangling portraits.

In the Fallon Hotel in Columbia, lights turn on and off in Room Nine.

In the Coloma graveyard that ‘lady in burgundy’ still beckons visitors.

Check into Windsor Hotel in Melbourne, only to spend a spooky night with banshee guests.

Dare not carry a loaded wallet anywhere near the robber’s grave outside Johannesburg.

For, as folk lyricist Robert Service said, “There are strange things done in the midnight sun: By the men who <i>moil<i> for gold.”

Running With Allergies

The pollen in the air is something that will make your runs not so enjoyable. So, run when the pollen counts are low. There are websites that can check that will tell you when the pollen is at the worst in your area. But, usually pollen counts are the highest in the morning between 6 and 10. So, try to not run during that time.

If you enjoy morning running – as I know I do – but, you suffer from allergies, you can always run with a bandana or some sort of mask to cover your nose and mouth. This will keep you from inhaling as much of the pollen.

Make sure that you are consistent with taking your allergy medications. Taking them regularly will definitely help. If you just take them when you think you are going to need them – take your medication a couple of hours before you have your run planned.

Windy days can really bother you will you have allergies. The wind makes the pollen go everywhere. On those really windy days, you will probably want to move your run indoors to the treadmill.

Running after a rain is a great way to run more comfortably outdoors for allergy sufferers. Pollen counts are lower after a rain and you should be able to run without any problems.

Make sure that you are showering right after your run. For many runners with allergies, you may not show any symptoms for a while after you were in a pollinated area. So, if you shower immediately after your run, you may be able to avoid your allergies symptoms.

Many allergy sufferers have itchy and watery eyes. If this is you, make sure that you are wearing sunglasses when you run. Any will help, but if you can find wrap around ones, it will protect your eyes even more. Also, try to find sunglasses with different lenses so that you can put in clear ones if you run in the evenings or for those days when it’s not sunny.

Running can cause discomfort for allergy sufferers. However, the above tips should help you to be able to get out there and enjoy your runs again!