And what everyone can learn from KikayRunner’s running experience

By Noelle de Guzman | Photos courtesy of Noelle de Guzman

The running stride looks simple enough: push off with one foot, land on the other, then repeat. Experienced endurance athletes replicate this movement thousands of times without even thinking. If a kilometer is equivalent to a thousand steps, then I’ve already taken a few hundred thousand since I took up running eight years ago.

I like to think I’m a better runner than when I first started out. Much of that is due to great tips from more experienced runners and coaches. These gems helped me hone my form, improve my fitness and speed, and get even more out of this sport I love.

 

Look Forward, Pick a Target, and Run to It

I used to run looking down because I was scared to trip and fall. Then my friend Paul Pajo told me I could run faster if I looked forward and focused on a target. It could be a lamp post, a tree, or even a runner ahead of me. Looking forward improved my running posture, made it easier to breathe, and somehow cued my body to go faster automatically. I still use this little tip to this day—so simple, yet so effective!

 

Breathe Rhythmically

While running alongside a celebrity athlete at a fun run, I overheard his coach Jojo Macalintal telling him how to breathe. It turns out there’s a way to breathe so you get enough oxygen to your muscles rather than run out of breath.

If you look online you’ll find a few recommendations on how to breathe. Some will say breathe in for three steps then breathe out for three steps for easy runs; for faster runs it becomes 2:2, and for short-distance sprints it becomes 1:1.

I usually go for a 3:2 pattern (inhale for three steps, exhale for two steps) so that I start the exhale on alternating legs. It’s also a great way to focus on something else when my legs are screaming.

 

Pick Feet Up and Take Shorter Steps

I attended a pose running workshop conducted by coach Patrick Joson in which he emphasized a fast leg turnover that brings the foot up under the bum, then landing it under the body. The stride looks flowing and circular, almost as if the legs are pistons on an imaginary wheel. The steps taken are small, which results in lower impact forces absorbed by joints and muscles.

This felt so much better than trying to take giant strides and landing with my heel way out in front or overstriding. When your foot lands in front of your body, whether on the forefoot or on the heel, you’re putting the brakes on and forcing your hips and knees to absorb the impact.

 

Pace Yourself

In the year I decided to train for my first marathon, I had the opportunity to do a long run with some Kenyans. These were the ones who had made Manila their home because the prize pots were good at the weekend races. Rather than making me feel like a slowpoke, they took the time to look at the way I was running, and then just made one suggestion.

They told me to keep my pace steady rather than surging then slowing down. If I did this, they said, I could maintain the steady churning of my legs all the way until the endpoint of our run.

That advice has gotten me through plenty of races where people would “rabbit” to be first out of the gates. Not even a kilometer in, I’d pass them gassed out and walking while I steadily moved forward to finish strong.

I owe a lot of my improvement over the years to the people who gave me these tips. While each tip taken by itself changed just a bit of my form and running strategy, taken together they helped me become a more efficient and faster runner.