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How Rio dela Cruz 'beat' Haile Gebrselassie |

Sunday Lifestyle

How Rio dela Cruz 'beat' Haile Gebrselassie

CRAZY QUILT - Tanya T. Lara -

When Rio dela Cruz ran the New York Marathon last year, he beat Haile Gebrselassie, the Ethiopian who holds the marathon record when he won in Berlin in 2008 with a time of 2:03:59. If there is any hope that we will ever see sub-two hours in our lifetime, it would have been him, but Gebrselassie announced his retirement after the marathon but later said he might reconsider because he wants to run in the London Olympics next year.

Anyway, Rio finished the New York Marathon at 2:59:47.

Gebrselassie dropped out of the race.

In short, the world record holder was a DNF (did not finish), so technically Rio and the 30,000 plus runners who finished the New York Marathon last year beat Gebrselassie.

Rio is trying to point out that in running, unlike in other sports such as basketball, you can compete with the elite athletes. You run the same route they run, drink from the same water stations, and cross the same finish line.

“In basketball, you don’t have that,” Rio says. “You can’t play with Kobe or Lebron. In running, you can with the elite. I ran the race Haile ran. I finished that race. He didn’t because may masakit yata sa kanya — that’s what elite athletes do because they run only about two marathons a year and they don’t want to risk injury.”

Last year, Rio also ran Boston Marathon, finishing in three hours; in April he’s flying to France to do the Paris Marathon. His best personal record though is 2:31 at the Milo Marathon a couple of years ago. 

His dream race? Olympics 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. That would be the ultimate race for Rio. Imagine that: Rio in Rio. And he needs to qualify to make it to the national team. But knowing Rio, his dedication and his passion for running, that dream is so within reach.

As a coach, his advocacy is to spread running knowledge to everybody so they don’t encounter injuries.

So, here, Rio goes back to the basics of running with tips for beginners to upgrade their running, intermediate runners and marathoners.

1. Don’t leapfrog your races. Rio says this is one of the biggest mistakes of beginners. They do a 3k, 5k, then a 21k right away. “The required training is a minimum of three months for short distances, six months for longer distances, and nine months for a marathon. You have the division of preparation, like for the first month you improve your endurance, then second month you combine speed and endurance, then you do the speed.”

2. Don’t forget to taper. “For instance you run 100 kilometers a week, when the competition nears you cut it in half, to 50k. You have to taper or you will get burned out.”

3. Count lampposts. You don’t need a Garmin or a Polar (but they do come in handy, don’t they?) to measure your distances. If you’re running in a subdivision, Rio says count lampposts, like if they’re 100 meters apart, run three lampposts and walk for the next two. Then the following week run four and walk for one, until you don’t feel the need to walk anymore. “Even us elite athletes do that when we’re training on the road, unahan kami sa lamppost,” he says. “If you’re training on a treadmill in the gym, run two minutes, walk one minute. You should alternate it. “

4. Avoid plateaus. “For instance you run 5k every day, you will notice that you don’t improve, your time is going to be the same because you’ve reached a plateau. When you give your body a challenging exercise you improve. If you’re getting ready for a 21k, you should be doing a minimum of 30 to 50 kilometers a week. The minimum will only let you finish the race, not perform well.”

5. Food, hydration and peeing. According to Rio, when the food that you eat can provide all the vitamins and minerals, you don’t need additional supplements. “You need meat and carbs. Stay away from fatty foods. If you want to lose weight, your output, which is exercise, should be greater than your input, which is what you eat.“ What about before the race? “Before a marathon I eat a power bar an hour before and take gels on the route, but for shorter distances like 21k I don’t eat before the race but I take gels during.” He reminds runners to drink at all water stations. To avoid having to pee on the route, his advice is to drink an hour or two before the race, then pee right before and take a gulp or two at the starting line. 

6. Let your body recover. Rio runs two marathons a year, which he says is the ideal number for elite runners to let their body recover from the hard training and from marathon day itself. Then he doesn’t run for a month and a half after the marathon. He swims, he does weight training at the gym. “Before, di ako nagre-recover, lahat hard training but my performance wasn’t improving. I took out 30 to 40 percent, same yung performance pero less stress and mas fresh ako. Then I added functional exercises and my performance improved and I didn’t have to do high mileage. Before, I was doing 200 kms. per week, then I lowered it to 150 kms. Same performance but I was relaxed, di mainit ang ulo ko. One indication that you’re burning out is kapag mainitin ang ulo mo.”

7. Your body will decide when and if you need power gels. Rio says he’s prone to cramping even though he hydrates at all the water stations, even though he takes a sports drink with him and power gels. Before the NY Marathon last year he would take a gel every 30 minutes but sometimes he would still cramp. In New York, after the 25th kilometer, he took a power gel every 15 minutes and finished the race without cramping. “As an individual you need to observe what’s happening to your body, anong kilometer ka nagugutom, nauuhaw, or nagka-cramps.”

8. Train for the terrain. In preparation for the Boston Marathon, which is famous for its Heartbreak Hill, Rio trained at Sierra Madre, which is all uphill. “But Boston Marathon also has a lot of downhill, then bigla siyang uphill. With the Sierra Madre terrain, I was using a different set of muscles, more of the buttocks, my quads weren’t prepared for all the downhill. In the last five kilometers I began cramping.” He finished Boston in three hours. Three hours! And he wasn’t too happy about it.

Rio the runner has done well for Rio the race organizer. He knows what runners enjoy in races. His goal is always to put up a runner’s race, which means it’s well organized, there are adequate water stations and marshals, ambulances and the route is safe. 

This is his second time to organize the Globe Run for Home, set for next Sunday, March 27. Run for Home has four beneficiaries this year — Habitat for Humanity, Gawad Kalinga, Haribon Foundation and Virlani Foundation.

“All the beneficiaries are shelters, whether for children who are abused, for endangered species or physical shelter for people,” says Yoly Crisanto, head of Globe Telecom Corporate Communication Division. 

Non-runners can also support the beneficiaries even without running. Friends of runners can send donations to any of the four beneficiaries through GCash and Globe will match the funds raised from this and from the race.

Globe’s Run for Home has 3k, 5k, 10k, 15k and 21k distances. For every registration, P50 goes to the beneficiaries.

“The route is much more exciting this year. The race is starting at Bonifacio Global City, going up Kalayaan Flyover, Paseo de Roxas, Ayala Avenue and all the way to Buendia for the 21k,” says Yoly. 

Oh, and don’t forget to smile while you’re running. This is one of the most hi-tech races — thanks to the timing chip they’re using and Globe Tattoo — because your pictures will automatically appear on a LED TV wall at the finish line and will be posted to your Facebook wall.

Now that’s a profile you won’t want anyone to miss.

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