Friday, 21 August 2015


“No Pain, No Gain.” How many times have we heard that being said over and over again like a broken record; so often in fact that we have begun to believe in it. Well, the truth of the matter is, pain is a term that is too widely bandied about and it is about time to understand that not all form of pain, leads to gain.

Runners are one of the most susceptible sportsmen on the planet to encounter some form of pain in the course of their running exploits. Training for a marathon distance increases that likelihood. One though must learn to identify the different physical sensations associated with pain and know whether to carry on, or rest and recover. A runner experiencing and sharp or stabbing pain should seek professional medical opinion, whilst pain that is constant and associated with movements, and that do not subside after a couple of days should also be investigated. Workout soreness, and dull muscle aches are common and are easily overcome with active recovery exercises.

Pain and injury goes hand in hand. Injury is one of runners’ greatest fears, as it forces the runner to be out of action for a set period of time, and that in itself feels like the worst punishment as all runners want to do is to go out and feel the exhiliration a run outdoors brings. What are the running injuries that literally bring a runner to his knees, you ask? There are so many that it would fill a book to list them all, but here we will discuss a few common ones and how to stay away from them.

One of the most common plagues is shin splints. Shin splints, which is more of a cumulative stress disorder rather than an injury, is an inflammation of the front part of the tibia and in more serious cases, minute fractures to the bone structure. Shin splints typically occur in one or more of the following situations; consistent heel-striking while running, running on hard unforgiving surfaces for long periods, or wearing running in shoes that are worn out or not providing adequate support. The pain is often described as dull and aching and can occur during exercise or after running sessions. Back in 2013, Team 2ndskin athlete Annie Yee was struggling with shin splints for almost 6 months. Frequent icing on the affected area, rest and cross-training via swimming and cycling (to reduce impact on her shins whilst keeping her fitness levels up) allowed her to ease back into running gradually. She now trains with more cushioned shoes and saves her lightweight race shoes for races.

Team 2ndskin resident ultramarathoner Azrulhisyam shares with us his experience in overcoming a common injury which many runners would undoubtedly come across in the course of running mile after mile year in and out. Plantar Fasciitis, also known as plantar fasciopathy or jogger's heel is a common painful disorder affecting the heel and underside of the foot. The causes are very much alike to shin splints but affecting a different area. Azrulhisyam theorizes that the cause of his plantar fasciitis injury was due to excessive workout and running over a long duration or distance. Another probability that was identified was probably the use of racer shoes with zero drop when his foot muscles have not been conditioned well enough to absorb such impact. Upon rest and recovery, the pain gradually went away and it helped when he wore more structured shoes and after better conditioning and leg strengthening, he started to transition from cushioned shoes to less minimal drop shoes again, like the Skechers GOrun 4. Plantar Fasciitis remedies include icing, ultrasound therapy, rolling the underside of foot with foam roller or even golf balls, but most importantly, is to rest and recover. For injuries like shin splints and plantar fasciitis, pushing through the pain does more harm than good.
Running is an extremely enjoyable sport. The time spent outdoors, the fresh air, the adrenaline rush, the camarederie, all contribute to running being one of the fastest growing sports in Malaysia. Don’t allow injuries to be a spanner in the works. Keep in mind that moderation and maintenance is key.

Many runners, especially beginners tend to do too much too soon. They start running, and they see fitness gains and the feel-good factor shrouds them in an envelope of invicibility. They think that the more they run, the faster they go, the more benefits they reap. In a nutshell, overzealousness gets the better of them. Going over your limits consistently when your body is not yet conditioned for it, is a precursor to injury. Mileage and speed should be increased in a gradual progressive manner, by following a structured program. Rest is also an integral part of a proper running program, and rest does not mean cross-training or hitting the gym for strength training. Rest is pure and simple, rest. The body needs to recover from physical exertions, so although it may seem counter-intuitive, rest and recovery is just as important as that next training run.

Just like any sports car, your body requires physical maintenance to keep the muscles limber and flexible and ready for your next running session or race. We have all read about hydration and fueling in the previous article, but maintenance is not just about nutrition. Maintenance is also about body conditioning.

During and after workouts and exercise, the muscle fascia (tissue that binds and interconnects the muscles in the body) gradually become tight and develops knots that need to be stretched out or “released”. It is a condition that gradually builds up and because the tightness and pain is below the runner’s sensory threshold, they are not aware of it until its too late. When the tight muscle fascia starts affecting mobility, cause pain and soreness in the surrounding muscles, injuries happen and recovery takes longer. How is this situation to be addressed? By incorporating a regular conditioning program into marathon-training that involves foam rolling, trigger-point therapy and stretching.
Dynamic stretching before a run and static stretching after helps keep the muscles limber. Running contracts the major muscle groups and over a long run the muscles tighten up. Light stretching after a run helps to elongate the tight muscles and increases blood flow back into the working muscle groups. Some runners believe that a foam roller is a runner’s best friend. We at Team 2ndskin concur with that notion. Foam rolling all the major muscle groups involved in running like glutes, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps; and the “hotspots” like the Iliotial Band and Tensor Fascia Latae frequently and consistently (before and after runs) will help to release knotted and tight fascia tissue build up. For each muscle group, foam roll for about 15-20 repetitions and go on to the next muscle. If there is any soreness or tightness, use trigger point balls to concentrate on the nagging spot. Total time taken for foam rolling and trigger point should not take more than ten minutes a day, so there is actually no excuse not to incorporate it into your routine.
It is advisable to perform stretching and foam rolling everyday in the week leading up to marathon race day. Target the shoulders and upper back as well; due to stress and pre-race jitters in the build up to race day can create tension and tightness. As what we at Team 2ndskin say, “ten mins of rolling a day, keeps the doctor at bay.”

Monday, 17 August 2015

Taiping Cross Country Race Report

Number 8 "very ong" placing for Jun Shen at the Taiping Cross Country run. Congratulations to you teammate. By the way, the organizer were credited for a run well organised.
The month of August has three events awaiting me to keep me committed to improve my running. Taiping Cross Country came the earliest, I was happy to race it even without trail training for ages. The thing with trail running, it is about risk taking, agility and some tactics. Over the years, my trail running skills keeps improving but the way I raced my trail races never changed. Currently I have 4 pairs of Skechers shoes with me in Alor Setar namely GoRunUltra2, GoSpeed1, GoSpeed2, and GoSpeed3. Ultra2 is my recovery run shoes, it helped me a lot during my injury recovery period with its awesome cushion. Speed1 is my training shoes for intervals, aging 2 years old. Speed2 is my choice of gear for SCKLM, and it is slowly being phased out from the Skechers performance series so I wanna save it’s mileage. Speed3 is awesome, super breathable and has my favourite carbon plate underneath.

Friday night, I got all my power banks charged, juiced up my Garmin 920xt, laid out all my compression wears and nutrition plan so that I don’t miss out any gears, filled up all water bottles before packing everything into my car. I was contemplating whether to race in GoSpeed3 or Ultra2. =p Taiping is a raintown, two hours rain could easily double up the difficulty of this race. The organizer (Karen Geh) had uploaded some of the trail pics during her recce with her organizing team, and I presumed a pair of super fast road shoes like Skechers GoSpeed3 should be good since the trail is not too technical. Saturday morning I arrived Taiping, drove around looking for hotel. Most of the hotel looks pretty decent from the outside so Lt Izlan and I checked out their aircond compressor to have a quick guess of the aircond’s capacity *typical engineer*.  All the hotels that we asked charge less than RM100, it’s really cheap and very near to the race site. The organizers had done their homework to make things convenient for runners, thumbs up! So we decided to stay in Panorama Hotel (official hotel), RM106 per night for two person (more discount for race participants). Izlan and I love Taiping’s weather very much! (Afternoon feels like Alor Setar’s 10am). Once picked up our race kit, we walked around the town before entering the cinema to watch Mission Impossible. Later on, I happily dozed off without any pre race jitters. *no podium expectation*

Race kit collection was very fast and convenient. They have race gears on sale too=)

Very comfortable room. Panorama Hotel.
All the shops, food stalls and Taiping Mall are within walking distance.

I felt freakish for not getting palpitation two hours before race=p Pulled up my compression wear and wore my 2ndskin Team Issue Race Vest (maiden race appearance). We walked to Hua Lian High School, 400m from the hotel. I set my Garmin to alert me before every water station, laced up my running shoes and secure the butterfly knot under the criss crossing lace so that I don’r trip in the jungle. The VIP who flagged us off dressed up very smartly, he respects the event I would say. I ran in the front pack for two kilometres before the bunch splitted into two groups at the stream crossing section. I can tell that this time around, the fast runners are mostly road runners because the way they carefully cross the stream is not what trail runners would normally do. We can’t tell what is under the stream, so just took my chances and bulldozed! Overtook 3 runners effortlessly at the first stream. The distance between the first and second stream is really near, all runners were wet at the early section of the race. After the second stream, we ran to the direction pointed by markers which was towards a wooden house. We were misled and ran round and round the house looking for the next markers. I think I wasted around 3 minutes till the pack bunched up to 10 lost runners. Suddenly one runner saw the red-white tape and yelled “jalan sini!” so everyone ran to him.

We ran across parks where the grass is so soft and wet; perfect for training but not to my liking for racing. I never liked too much of cushion when I race because it dampens my speed. I got more convinced that Skechers GoSpeed3 was the right pick as I entered the trail. Kilometer 4, grabbed a cup of water as I ran past to cool my head without slowing down; volunteers were very impressed with the cup grabbing skill=p. Not long later, I got side stitches and back muscle spasm. Hamstring was pulling too! Gosh this is too early! (obviously lack of trail running=p). Base on my experience, side stitches could be solved by slowing down the pace while fine tuning the breathing technique. I synchronized my running steps and breathing rhythm, by the next two kilometres the spasm and side stitches was gone=)   

I did not slow down when descending, just kept speeding and ready to stumble in case I misstep. In trail running, I have less control over the nature so I spread my arms to gain better stability while maintaining high cadence speeding down the slope. The organizers also encouraged runners to carry their own cup to keep the jungle clean.The climbs were manageable and the surface is kind of sandy, very similar to Teluk Batik’s trail. Kilometer 8 & kilometre 12 were the other two water stations but I only sip a bit of isotonic because the chilly weather didn’t make me feel thirsty. The kilometre 13 marker was slightly under distance (compared with many other GPS watches) but the trail was very well marked with red-white tapes and shredded paper, one of the marshall said to me “you’re no 12”. That was too close to miss the podium, not knowing whether overall no 12 overall or men open, I ran harder and harder. My watch alerted me as I hit the road at kilometre 14, I pushed the pace slightly higher although I didn’t see the possibility of crossing the finishing line; we were still far from the town! Overtook two more runners and dropped them to gain a comfortable margin, I don’t wanna repeat any final sprint drama as my podium spot is not guaranteed! By that time, no more distance markers, but marshals and traffic control were sufficient.

The “last kilometre” felt like forever, I really didn’t know how far would this race go over distance so I stopped looking at my watch. When I entered the town and made my final turn, I tried to run faster but I had nothing left already. Crossed the finishing line in 1 hour 25 minutes, was given the 8th position Men Open podium tag. =) I saw so many runners wearing 2ndskin shirts, surely they love the material and I believe the brand is growing each passing days. It feels great to be able to meet my running friends, most of them are ultra runners already and I wonder when am I going to do my maiden 100km ultramarathon. As for this year, I aim to break my marathon PB by at least 10 minutes so all my races are projected towards my marathon goal.
Men Open Podium Ranking No8. 

To sum it all, this is a very well organized race. Karen Geh and the team did a great job promoting this event in facebook, thumbs up for all the volunteers and police/RELA for making this race safe. The selection of Taiping is an awesome venue, the fact that racer’s logistics were taken into consideration makes me more convinced to support this organizer’s event.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Marathon Running : Hydration and Nutrition

At the time of reading this, you would have been a couple of months into your marathon run training plan, running better and more informed in your choices of running shoes, gear and tracking your program and progress. However, running a marathon is not all about tying your shoelaces and running again and again; there are other inconspicuous elements that contribute to the marathoning experience, and whether you make or break your race day.

Nutrition and hydration is an often overlooked aspect of marathon running, and something that even advanced runners sometimes do not get right. Hydration is not just about swigging a bottle of isotonic drink and neither is nutrition all about munching on breakfast bars before the race.

Now, if we crunch the numbers a little, the human body comprises between 50% and 70% water. The amount varies according to gender and age and statistically the average is ~60%. We typically feel thirsty when we lose between 2% to 3% of water and our mental judgement and physical performance starts to see a downward turn when we lose 1% of water. If you are 65kg in weight (assuming your body is average 60% water), that translates to approximately 390ml or about 1.5 cups of water.

Race Day Boost - Hammer Nutrition
When you are exercising at medium to high intensity, or at the rate you can't hold a normal conversation when exercising, you may lose up to a liter of water an hour through sweating and breathing, depending on the climate and humidity levels. In real world conditions, there are two extremes to hydration issues, dehydration and overhydration (hyponatremia), and we often see even the most experienced racer succumb to hydration problems. Both conditions exhibit quite similar symptoms, and therefore professional medical assistance is imperative in such situations.

Based on research by Hammer Nutrition, a premier provider of sports nutrition, fuel and supplement; the optimum hydration level for most athletes is between 590-740ml of water per hour. For lighter athlete or cooler temperature, approx 473-532ml per hour will suffice. For heavier athlete or hotter conditions, ~830ml will be a good guidance. However, this is a guideline and should be adjusted as per required by the athlete based on the progression of the race, the conditions and personal well-being.

Your electrolyte and fuelling secret
Even though we are ingesting liquid as we work out, the electrolyte levels in our body will start to decrease as well. It is important to make sure that its replenished. It is important to ensure that your electrolyte drink has minimal composition of simple sugar (fructose, glucose) as it will impede hydration and nutritional absorption. Keep your fuel to mainly complex carbohydrates and a bit of protein. Hydration includes the fuelling solution (sports drink) and other food you may take along the race (banana, watermelon etc). Do keep in mind that they will contribute to your total hydration for the day.

The nutritional and fuel aspects are just as important as hydration requirements. How well you fuel (and keep yourself fueled) will determine your energy levels and ultimately determine your race outcome. For a marathon distance race, look at consistent and continuous energy supply, not short bursts of adrenaline rush.

Annie Yee; Team 2ndskin Athlete and inaugural Malaysia Women Marathon Champion shares her training and race day pre/post meals -
(Morning training long run)
Pre-training fuel: A cup of sugarless black coffee and two slices of wholemeal bread + peanut spread.
Post-training fuel: A glass of soymilk and 2 half boiled eggs + carbohydrates (noodles).
(Evening training short run)
Pre-training fuel: One apple/orange/banana an hour before training.
Post-training fuel: Oats+Milk + Light dinner (minimal carbs)
(Race Day)
Pre-race breakfast/fuel: A cup of sugarless black coffee with Hammer Perpetuem + 2 slices of wholemeal bread + peanut spread.
Perpetuem in Powder form - for more than 2hours of activities
Post race recovery: A cup of sugarless black coffee + Hammer Recoverite + 2 half boiled eggs and carbohydrates(noodles/rice noodles).

What about during the marathon, you ask? How important is it, to keep your energy levels steady and maintain consistent fuel supply to your body? Very very important. All it takes is lack of a refuelling plan on marathon race day to derail all those months of training and preparation. When your energy levels dip, especially after a few hours into the race, it is difficult to rejuvenate and get the momentum going again. Many have heard of the dreaded running term, “hitting the wall”; which is a condition where the runner feels as if he/she has no more energy (physically and mentally) to continue. Physical preparation (training) as well as proper fueling and hydration are paramount to over come “the wall”.
Solid. Awesome
Azrulhisyam; Team 2ndskin Athlete and finisher of 29 Full Marathons shares his fuel strategy after fine tuning his needs based on his experience:
Two things that are of utmost importance that I consume during a marathon: energy gels and electrolytes (in soluble form mixed with water, e.g. fizz, or capsulated form which I carry with me). Rule of thumb for gel consumption is to consume it before I get tired and before my energy depletes to the 'danger' zone, in my case of running a sub 4-hour marathon, it has to be every 45 minutes (more sparingly for longer finishing time). It involves discipline in consuming energy gels during a marathon, as sometimes your body doesn’t feel like taking anything down, but you know you need to. To help with that, try different types of energy gels and find one that suits your palate and is not too thick in consistency, making it easier to swallow on the run. My favourite is Hammer Gel in Montana Huckleberry flavour. In a typical marathon distance, I would consume between 4-5 packets of energy gels. For electrolytes, two tablets in soluble-form like Hammer Fizz will be enough for 500ml of water that I carry along in a marathon, which I would sip it along with plain water provided at the water stations during a marathon. Normally, I would consume around 1-liter of electrolyte drink in a marathon (excluding plain water), equivalent to 4 tablets of Fizz. Rule of thumb is, don't wait until you're thirsty or your throat dried up to consume electrolyte drink or just plain water, drink often (say every 2-3km) but in smaller volume (say 2-3 sips per 2-3km). Do take note that I do adjust my hydration needs depending on the weather and climate of the race I am running in. For races that I don’t carry my hydration bottle, I would consume electrolytes in the form of capsules that I take 2 caps every hour to balance out my body electrolyte losses during the marathon.”
It is imperative that during your training sessions, you should try out different types of fueling and hydration strategies. For hydration; that includes the different type of electrolyte drinks to see whether they have any adverse effects on your digestion, how much liquids to consume on a long run and under different weather conditions, learning to drink on the run and getting used to running with a water bottle or bottle pouch if you intend to use them on race day. It is also good to do some research and find out how far apart the water stations will be setup during race day and make sure that your hydration strategy works around the availability of water / liquids at the race.

Pre-race food and fuel during the race is also crucial. Many runners find themselves having stomach discomfort during the race because they have digested something new prior to the race that their stomachs does not agree with, or during the race. Many marathons offer bananas as a form of fuel at periodic water stations, so do try having bananas during your training sessions to see if they work for you. The human body is sensitive, and there are many types of food that would not give you trouble during normal times, but when you digest them on the run, the opposite happens. When you are on the run, a higher volume of bloodflow goes to your limbs, in order to bring oxygen rich blood cells to your working muscles. Your digestive system slows down, and it is more difficult to break down the solid food you ingest, therefore causing stomach issues with some runners.

The old adage of “never try something new on race day” holds true especially for fuel and hydration. Avoid food and drinks that may potentially cause stomach issues the night before the race, like spicy or raw food and stick to tried and tested formulas.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

MARDI-MAEPS Trail Run Race Report

A cross-posting from Deo on his recent race that took place at MARDI-MAEPS hills. First race after Puasa and Aidilfitri celebration he says; awesome effort, we say. Thanks for sharing this Deo, as always.

First race after a long break of fasting month and aidilfitri, so it was a great opportunity to reheat the engine, burning some fats buildup from the delicacies during the eid. But it was just a week into Syawal and realizing that the insufficient mileage building up to this race, I knew it was going to be tough. And add to the fact that it was a trail race, which is always hard whatever the distance is, it was going to be torturous. I've recce-ed the part of the route before and I knew it surely would max out the heart rate as some of the elevation could be torturous, especially when carrying fats with me.

Race day arrived, I was at the race site early, to secure for parking spot. Early in the morning with 45 minutes before the original start time at 7am, I had to pay a visit to the restroom for my morning routine before the emcee announced that the start time would be delayed to 7.30am. It gave me some time to doze off in the car until about 15 minutes prior to start that I finally made my way to the race site. This race is quite popular each year it was held so it was no surprise that it was quite crowded at the start line. As it was the first weekend after the Eid weekend, the pre-race atmosphere was pretty much about wishing each other with Eid greetings as well as well wishes for the race. 

I stayed at the side of the race gantry and as the race was without the use of timing chip, I knew that I don't have to squeeze myself inside the crowd and get under the gantry for the start. When the race was flagged off, I jumped into the crowd and found out that I was already among the front 30 or so runners. When the route was supposed to go to the car park right at the end heading to the trail head, the front bunch of runners took the right turn into the car park, followed by other runners behind including myself. They were not to be blamed as there was a huge right turn arrow signage but it was for the parking and I think the front runners mistakenly though it was the route signage.

As I had recce-ed the place before, I knew they made a wrong turn. So, I stopped for a while at the junction and was hoping any of the marshal or volunteer would yell to us indicating it was a wrong route but there was none. I also thought maybe they've changed the route as there was another entrance to the trail head where the runners were mistakenly heading to, and that the recce-ed that I went to was long before the fasting month. While I was still thinking, more runners headed to the wrong route. And if I were to run to the right route, it would be awkward that I would be the lone runner running in a different direction, and I would be leading the race! Hahaha... So I stood there until came BotakBotak who yelled at me, "Sini lah... drama apa lagi kau tu?" and right after that I was also running on the wrong route. Until we reached another area of car park that was on the elevated land, I saw runners running around the cars parked there, which to me is so illogical that it was a right race route.

Huffing and puffing, tackling one of the uphill sections. Featured in this photo is the new Team 2ndskin red-camo t-shirt exclusively by 2ndskin
[photo by Running Malaysia Magazine]

So, I stopped again and was walking slowly against the direction, against other runners who were dashing towards the 'wrong' trail head. I was still reluctant to head to the right route although my inner self told me so. I was still hoping that there is anyone of the volunteers to tell us that we were on the wrong route. It did not happen. And I continued to run towards the 'wrong' trail head again but a lot of runners have passed me. As I reached the 'wrong' trail head, finally I heard someone yelled "Wrong route!" and without thinking much (unlike others who were confused), I turned around and dashed towards the right trail head near the far end car park. By then, I had to do some zigzagging among the runners. I wondered how far had the front runners gone into the wrong route and how fast would they catch up with the rest. Luckily I was just about 500m into the wrong route but it costs me some time, though.

That was the drama right at the beginning of the race. The rest was business as usual, for me. As soon as we entered the trail head, we headed into some climbing that caused me huffing and puffing. With uphills, there will always be downhills. So, I tried to run up as much as I could and must-run on flats and downhills. It was easy to do in the first 5km. The front runners who went on the wrong route started to overtake me around KM3, just before we entered the dense, single-track trail part that goes ups and downs over a short distance of less than 2km. The trail was a little slippery with wet leaves and grass from the rain last night. Again I was lucky as I headed into this section relatively at the front and wasn't held up by slower runners in front. It was me against time (and heart rate, too!). Easily and safely got out from the section and into the rover track again and it was back to the routine. Walk when it was too steep to run, try to run as much on flats and run downhills. 

The route elevation.
The trail was nice to my liking, quite a good mix of uphills and downhills section, great enough to give you reasonable recovery time with flat or downhill sections, in between those uphills. It was not too technical, soil were clay-hard to give good traction, but need to be careful with loose rocks and the gaps on the soil which could twist your ankle if you mis-stepped on it. Since I knew it was not going to be too technical, I chose Skecher GOrun Ultra 2 as the race shoes as the shoes is good enough to handle trail of low-difficulty level as this. There was also quite a steep downhill section that when I did the recce-ed was dry and sandy that made the section slippery which is quite dangerous as you run downhill. Luckily again, it was wet and it gave good traction to that downhill section. The route was quite tricky as in the later part of the race, we got out from trail and into tarmac before heading back into trail section, out again, back in again, before finally out on tarmac for good towards the finish line. I heard some runners lost their ways and some said the direction signage were not clear which I think it not true. The signage were adequate with arrow signs printed on papers as well as the usage of re-white striped tapes as markers. Maybe lacking was the distance markers which I think is not necessary for a trail run. The organiser could also improve by having those junctions manned with marshals. 

Sort of reunion of Salomon Action Asia Race last year, with Saiful, Saufi, and Azhar, minus Sabri.

I finished the 18.84km race (including going on the wrong route) in 2hr and 49seconds and was surprised to be given the 13th placing card for Men's Open category. I would have ran faster (yeah right!) if I knew my placing while in the race, since the prizes were just up to 10th placing. The race used bring-your-own-bottle concept, which I think is good to keep the route clean from paper cups and other litters and the amount of water stations along the route, I think about four, was adequate for the distance. The one complaint that I heard the most was the unavailability of isotonic drinks along the route as well as at the finish line. Although I think it was a small matter (drinking sugared water like 100Plus is not good for you ok!), given the big names of the sponsors, and a lot of them, for the race and the fees paid, I seriously think the organizer should be more considerate to cater runners' expectations. There was only banana and gardenia bun given out at the finish line, when in the previous editions of this race, if I'm not mistaken there were tofu-fah, watermelon, packed nasi lemak served. Which again, quite a small matter to me but runners these days expect value for the money they spent on the fees. Thankfully, the medal is nice. 

For my race details at Garmin Connect, click here.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Training and Racing Gears For Your 1st Marathon

Training and running a marathon is not just about pulling on a shirt and slipping on a pair of shoes and going for a run. The right and proper gears you use, could make or break your race, and many experienced and seasoned runners are very particular about the gears and running essentials they use, whether in training or during race day proper.

Running a marathon for a first timer may take anything between 4 to 7 hours of time on the road and countless hours in training leading up to race day. Therefore it is imperative to have the right shoes, gear and outfit so that you can focus on the race itself, and not be troubled by niggling discomforts from improper gear choice.

Team 2ndskin athletes have completed countless marathons and long distance races of up to 160km and multi-day running events and are well-placed to share their insights into the proper equipment and running essentials for training as well as race day. Here, the Team 2ndskin stalwarts offer their views and how to make the proper choices:

Number one on the list is definitely the all important running shoe. A variety of running shoes are available in the market, so picking the correct shoes with the right fitting is really important. Get advice from a specialty running store or seek assistance from experienced runners for recommendations. A good pair of running shoes is the one that wears snugly and comfortable to your feet. For that reason, the right pair could be subjective to personal preference and running gait. A few important factors to consider before selecting your ultimate racing shoes are footstrike, pronation, arch pattern and level of cushioning and structure. Most runners go for a structured/cushioned shoe for training sessions and stiffer running shoes with lesser cushioning for race day. 
Cushion is comfortable, but too much cushion dampens the runner’s energy which slows down transition between landing to toe off.  Most of Team 2ndskin athletes race with the feather-light Skechers GoMeb 2, Skechers Performance Division’s racing flat. GoMeb 2 has a Dupont Hytrel plate in the midfoot for some stability and springs back for energy return. The upper material is highly breathable; keeping feet cool and dry in endurance races. Pairing the right shoe with proper technical running socks that wick sweat quickly and are lightweight tremendously aids the runner on race day.Jun Shen; 4X Ironman Finisher 

If you are looking to improve and move towards more serious running, a GPS watch plus heart rate monitor (HRM) is essential. A GPS enabled watch allows you to plan your training and races much better. Depending on the features of the watch, the data provided includes time, distance, elevation, heart rate, pace and calories utilized on top of other additional data. The watch is a great tool to record your performance during training and races. Incorporating HRM with GPS, the HRM provides feedback on your running effort and identify the level of intensity that are you running. This data can be used to plan your training more effectively. You can also set alerts and program into the watch to provide real time feedback of the intensity range you are training in. Other than using HRM, pace can also be used as feedback to plan your training. You can even challenge yourself by running against your previous saved sessions.

The latest Garmin GPS-enabled watches has integration with social media that allows your training to be tracked real-time. This allows individual to know your last updated location, in case of emergency. You can also activate track back feature to lead you back to where you start if you are lost in a new area. Team 2ndskin train and race with Garmin Forerunner series, 920XT and Fenix. – Roy Yeow; 160km Ultramarathon Finisher

Whether you're running in hot or cold weather, wearing clothes made of a technical fabric will help you stay dry and comfortable. A synthetic wicking material, such as Vaporlite, will wick the sweat away from your body. Do avoid wearing cotton as once cotton fabrics get wet, they tend to cling to your body and causes irritation. In hot weather runs, wearing clothes that wick away your sweat will help prevent chafing. High-risk chafing points should be well lubricated to reduce friction caused by wet apparel against bare skin. Team 2ndskin athletes train and race in lightweight and performance-oriented technical running tops by 2ndskin Clothing.
Some female runners may ask for guidance on selecting suitable sport bras for running. Choose high-impact sport bras to feel supported as they provide effective support and to reduce bounce while running.

The sports bra should fit you properly and not be too stretched out. Most sports bras need to be replaced after a set recommendation in terms of cycle of washes, when the elasticity is lost, or if your weight changes significantly.
Choice of shorts and pants is also a matter of personal preference.  Some runners prefer to wear lycra/spandex tights because they reduce friction between the thighs. Others prefer baggier shorts or split shorts for airiness. You can also wear long running tights, which may come down to your knees or calves.  These can also help to keep you warm in cold weather. – Annie Yee; Malaysia Women Marathon Champion

Many observers think that wearing sunglasses during your runs is all about making you look cool, but they actually provide benefits which are often overlooked. First of all, a good pair of sunglasses protect your eyes from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Secondly, sunglasses are a great way of reducing body tension as squinting your eyes increases the tension in the muscles of the face and neck, which can be transferred down the body and impact the efficiency of the running motion which eventually affects your running performance. Other benefits of wearing sunglasses on the run are to keep bugs, dust, dirt and debris from getting in your eyes, and to improve visibility depending on the tint of the lenses used. While picking a good pair of sunglasses, check out its UV-protection level, whereby the quality ones will block 100% of UV-A, UV-B and harmful blue light. Go for polarized lenses which reduces reflective glare, and impact-resistant lenses that are tough and durable for your active lifestyle. You must also invest on the comfort and lightweightness features and ensure they sit solidly on your nose with a traction grip so  that you may wear them comfortably in long runs.Azrulhisyam; Multiple 100km Ultramarathon Finisher

What used to be reserved only for top tiered athletes has been made widely available for the general masses today. Compression shorts, pants and calf sleeves help especially for longer distance running or endurance sports where the users will reap the maximum benefits. Popular as sportswear alternative to shorts or track bottom, the compression wear has gained a big following. A properly sized (to fit) compression wear may help to improve deoxygenated blood return to the heart and help to improve performance. By decreasing the instances of the muscles vibration due to impact, it helps the user to potentially reduce fatigue and increase endurance due to more efficient use of energy for forward motion. Used as a post-race or post-training wear, it helps to speed up recovery and you can reduce the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) syndrome. Team 2ndskin train, race and recover with Kraftfit Compression Wear and their Powerband Technology that greatly aids muscle support and provides ergogenic benefits.

Compression tights can double up as a suitable innerwear for long-haul air travel too providing relief against Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).  – Ee-Van; 4X Ironman Finisher

The last thing to worry about while you go out for a run is to have your loved ones at home worrying about your safety. We have all heard the horror stories of road accidents and medical conditions afflicting runners during runs and races and we should be prepared for worst case scenarios. Having information such as your emergency contact numbers, medical condition and history, or drug allergy visibly attached to you will help speed up the process of medical attention in the event that you are involved in an incident and becomes unconscious or unable to speak. Lifeline ID, a local producer of identification gear, allows you to customize the information to appear on your ID while giving you the options on the type of ID you prefer to wear.Azrulhisyam; Multiple 100km Ultramarathon Finisher

Running in its most basic form is a simple sport. However, if you have intentions to be a serious runner and to participate in marathons and improve your performance, running gears become absolutely necessary. There are other running gears that many runners use, like running belts to keep small personal items, technical running caps and reflective bands/blinkers for low-light running sessions. Ultimately, running gears are a personal choice and not one-size fits all, especially in today’s vast availability of different choices and selections.