From zero to marathon in three months
What made you want to run a marathon?
It all began in 2012. I had a major medical crisis and needed to transform my health. I was about 50 pounds heavier than I am today. Very much overweight. So I made major changes to my nutrition and started running.
In the first month I could barely clear 3km. After that, I found that I actually loved to run. I fell in love with it. One day, I decided to run a marathon. Two months later, I did.
How did it feel, running your first marathon?
First, I thought I was totally insane.
But it felt exhilarating to do something that people said I can’t do. It was amazing, like, “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this!”
People’s reactions were funny. The marathon was on a Sunday and the next day I went to work as usual, and I remember telling my colleagues, “I feel a little lightheaded today.” They asked what I did over the weekend, and I said, “I ran a marathon yesterday.” Everyone was open-mouthed, “What?”
I was amazed that not only did I not die, but actually I was quite good. I ran it in 3 hours, 36 minutes and 7 seconds. The average time for men in the US is 4 hours 20 mins. Didn’t expect that.
What did you do next?
From then on I was hooked. But I was frequently getting injured because I had no real training. So I went to an Olympic running coach and learned a new technique, which I've used ever since without any injuries. It's a forefoot running technique called “Pose”, developed by a Russian Olympic coach in the 1970s. Now, it has found its way into many areas of running including how shoes are designed and so on. That’s the technique I teach.
Two months after I ran my first marathon, I did an international marathon. Soon I was running either a half marathon or 15km every day, completing about 120km every six days. I became such an avid runner that I was appointed team leader for an ultra-marathon team, after which I added another 50km every Saturday to my routine.
I just found this joy and love in running. My father was a runner and competed in numerous international marathons. I remember at one point when I was racing, he posted a message on Facebook saying, “You’re living my dream”.
What challenges did you overcome and how?
Taking the plunge
I committed myself to the marathon before I was ready. I had no idea how I was going to do it and I was terrified. But signing up for it took away the option of quitting. I just had to do it.
At the time, I didn’t have any support for what I was doing. People were concerned that I was running too much. The truth is, I probably was, but there was no one to stop me so I just did it anyway.
Not having support was hard. So I looked for inspiration, and I found it in a man named Rich Roll, considered to be one of the world’s 25 fittest men. He was in the same situation: 38 years old and grossly overweight. He had been an alcoholic and suddenly decided to get his act together. He became one of the first people to ever run five IRONMAN distances five days in a row.
I used to stand in front of the mirror and visualise the body I wanted, day after day. And it didn’t happen for a long time. It was frustrating and I would wonder, “Is this ever going to work?”
But when I did start losing weight, it came off really fast. So fast that I had to visit the doctor once because I had a weird fluttering thing with my heart. I lost 50 pounds and my body surpassed what I ever thought possible. It was incredible. I would sometimes forget and look down at my stomach, feeling self-conscious. But the weight wasn’t there anymore. Crazy.
Sticking to the schedule
I made a schedule and committed to it, not letting myself off the hook. And this was happening in Denmark, where the rain was like ice, and because I was at work in the day I’d run in the dark through the freezing countryside. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t bear the cold.
But I was rigorous with myself. I told myself, “You’re running today, and that’s just that.”
What advice would you give to people who want to run a marathon, or simply take up running?
Get professional training
Getting trained by a professional was the best thing I could've done. There was a world of difference between running my first marathon with no training (which I don’t recommend), and learning a technique that prevented injury and enabled me to achieve more than I could imagine. Getting someone to tell you, “Here are the things to look out for and this is how to do it right,” makes it far less complicated.
Have a check-up
For anyone who hasn’t been training, has a history of medical issues or is overweight, I strongly recommend having a medical check-up before you start running. It’s important to know where you’re starting from and the potential issues that could trip you up.
Have someone you can partner up with. Even if they're not running with you, it’s good to have someone you can call when you don’t feel like training, or when you’re having a hard time. I definitely recommend joining a group – there are all kinds of groups in HK. People who train with others get better results. It’s been proven, time and time again. One study showed that when you choose the partner you train with, particularly if its someone you know, you get even more results.
Take care of your body
Understand the necessary preparation and recovery for your training. Take care of your body before and after. I treated my body like I was an Olympian the entire time. I prepared my body the same way a professional athlete would. Recovery was like going to a spa, but it didn’t cost me any money. I spent time stretching and massaging my feet and legs. I also made sure that I ate the right kind of food, keeping my diet on the alkaline side of the acid chart.
It’s really important to have equipment that works, like appropriate running shoes. You should be fitted for a shoe – get your running style checked on a treadmill in a store. I’m big on minimalist shoes, primarily because they help strengthen feet and ankles for long distances. Equipment makes a big difference.
Train with very specific results in mind. Each time I went out, I had a clear idea what I was out to accomplish - it wasn’t lollygagging. If your goal isn't clear, you'll never know if you’ve achieved it or not. Be specific with your schedule too, don't just say, “Three times a week”, clarify which days, what time of day, where, and so on. Then stick to it.
What’s #RUNKINGDOM and how can I join?
If you want to learn to run, or perfect your technique, join #RUNKINGDOM. We have three categories of training: Starters, for those new to running, Pacers, for those looking to improve their time, and Podium, for the performance-oriented runners who are out to win. It is a comprehensive programme that anyone can join any time. If you're looking to run 5K, 10K, 20K, a marathon or even an ultra-marathon, you can train with us.
I teach a Pose modified technique – the same technique I was trained in, plus all I've learned since then. We utilise functional training and hatha yoga for warm ups. As well as support from the group, you’ll get added benefits like free gym sessions, or products designed for long-distance running, and so on.
For those who want to run a marathon, we have a six-month programme that you can join anytime. There's an upcoming marathon on 29 October in Taiwan and if you’d like to do it, I highly recommend you sign up sooner rather than later – don’t push it and start only three months in advance.
There are many #RUNKINGDOM people who aren’t going to run the marathon in Taiwan but do want to run a marathon distance. So we organise for them to run the same distance locally at the end of their six-month training.
Is there an age limit on this kind of thing?
I was 37 when I ran my first marathon. There are people who start training for IRONMAN in their 60s. Everywhere, you’ll find people who are starting very late. Pretty amazing.
One thing I love about running is that it’s the great equaliser. You can be anyone from anywhere on the planet and you can run. No one can stop you. No one.
Got questions? Contact Dom