No Category selected Advice Column: Ask JP II

    Advice Column: Ask JP II



    Dear JP:

    Before your purpose and cause were public and so broadly supported, how were you able to manage the need to prioritize running over life’s other obligations, and the associated internal conflict between your work and hobby?  Many of us need our physical life for our own reasons, yet the challenge of claiming time from the rest of our lives presents considerable conflict… Selfish & Self-indulgent vs Mental and Physical Wellness.


    Sandie O

    Dear Sandie:

    Despite having a higher public profile as a result of my advocacy work, not much has really changed in terms of my running life, or running practice.  I started running shortly after entering a treatment program for drug and alcohol addiction.  In effect, running provided me the ‘structure’ and ‘accountability’ that had been so sorely lacking in my life.  I quickly discovered that in addition to feeling much better physically, the more consistent I was in adhering to my running practice, the more ‘present’ I was in my life in general.

    I guess it’s like the airlines’ safety message we hear at the beginning of every flight:  “Make sure you put on your own oxygen mask first before coming to the aid of any other passenger.”  To me, that’s the prioritizing I’ve had to do around my running.  Those closest to me know that running keeps me sober; running reminds me that you get out of life what you put into it.  Now having said that, I’m conscious of the fact that runners live in the “real world” too, so that means we need to be aware of the family and work responsibilities that take precedence over our running practice.

    When it comes right down to it, I don’t really buy into this whole “work-life balance” thing people are always talking about.  I believe it’s an equation that just sets us up for failure at the outset.  Instead, I like to reframe this by asking, “How can I bring a balanced life to my work?”  And for me, that balance is attained by nurturing my creative and emotional soul through running.

    Dear JP:

    I’m susceptible to vicious calf cramps, but after about 30k.  I’ve tried everything that I know of – stretching regularly after training and special session, diet, magnesium tablets, and salt.  I generally end my marathons by walking the last kilometer or so!  Any ideas, longer training runs?


    Tommy G.

    Dear Tommy:

    As President Bill Clinton used to say, “I feel your pain.”  Calf cramps have derailed many a marathoner over the years, and I am no exception.  It sounds like you’re already doing most of the suggested preventive actions to curb a calf muscle flare up, but to no avail!

    One of the common culprits of exercise induced calf cramps is dehydration brought on my extreme endurance and the subsequent muscle fatigue.  This may account for your experiencing the cramping at the latter stages of a race or taxing training run.  A few years back, I was experiencing a similar issue in many of my races, particularly the ones on rather hilly terrain.  I addressed the issue by making sure that I hit all the hydration stations along the course, even the ones in the first few kilometers – the stations I typically ran past without taking on any liquid.  The stricter hydration protocol appears to have solved my issue.  Another hint I would recommend is to speed up your tempo the moment you sense a calf cramp coming on.  This fluctuation in tempo is often enough to ‘trick’ the calf muscle out of going into full on spasm.  Whatever you do, listen to your body, and enjoy the “mystery of the marathon”.

    Dear JP:

    Which is your most difficult race, and how did you overcome it in the end?


    Cleo L.


    Dear Cleo:

    I average about 10 to 12 marathons each year, so suffice is to say, I’m either training for an upcoming race or recovering from a recent race.  As a high profile athlete, I’m often asked to speak to various running groups and clinics, and a question that inevitably comes up is, “Does it get easier running a marathon the more you marathons you run?”  Despite what you might think, that is not an easy question to answer.  The advice that a veteran marathoner gave me many years ago is advice that I continually remind myself of as I step up to the starting line of each and every race I do – “Respect the distance.  The marathon will humble you.”

    The more marathons I run, the more I am getting “comfortable with the uncomfortable.”  It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned elite or a first-time marathoner, there will come a point in the race when you’re mind is trying everything possible to sabotage your body.  What separates the best runners from the rest of the pack is their ability to partition off that part of the brain that is screaming at them to slow down, or stop!

    The “hardest race” I ever did just happens to be my favorite race I’ve ever run.  It was the Comrades Marathon in South Africa.  Comrades is an 89km race up and down some unrelenting terrain through the rural countryside on the west coast of South Africa.  I spent the week leading up to the race doing my final training runs in the heat of Dubai.   When I arrived to South Africa two days before the race, I was bed-ridden with severe dehydration, so up until a few hours prior to the race, I wasn’t sure I would even make it to the start line.  6 hours into the race, I realized that my “A” goal was definitely out of the picture, and the second I realized that, my brain went into overdrive trying to get me to simply pack it in.  I dug deeper than I have ever done before in a race, and when I met my wife at the finish line, I could see how incredibly proud she was of my accomplishment.  I learned a valuable lesson that day – Never give up on yourself… You are much stronger than you could ever imagine!


    1. Dear JP,

      I’m looking to better my marathon time of 4:30. I qualified for the Two Oceans and the Comrades marathon but I know I can do better. can you kindly send me a training programme that I can follow. please help, running has changed my life and I’m surely an addict.

      from South Africa.

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