Community Tips for Racing from the 29-year-old Attempting to Win the Toronto Marathon

    Tips for Racing from the 29-year-old Attempting to Win the Toronto Marathon


    Clarence Hung ran 2:38 in his marathon debut. He’s 29-years-old. He has never taken a sip of alcohol and he almost always runs—inspired by Cam Levins—more than 150 kilometres-per-week. He doesn’t often run very slowly. He wants to win the Toronto Marathon

    You are not Clarence Hung. 

    However, self-coached, his approach to training offers pointers for us all. 

    “I’m not invincible. I fear the worst,” says Hung, a data analyst aiming to finish the Toronto Marathon next month—in first place—in 2:33. “What drives me to train hard is imagining race day. I train hard so race day is easy (well, as easy as possible).”

    Hung runs every day and rarely takes a kilometre slower than 4:20—any speed slower and he feels as if his stride breaks down. His marathon build takes 20 weeks and focussing, at first, simply on normalizing the distance. “The first ten weeks of training are about mileage, getting my body used to running long distances,” Hung said.

    His routine is automatic. He doesn’t question whether he’s running each day, he is. And he logs every run into a spreadsheet, which he consults often. When he’s tired, he doesn’t run as fast; he has a plan, but he’s not married to it. He listens to his body. “I don’t have anything I follow religiously,” he said. “If I’m tired, I’ll do an extra easy day in between workouts.”

    How often do you run, I asked him. “I run seven days a week and double twice a week, roughly.” 

    With this much running, it’s important to fuel and Hung eats healthy, but he also keeps it simple. “Rice, chicken breast, potatoes, broccoli—I  eat pretty clean,” he said, adding that he “eats the rainbow,” peppers, tomato and kale. Hung raced Boston and liked the experience but, in his hotel, the fire alarm went off and he couldn’t fall back to sleep and so now he races near his home. He learned his lesson. For race day, Hung controls what he can and competes where he’s acclimated to the time zone and temperature—no strange food, no jet lag—and he enjoys sleeping in his own bed before heading to the starting line.

    He also likes seeing his friends on the race course. “Seeing those smiles and hearing those cheers helps me go fast,” he said. 

    At his workouts, Hung gives things around 85%. Never 100%, but not lower than 75%. Unlike the Kenyan athletes, he doesn’t put much stock in Long Slow Days. “I know a lot of people run easy and do workouts hard, but I like a certain level of effort every day to feel like I’m doing something that’s productive,” he told me. “I never go 100% in training. I save that level of effort for race day.”  

    It bears repeating: no training program is right for everyone. Clarence, again, is a young pup of 29.

    However, I found it helpful to hear about his race day approach. And I know what you’re wondering: Clarence Hung is attempting his win the Toronto Marathon in Alpha Fly 3, pictured below, by Nike. “I made my marathon debut in the 4% and slowly moved to the Alpha Fly 2, so now, of course, it’s time for Alpha Fly 3,” said Hung, adding that he’ll break in his new shoes—once—running an easy 10K the week before race day. And as for tapering, he doesn’t do much. He’s still running over 100 kilometres the week before race day.

    He said, “I don’t want to break up my routine.” 

    Clarence Hung enjoys running and racing and he’s done it almost daily since catching the bug in  2018. His improvement has come not from switching up his workouts, per say, but by doing them better. We all do the same things when we run. Hung counts his experience and perseverance as key factors toward looking to break the tape on May 5 at the Toronto Marathon.  

    “There’s always a point in the marathon where I’m like, why am I doing this? This should be my last marathon! Then I just keep running—and hope faster people don’t show up at my race.”

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