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HKBU research shows most of last year’s marathon runners lacked adequate training

05 Feb 2014

Dr. Lobo Louie (right) provides Hong Kong marathon runners with tips while Mr. Chan King-yin shares his experience of participating in the marathon.
Dr. Lobo Louie (right) provides Hong Kong marathon runners with tips while Mr. Chan King-yin shares his experience of participating in the marathon.

Runners are preparing for this year’s Hong Kong marathon which will take place on 16 February. A study by Dr. Lobo Louie, Associate Professor of Physical Education, on 1,146 runners who completed last year’s marathon event in the 10 km, half-marathon and full-marathon races was released today (5 February). Dr. Louie also provided the marathon runners with tips to prevent injury.

Research results showed that total training volume of most of the 10 km, half-marathon and full-marathon runners had not reached the recommended safety level, which increases the risk of injury. Insufficient training was common in full-marathon runners. In addition, water replenishment of most of the runners before, during and after the race was satisfactory, but some individual runners drank too much water after the race which increases the risk of hyponatremia.

The research was conducted by means of a questionnaire using which 830 male and 316 female runners aged 15 to 68 were surveyed. Among them, 299 runners participated in the 10 km, 547 in the half-marathon and 300 in the full-marathon race. On average, half-marathon runners had participated in the race once before. More than half of the full-marathon runners had full-marathon race experience. In addition, about 60% of full-marathon runners were long distance race club members. The body mass index of most respondents was normal.

Research findings showed that 33.1% of 10 km runners had no training, only 31.4% practised once per week. Thirty-two percent of half-marathon runners practised twice a week while 33.3% of full-marathon runners practised thrice a week. Most of the 10 km and half-marathon runners practised 30 to 90 minutes each time while the training time for about half of full-marathon runners was between 61 to 90 minutes. The total kilometres run each week by the 10 km, half-marathon and full-marathon runners were 9.7 km, 19.2 km and 43 km respectively.

Research results revealed that most of the 10 km runners were amateurs whose long distance training before the race was on the whole insufficient. The training for most of the half-marathon runners before the race only reached the lower limit of the recommended total kilometres, which increased the risk of muscle fatigue and cramps. Only about half of the full-marathon runners reached the recommended training volume. The training for half of the full-marathon runners before the race was apparently insufficient which led to a high risk of hitting the wall.

According to Exercise Science Guidelines, water replenishment of 5 to 7 ml per kg of body weight is necessary in the three hours before the race. Research results showed that water replenishment for most of the runners was satisfactory. On the whole, most runners drank water or sports drinks before the race. During the race, water replenishment for full-marathon, half-marathon and 10 km runners was 939.3±545 ml, 361.9±260.0 ml and 104.7±87.4 ml respectively. Water replenishment two hours after the race was 934 ml, 695 ml and 560 ml for full-marathon, half-marathon and 10 km runners respectively. On the whole, runners did not have sufficient knowledge about water replenishment. Education and publicity on the issue should be enhanced.

Research results also showed that most of the runners had reasonable water intake after the race but individual half-marathon and full-marathon runners drank too much water which might lead to the risk of hyponatremia caused by low sodium. Publicity and education on this issue are required. Dr. Louie urged full-marathon runners to pay attention to and calculate water/fluid intake volume in their daily training so as to come up with a strategy for water replenishment during the race.

Based on the research results, Dr. Louie offers the following tips to this year’s marathon runners:

Preparation on the final 10 days before the race:
- Pay attention to body weight changes after training. Body fluid loss should not exceed more than 2% of body weight. Come up with an en route water replenishment strategy;
- Body weight should not be heavier than before the training. A heavier body weight indicates excessive intake of water;
- Use a 1:1.5 formula for water replenishment, whereby 1 kg of body weight loss after training should be replenished with 1.5 litres of water within two to four hours’ time;
- Wake up early to adapt to running in the morning weather conditions.
- Lower the training volume one to two weeks before the race. Follow the Tapering Principle in order to gain a full reserve of muscle glycogen and antioxidants. Full-marathon runners should lower their training volume to 1/3rd or not more than 15 km one week before the race;
- Take sufficient rest in the last two days before the race and do stretching exercises to ensure that muscles are in good condition;
- Runners should adjust their biological clock in the last 10 days and get six to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Research shows that lack of sleep could lower running ability and greatly increase the change of spasms and injury;
- Carbohydrate loading: Consume more carbohydrate during the three days before the race. Eat one to two more bowls of rice. This allows the body to store 10% to 20% more glycogen for race use;
- Drink sufficient water every day to maintain the body’s normal metabolism.

Things to pay attention to on the race day:
- Eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast two hours before the race, comprising, for example, bread, noodle, rice, banana, etc. Consume 1-2 grams for every kilogram of body weight;
- Drink 400 to 600 ml water in phases after waking up;
- Pay attention to urine amount and colour. If necessary, drink an extra of 100-200 ml water;
- Pay attention to weather conditions: temperature, humidity, wind speed;
- Arrive at the venue early to do warm-up exercise before the race starts;
- Do not wear new running shoes. Wear clothes suitable for long distance running. Trim your toenails;
- Keep warm before the race begins;
- Follow the prepared strategy and stay positive;
- “Focus on your performance, not your time!”
- Pay attention to your body condition on the way;

Water replenishment guideline on race day*:


Finishing time/speedWater replenishment speed and volumeWater replenishment volume
<4 hours  
<12 km/hour1000-1250 ml/hour3.5-4.0 litres
4-5 hours  
9.6-10.8 km/hour750 ml/hour3.0-3.5 litres
>5 hours  
>9.6 km/hour500-600 ml/hour2.5-3.0 litres

Information source: Association of International Marathons & Distances Races

*It is necessary to consider factors such as temperature, humidity, wind speed and sunlight on race day

In addition, Mr. Chan King-yin, former Hong Kong Windsurfing athlete who won two gold medals in Asian Games and Year 3 Physical Education student shared his experience of participating in the marathon.