Five questions every runner asks

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Johardt van Heerden

Red Bull LionHeart 2015 just took place in Cape Town – a sprint-format trail running event on Lion’s Head mountain. It’s a steep, hard race – Red Bull asked South Africa’s extreme runner Ryan Sandes, who created it back in 2012, for his best tips.

What’s the best menu pre-race?
If it is an early start, I generally wake myself up with a cup of coffee (double espresso) and then have two slices of toast with almond butter and honey on. I sometimes slice up a banana and add this to my toast if I need some extra calories. It is also important to stay hydrated before a race, but not over hydrate. For a race like LionHeart I would make an isotonic mixture of energy drink and water to keep me sustained through the heats.

What’s the best pre-race routine?
The more you can sleep before a big race, the better. This is not always the case with nerves so I try and do some deep breathing to relax and reset my nervous system. It’s good to be nervous for a race but you don’t want to be so nervous that you use all your energy and focus up worrying about the race. I listen to some chilled music and do some visualizations of how I am going to be feeling during the race to mentally prepare myself. About 45 minutes before the race I will do a 20 or 30-minute, really easy run with some mobilizations and stretching to warm myself up. If I feel I am getting too tense then I do some more deep breathing to relax.

What should I wear on race day?
This depends on what type of condition you will be running in. As most of my races are in the mountains, I always try and prepare for the unexpected. It can be great weather at the start but snowing and pouring with rain at the top of the mountain so I always take warm weather gear and lots of nutrition and water to stay hydrated. Having the right gear is crucial to having a good race, so do your homework and make sure you have the necessary gear. Everyone has their own preferences and what works for them, so test your gear out in training.

How can I beat my personal record?
The first step is to believe you can. Then you need to put a plan in action to beat your personal best. Look at where you can make the biggest improvement in yourself as an athlete and focus on getting better in these areas. A number of really small improvements will add up to one big improvement and a personal best.

Trail or road running – what’s the most fun? And what’s the hardest?
Trail running is the most fun as the scenery and terrain is constantly changing. I am a trail runner so I might be biased. I love the unpredictability of trail running and not two runs are the same. I find running on a flat road really challenging and boring, but if you put a road runner on a big mountain trail they would really struggle.  I think both road and trail running are just as hard and it is all relative.

About LionHeart
Race date: Sunday, Dec 6, 2015
Race route: Up and down Lion’s Head, 3,7-kilometres
Race Format: Top 100 men qualified based on the Strava leaderboard. On race day, those who are the cut-off of 36-minutes advance, with the top half racing for the Elite title and the bottom half, the Plate. Top 30 women qualify based on Strava leaderboard.
Men winner: Johardt van Heerden (0:28:50).
Women winner: Hayley Preen (0:34:12)

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