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Train for the Sydney Marathon with Tips from Sydney Marathon ambassador Melvin Wong

Training for a hilly course like the Sydney Marathon? Here's what you need to know from Singapore Marathoner and Sydney Marathon Ambassador Melvin Wong

Melvin Wong, Sydney Marathon Ambassador. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

From training tips to tackle hilly courses to items you should bring along to your next overseas race to better prepare you for races done in non-tropical climates, we bring you useful tips with Sydney Marathon ambassador Melvin Wong who shares his thoughts with our's readers.

For more tips on preparing for your first overseas race, you may also wish to read our special feature here.

So you have signed up for your marathon, have started following a training program but still feeling those jitters because you are not too sure what to expect from running in a different country, climate or more challenging terrains.

Fear not because whether you are preparing for a more undulating course like the Sydney Marathon presented by ASICS or tackling Singapore's Benjamin Sheares Bridge in the annual StanChart Singapore Marathon, we've got you covered.

Melvin Wong, Sydney Marathon Ambassador. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Q: How would you prepare differently for a hillier course than a flat marathon course?

Melvin: With a hillier course than what I am used to, I would usually incorporate a couple of more hilly sessions as part of my training program.

Whether it's short hill sprints or longer intervals along undulating courses or routes that we have in Singapore, I will try to incorporate that.

How does this differ from flatter courses? The truth is when we have a hillier course, the race pace may have to differ a bit, we cannot always stick to the goal pace that we think we can run, rather we have to base it off our race effort. So race effort rather than race pace matters a lot more in hillier courses.

Melvin Wong, Sydney Marathon Ambassador. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Q: Can you provide tips and strategies for amateur runners to conserve their energy in order to sustain a half or full marathon distance?

Melvin: The basic rule of thumb is when approaching a hillier course, you want to be a bit more conservative in the first half. It's the same for most races that I go to, whether its flat, hilly or undulating, the idea is to make sure that the second half (of the course) you have enough energy to push through.

A lot of people will struggle towards the latter half of the race because they've spent too much (energy) in the first half just because they are excited about the race etc, but in a hillier course I personally would incorporate a bit more discipline in the way you want to execute the race.

So be conservative at the start, make sure that you are not flat out by the half-way mark, and to ultimately be able to have a good strong finish towards the end of the race.

Melvin Wong, Sydney Marathon Ambassador. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Q: Are there specific training drills and exercises that runners can incorporate into their trainings to improve balance and control, and what are some of the key attributes needed to tackle hillier terrains?

Melvin: One of the things that really strike me is that most professional marathoners incorporate single leg exercises into their trainings.

Running is often seen as putting one leg before the other, but at the same time you have one leg up in the air while the other is on the ground so it's kind of like a continuous single leg movement.

To be able to incorporate some single leg exercises allow you to be more in tune with how you can improve your overall balance and stability on one leg, and therefore have more efficient stride and ride across your mechanics.

Melvin Wong, Sydney Marathon Ambassador. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Q: How about energy distribution for a full marathon or half marathon course, for runners who are new to marathon running?

Melvin: To be able to control your own emotions is important. Often times we are very excited or have a lot of energy at the start because it's something new or there is a crowd cheering for you.

But the moment you enter patches of silence stretches or environments where there is no one there cheering for you, the energy levels drop. The ability to control how you distribute your energy is important.

For a race like the Sydney Marathon, I am pretty sure there will be constant cheering and constant fan support, because Sydney is a beautiful city with a strong sports culture filled with a lot of people who are passionate about running, but in the case where it may not be as constant support this is where you have to make sure you don't go too fast during the spots where there is a lot of cheering, and just to regulate and distribute your energy overall, especially for a marathon.

Melvin Wong, Sydney Marathon Ambassador. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Q: What are some of the more common mistakes that runners make when tackling slopes, be it going upslope or down slope?

Melvin: A common mistake is to follow someone else's pace when going upslope, you are not sure if the person next to you has a better fitness, is more well trained or has a certain race goal in mind, and therefore he executes a certain plan when he tackles the upslopes.

When approaching slopes be sure about what your race plan is, how you plan to execute it and run within yourself rather than follow people when they accelerate or decelerate.

To be able to execute your plan and manage your energy distribution is important.

Melvin Wong, Sydney Marathon Ambassador. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Q: What are you most excited about the Sydney Marathon this year?

Melvin: This is actually my first time running the Sydney Marathon, it is new to me. I have been to Sydney a couple of times already. I love the people, the vibrancy of the city and I am looking forward to connecting with the running community there, to catch up with old friends who have been there, and lastly to absorb the enormous energy that comes with the 15,000 marathon runners that have already signed up.

Q: Useful tips for runners who are heading for their first overseas marathon in a colder climate?

Melvin: When I went overseas for my first race, I overpacked rather than under packed my gear. I prepared a base layer just to stay warm.

What I learned over the years from more experienced runners who shared with me it's good to prepare a poncho in case it rains, or a long-sleeved t-shirt you are prepared to throw away at the start line.

Melvin Wong, Sydney Marathon Ambassador. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

This will keep you warm after you leave your hotel room and allow you to just put it aside before the start of the race. Prepare for additional race apparel or singlets or t-shirts you may want to put on judging from the temperature or wind conditions before the race.

It's always good to do a recce run or shake-out run ahead of the day of the race at about the same time of day to acclimatise yourself with the conditions so you have an idea of how it feels, what you need to do or what you need to wear to make yourself feel comfortable.

Q: Any other call-outs you wish to make to our readers from

Melvin: Yes, I want to shoutout to all the Singaporean runners and the readers at, do join me and our partners i.e. SportPlus and ASICS at the upcoming Running Clinics as we continue to provide a more wholesome awareness of Sydney Marathon.

I will also be participating in a studio interview with SportPlus soon and there is also a shakeout run planned for those who are traveling up to Sydney next month. So do keep a lookout!

Looking to join an overseas race? The Sydney Marathon, presented by ASICS, is a candidate race to become the seventh Abbott World Marathon Major. Offering one of the world's most scenic courses, participants who join the Sydney Marathon from 2022 to 2024 will gain automatic entry into the event when it becomes a WMM major in 2025.

Sign up for the Sydney Marathon and find out more about Australia's biggest marathon here.


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