“Be patient, be consistent and enjoy the journey” – Togz Togle
Extramilest Facebook Group member Togz Togle has improved his marathon times significantly, so far from a 4 hours 16 minutes marathon down to a 3:13 marathon. Recently he ran a Boston Marathon Qualifying time and personal best at the Vienna City Marathon. In this post he shares several of his learnings to become a stronger, healthier and happier athlete.
Where were you born and where do you currently live?
I was born in Bacolod which is located around the middle part of the Philippines. If one would look closely on the map, it is on an island that is shaped like a (running) sock : ) Currently, I live in Vienna Austria.
How long have you been running?
I have been running on and off since I was in the University. However, I was only running to build stamina for some other sports. When I started working, it became more of an activity to stay fit and to keep things in balance. I took a long running break when I got a meniscus tear on the left knee and even a longer break after I finally had a surgery. It was only when my family and I moved to Vienna that I got to run more often. After three years though, I injured my knees again and had to take another long break. It was then that I told myself that when I do get to run again, I will appreciate every step and enjoy the journey even if I have to run slower or not so far as before. It has changed my perspective of each run and I get to enjoy it even more.
What are some of your current PR’s?
I did a 5K track test last year at 20:44. Earlier this year I ran a 41:48 10K. Before my injury, I ran a 1:29:45 Half-Marathon. Post recovery, I managed to get back to a 1:31:40 so far. The Vienna City Marathon 2019 is my best time to-date at 3:13:42.
Which marathons have you ran, when did you run them and what were the finish times?
First of all I would like to say that I did not even dream of running a marathon even though I enjoyed running then. I was on a work assignment in Thailand and I made friends with the Thai runners at the park where I would go for a run after work. A couple of months later, they invited me to join them to run a Marathon. Although I only ran shorter distances then I didn’t hesitate to say ‘why not’.
So my first marathon was called The Temple Run in 2004 where the route was designed to pass by several temples outside of Bangkok. The first couple of kilometers was fun and I was passing folks left and right. By the second half, I was already exhausted. That was when I asked myself ‘why did I have to join this’. That was really tough. Several kind runners gave me encouragements to keep going. Long story short, I made it to the finish at 4:16. After some cold drinks and something to eat, I was already thinking of when I could run another Marathon.
Three months later, I ran another called the Friendship Marathon where runners start from Thailand and finish in Laos crossing the Friendship Bridge of both countries. Surprisingly, even though I finished around borderline 4hrs, I still got 8th place in my age group and received a trophy.
My last Marathon in Thailand was also that same year at the Bangkok Marathon where I finally got a 3:59.
In the following year, while mixing playing basketball and running at the park, I got a sudden knee pain – my left meniscus tore… a running break for more than a year. I still stayed in touch with my running buddies at the park from time to time and one time a friend told me a story about his trip when he ran the Vienna City Marathon. I was quite fascinated by his adventure that it gave me a glimmer of inspiration to experience running in Vienna one day.
Between that time and 2011, I still ran but intermittently because my knee would not agree with my run sometimes. In between those years, I also got married, got busier at work and got a nice kind of busy when my daughter was born. In a positive twist of events, my family and I moved to Vienna where my wife is originally from. The change in scenery and climate, encouraged me to pick-up running again and the knee seemed to agree with it this time. I actually used running then as a way of learning German by listening to audio books while on the road. It was still several months before the VCM when we arrived in Vienna so I decided to train for it.
I finally ran my first VCM in 2012 at 3:47. Succeedingly, my times were 3:36 in 2013; 3:31 in 2014; 3:41 in 2017 (post knee surgery) and 3:25 in 2018. I also ran the popular season Marathons in Vienna which are held at one of the famous nature parks called Prater. These are the Herbst marathon with 3:34 in 2012 and 3:26 in 2013, and the Frühlings marathon with 3:18:17 in 2018. In 2017, I had the opportunity to trace the footsteps of Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens with 3:30:50. Last year, I ran the Wachau Marathon with 3:17:54.
Last year you missed the cut off for Boston by 35 seconds by running 3:25:35. You recently ran a solid race in tough windy conditions, finishing in a 3.13 marathon. What was the biggest difference in your training and racing?
Last year was warmer than this year and that kind of took a toll towards the end. The nicer weather this year certainly has helped to make the run so much more enjoyable. I was also glad that I didn’t really encounter that forecasted wind or at least not as much.
In terms of training, the biggest change was really the volume and frequency. I decided to run 101 consecutive days up to the day before the marathon to challenge my mindset and to have a hands-on experience of what is it like to run every day. It consisted mostly of low intensity runs based on my MAF of 134. In racing, I took a different approach in terms of when to start picking up the pace and when to take gels.
What was your training volume in hours or mileage like? How did a typical training week look like for you?
From December to January, I was building up from 420 to 485km, respectively then from February to March, it was 420 and 410km. I was running Half-Marathons during these months so I had to balance the volume with sufficient recovery. I have accumulated around 1,400kms and 140hrs of running just for the 101 days.
My long runs were usually on Saturdays which were around 3hrs. I ran another one or two more mid-long runs during the week. I mixed-in some speed work which are usually either an 800m or 1000m interval once a week if other races don’t conflict. Also, I did not plan to do tempo runs in this training cycle and just incorporated that kind of stimulus in the Half-Marathons that I joined.
Alternatively, I did some much lower MAF sessions instead. The first several days of running every day was challenging but then later I seemed to have adapted to it that it became like a habit. Waking up at 3am (or 2am if it’s a long run) was not really a huge challenge anymore. The biggest challenge for me in running every day and especially during winter is the laundry : )
Any strength or cross training? If so, what and how often?
I normally do stretches after each run and planks twice or thrice a week. Additionally, I began to take the stairs instead of the elevator especially going up from the subway station.
What was your race strategy going into the Vienna City Marathon?
Four weeks before the Marathon, I ran a 28km race which was also a part of the VCM Race Portfolio. At that time, I wanted to simulate race pace for the first 30km in 21km and the last 12k in 7km. The outcome was very positive that I reapplied it on race day. I still had to consider the other factors though like elevation gains, temperature, wind and curves because they were totally different from the VCM course.
Previously, I would have this kind of race pace simulation 3 weeks before. However, I was a Half-Marathon pacer for a friend by that time so I had to adjust the timing a bit. After the Half-Marathon, I decided not to do any speed work any more but instead continue to do the low intensity runs and just vary the distances as part of my taper.
How did the race strategy work out for you?
It worked out very well. A friend found me at the start of the race and we chatted for a while. I mentioned that I wanted to qualify for Boston and shared the pace that I wanted to run at the start. Then I said that I’ll pick-up the pace after 30 or 32km if in case we are still running together. We agreed that I will do the pacing and the time splits while we continued conversing from time to time in between. The plan was to stay below or at 160bpm while managing the pace at 4:35-4:40 min/km for 30km.
After 30km, it was a good time to pickup the pace but my friend decided to continue with the same pace. So we gave each other a high-five and off I went. I would normally pickup the pace at around 21km but from experience that seemed too early. I also usually take gels just after the half-way mark but this time I felt that my training has improved my aerobic capacity and I could still go on farther without interrupting fat-burning by taking a gel. Thus, I spaced the gels at every 5km starting only at 25km.
What did you do when you hit tough spots in your race?
It was probably around 5 or 6kms to go when my hamstrings started to tighten. A thought of concern was about to cross my mind but a quick decision to slowdown a bit helped prevent perhaps an impending cramp. After seconds, I felt my legs relaxed and I slowly regained the pace.
I faced tougher situations than this before especially at the last few kilometers and in those times, I reminded myself to smile (or at least the thought of smiling) and just keep moving. But that didn’t happen this time. It was the most amazing last kilometers and meters that I have ever run to finish a Marathon!
What did you eat and drink the night before your race and on race morning?
I particularly drank plenty of water that week but it seemed that my body really needed it anyway. I actually had the same lunch and dinner the day before the race. It was potatoes and mixed sautédpork and beef. In the morning of the race, I woke up at 5am to prepare breakfast which was toast with honey and butter, 2 fried eggs and 3 slices of bacon with coffee to go with. I finished breakfast at 6am and it was time to get ready.
How did you limit your risk of injuries during training?
Although I was running every day and with higher mileage than I was used to, the low intensity runs really made it very enjoyable and recovery time was short. The challenge was during the snowy days when it was slippery that it was tough to get a stable foothold. One of those times, I found a 500m path without snow and ran back and forth until I finished 10km.
Other times when there was really no escape from the icy paths, I would adjust to a lower mileage that day and catch-up on another day. I also alternated running shoes – I would use the Altra Torin 2.5 for longer runs and the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 for speed work. Later, I would use either of them randomly or depending on how I feel.
Do you have any recommendations to other runners looking to improve, to become stronger, healthier, happier and faster athletes?
During my training, I encountered a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that says: “Adopt the Pace of Nature: Her Secret is Patience”. It kind of rang a bell in my head about how to approach some aspects of life and running for that matter. Sometimes we forget to appreciate what we have (or don’t have) that we seek for something to have right now.
There were times that I saw improvements and there were times that I didn’t or even felt that I slowed down. Running for 101 consecutive days taught me to be patient, be consistent and to enjoy the journey. At first, the thought of running every day was a bit scary for me. There was no leeway to move a run to the next day.
On the otherhand, it was also like an adventure and adventures are fun – and that is how I approached this whole training cycle to be enjoyable for me, which led to being consistent and led to being patient for that 30km to arrive before picking-up the pace for the finish.
Which other races are on your bucket list to run?
Aside from Boston, I also would like to have the opportunity to run a marathon in the Philippines one day. Although I did my first 10k there, the marathon was still too long a distance for me to dream of at that time. Lastly but not least, the other races that I would love to join are not places but are times when one day my kids would still have the passion to run like they do now and be able to run with them together to the finish line : )
Any place where Extramilest readers can find out more about you?
Strava: Togz Togle
Any closing comments?
I would like to thank you, Floris! You were an inspiration back in 2013 when you still had the Flotography website and I was fortunate to find you again in 2017 after I got back to running to learn more about MAF, about Qualifying for Boston and Running Sub-3. More power to you, your family and the Extramilest Community!!!
You might also enjoy:
- Train Slow to Run Fast with Gareth King
- Finding a Passion and Love for Running
- How to run a Sub 3 marathon with Yin Yin
More about Floris Gierman & Extramilest:
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- Facebook (Private Group)
- Facebook (Personal)