Now holding a 5K record of 20:08, this unconventional runner believes that a true strength can come only from a positive attitude and proper, disciplined training. In this second edition of RunnersPH Interview, he shares with us his story of giving up, perseverance, and endurance that has come a long way to prove that one person was wrong.
Chris Domino, welcome to The Finish Line! Tell us something about yourself that the world doesn’t know.
Most people call me by my last name, “Domino.” They think that is my first name. I’m currently based in Europe, working on aircrafts. Snorkeling, spear fishing, and scuba diving are what I love to do other than running.
When did you start to run and what motivated you?
I started running in early 2004. Back then, I thought smoking and drinking make you cool and get you the girls. Hahaha! Wearing my black slacks and basketball shoes, I could last four laps around Burnham Park in Baguio City before I get dizzy. Looking back, that was a total of 1.2K with a pace of 11 min/km.
With the encouragement of my fellow runner and fiancé, I joined my first race (5K) in July 2010. It was the 34th National Milo Marathon held in Baguio City. I finished at a disappointing time of 53 minutes and ended up with bad knees for three weeks. I realized that I was weak and helpless. After this race, I started to commit myself into endurance sports.
Someone very close to me once said, “You will never last a kilometer!” Motivated by the desire to prove that one person was wrong, I was able to permanently quit smoking in November 2012. That day up until now, I am motivated by continuous self improvement. I continue to run and I motivate myself by remembering that I will never last a kilometer.
At first, what problems did you encounter or what physical complaints did you experience? How did you take care of those?
Chafing, dead toe nails, side stitch, and runners knee were the most common problems that I’ve experienced when I started. I typically do Google research and try what I’ve learned in one of my runs and make the necessary adjustments based on what works for my body. Make sure that your shirt fits properly. Body glide works best too for chafing. Get that extra inch of space. You should be able to wiggle your toes in your shoes. Side stitch and runners knee go away as you become a more experienced runner. Remember to train your core and follow the “hard and easy” principle: hard training followed by easy training the next day.
Do you run individually or in groups? Tell us something about your running community if you have joined one.
I run alone…running is my quiet time, my peace in a sea of chaos. Collecting medals or shirts is not my thing so I only join group runs if I want to get a new personal record (PR) or if someone invited me. In fact, most of my personal best times were recorded and uploaded to the Garmin connect website; these were runs outside the official races.
I joined Urban Runners Club Philippines (URCPH) to share my passion for the sport. I found a community of positive people who find time to run despite the stress of office work and the city. I am currently working overseas so I am unable to join my team on their runs.
Please describe your typical training ground. Where do you usually run?
My usual training grounds vary because I move a lot and it also depends on what type of run I’m doing on a particular day. My tempo runs and intervals are done in Loakan Airport, Teachers Camp in Baguio City, and Ultra and Capitol Commons in Pasig City. Bike paths and lonely sands find their way in California to the running tracks in Germany.
My favorite is still Kadaklan in Baguio City. My route up to this steep incline is about 7.5 km. In this place, you will see seasoned cyclists stop and push their bikes up to the mountain. The fog and high altitude make it worth your time.
Which running shoes are you using? Please share some personal tips on how to choose the right shoes for optimum performance.
“What works for me might not work for you,” the saying goes. I started running in a place and time where gait analysis was a taboo. I ran and built my running base with what I have. Back then, it was a worn out water shoes, basketball shoes, Vibram five-fingers, and a second-hand tight Mizuno shoes.
My early running days were influenced by the barefoot runners from the book “Born to Run” by Christopher Mcdougall. Based on what I’ve experienced, I find it hard to believe in the science behind running shoes. I remain injury-free to this day despite not wearing the correct shoes and having flat over pronating feet. Now, I’m using neutral shoes. Kinvara series by Saucony are my favorites for racing.
The best advice that I can give is not about the right shoes, but the right mindset in training. Start small and build your mileage slowly. Think of it as an engine. To go long, you need a bigger engine. Build a bigger engine by building your base, build your base slowly and listen to your body. Train your quads, calves, and core. This is your best foundation to injury-free running.
What other running-must-haves do you wear or carry with you and which you cannot run without?
Since I love going solo and I’m a stickler when it comes to training paces, a global positioning system (GPS) watch is what I can’t run without. I used several GPS watches throughout the years. Soleus, Garmin 310XT/220, and Polar M400. GPS alerts me if I’m going slow in my speed training. There is a feature called virtual partner in Garmin 310XT.
I use GPS to be on point for my tempo runs, steady state, and intervals. The ability to customize an interval workout is one of the features that I look for in GPS watches. Input your desired length of warm up and cool down, number of repetitions, 1 km repeats, and all you need to worry is giving it your all. Sometimes, I just follow the road in my long runs and GPS points me back home if needed, a useful feature when I first did a 50K long run around Ridgecrest, CA.
How do you prepare for a major running event? Tell us about the details of your training plan.
What I know now is based on what I have researched when I started endurance sports and I tailored my program based on my own results. I concentrate on three phases, each usually takes a month. I tried going over three months, but ended up feeling fatigued several times before the start of a race.
- Building Phase is my favorite since going steady and slow is relaxing. This is when you build and make your engine big. I train based on my training paces. For example, if I am preparing for 21K, I usually base my training paces from my best 10K time (take half of the actual race, some take it from their 16K race time). I take my best 10K time of 46 minutes and put it on McMillan running calculator online. So my paces are calculated in minutes per kilometer: long run (05:09 – 05:57), easy run (05:06 – 05:45), and tempo run (04:36 – 04:44). If I hit a PR, I check back online to recalculate my training paces.I use a GPS watch to stay on these paces. Some use heart rate (HR) monitors, but I don’t like anything touching my chest while running and those watches with built-in HR are expensive. As you gain more experiences, you can train just by effort or base it on how you feel during a race. Remember that you are actually one to two minutes faster in actual races.
- Preparation Phase is where I incorporate the demands of speed, tempo, race pace, and steady state running (very important).
- Peak Phase is where I do hill sprints, fartlek, intervals, and shorter runs that focus more on speed. I do running drills after the run. I foam-roll before and after and Tabata once a week for cross-training. I do heavy dead lifts. I hydrate a week before the race. Few hours leading to a race, I consume a good balance of salt and carbohydrates, water (until my urine is clear), and sports drink.
How often do you participate in organized fun runs? What is your most favorite running event (in the Philippines) and distance. Why?
I rarely participate now in races since my relocation overseas and I know that right preparation takes months. My favorite races in the Philippines are the Pinoy Fitness (PF) Sub1 10K and Sub2 21K. They are the few races in the Philippines where I don’t feel like throwing away the medal. I don’t belittle the short distances. I know how hard it is to push beyond uncomfortable pace and sustain it.
During the race, how do you keep yourself motivated and strong to reach the finish line?
I strongly believe that true strength is when you learn to turn the negativity to something positive, and use it to your advantage. “You will never last a kilometer!” is what I used to hear from someone very close to me. It fills me with anger and discouragement then. But now, it is my sole mantra, my motivation within. Being well prepared gives me the confidence that I need to finish the race. Whenever in pain, just remember and trust in your training.
Can you think of an embarrassing moment you had while running? Do you mind sharing it with us?
It happened in California on a Sunday while I was heading back home from a 32K long slow distance (LSD). I was passing by an electrical post, when I felt a warm feeling on my right thigh. It turned out it was a big bird poop splattered on my right thigh and some on my running shorts. It looked like an omelet!
What is the first thing that you do after finishing a race? Give us also some methods that you found effective for your post-race recovery.
I eat as if it’s the end of the world. Haha! A bottle of beer tastes like sweet tea when you finish a race. I do ACTIVE recovery after a race – jogging for 3-5 km and massage. Low impact exercises like swimming also help in blood circulation and healing. Eat protein-rich foods and hydrate.
Share with us the benefits you have gained from running ever since you started.
I gained wonderful friends. I am more patient now. I sleep better. I am now mentally tougher than before. At 33, I stand tall after our company runs and I get the pleasure to look at most youngsters gasping for air. Haha!
Inspire us with the greatest accomplishment you had so far achieved in running.
It’s already an accomplishment every time you finish a race. I consider my best achievement from being able to continuously improve on each race and hitting my planned finish times instead of distance. The best one so far is my 5K race, from 53:00 (and almost not being able to walk for three weeks) to 20:08. It was the 5K that started everything.
My best finish times include 13:02 (3K), 46:00 (10K), 01:46:00 (21K), 04:19:00 (42K unregistered), and 05:48:00 (50K LSD).
Looking back, how has running changed or impacted your life as a whole?
I became more disciplined. Customizing and following my training regimen, I became more organized and goal-oriented. Without my passion for endurance sports, I would have never met a wonderful team of people from URCPH or the running community in general.
We’re interested to know your future goals as far as running is concerned. What else do you want to do more?
I want to run in an official race with a finishing time of below 20 and 40 mins for 5K and 10K, respectively. I want to travel the world and join races. Ultimately, I want to have my own house and dedicate one room exclusively for running gears. Haha!
Finally, please give a personal message to inspire and encourage those people who are about to start running.
“Motivation is what gets you started; habit is what keeps you going.” [Tweet This] Whatever your reasons are, find that inspiration to get you started and most importantly be consistent in what you do. Consistency plays a big role in everything that we do. Do it often enough until the hobby becomes a lifestyle. Trust me, if you’re consistent no matter where you are, you will feel incomplete without a run.
RunnersPH Interview features inspiring stories of Filipino runners. It is a series of conversations where they share proven tips, personal advice, lessons learned, and gainful experiences that show the delightful ways that running can intersect with life.