Small disclaimer before reading on, I am not a professional runner and do not claim to be qualified in any way to offer the following tips and advice. However, now with seven half marathons under my belt, six years of running and countless hours spent researching and listening, I feel that I have learned quite a lot that can be passed on to others who are not as experienced. There’s two things you can do with experience and knowledge. You can either keep it to yourself or you can share it. I choose to share, in the hope that others can learn from what I have learned, whether that’s from experience, mistakes made or research undertaken. So, with that in mind, please have a read of the below. This page will be updated over time, as I have more to add. Therefore, if you have a question or matter that isn’t covered below, get in touch and I will help where I can.
With so many varieties available, purchasing a new pair of running trainers can be a minefield. Cushioned, stability, heel to toe offset are just some of the many varied options. I would recommend that you at least get your feet analysed before purchasing your trainers. Going one further, you could also have your running gait analysed by a professional running shop, who will then recommend shoes based on your running style. I have never done this personally, but I am aware that I have flat arches and therefore require a stability running shoe as opposed to a cushioned one. As a minimum, this is what you should aim to find out. In terms of sizing, be aware that, not only do your feet swell when you run, but they also spread out in the shoe with every foot strike. With that in mind, you should go for a size that is at least 0.5 bigger than what you wear day-to-day. I am somewhere between a 9 and a 10, depending on the type of shoe and the brand, and so therefore tend to go for a 10.5 for my running trainers. A good rule of thumb (no pun intended) is that you should have around a thumbs width between the end of your big toe and the tip of the shoe. Of course, if this then feels like they are too big, and they are slipping at the heel, then go for smaller. They need to comfortable all around the foot.
Quite simply, if you want to get faster at running, then you need to run faster. You cannot make large improvements by clocking up miles and miles each week at the same pace. I know, I’ve tried it. Interval training is how you get faster. Short, intense repetitions where you run a lot harder than you do usually, often in heart rate zone 4-5. For example, 10 x 400m, with 90 seconds of rest/recovery jogging in between. 5 x 800m, with 3 mins of rest/recovery. If you want to run faster, push harder and take longer rest periods. If you want to run further, push less hard and take shorter recoveries. Just always be sure to warm up and cool down sufficiently before and after hard sessions.
If you’re training for a half marathon and you wonder if you can sustain the goal pace for the entire race, try threshold runs. These are described on most running sites as being “comfortably hard,” whereby you are not totally out of breath, but you cannot hold a conversation either. Understanding where your threshold pace is can help you determine exactly what race pace should be. Threshold runs are similar to intervals, but over longer periods. For example, 3 x 10 minutes with 3 minutes rest/recovery in between. Running slightly slower and slightly quicker than your threshold pace can help to improve it. If you use a heart rate monitor, threshold pace would have you in zone 4.
A lot of runners tend to get confused by the weekly easy run in their training plan. All training plans have them, regardless of the goal distance. The easy run should be exactly that, easy. If required, you should be able to hold a conversation whilst running. You should not be out of breath. If you find that you are, then you are running too fast. The reason for the easy run is to build endurance, in preparation for running the distance in races. If you use a heart rate monitor, easy running should be completed in zone 2.
Depending on your goals, and the level of difficulty of the session, it’s generally a good idea to fuel prior to your run. Training on an empty stomach, for example before breakfast, can have its benefits, but try not to run anything more than 45 minutes without having had food before hand. Good pre run fuel would include carbs, preferably complex ones, and ideally no protein. Depending on how your body deals with food will depend on how long before a run that you need to eat. Personally, I’ll eat maybe two hours before a run, but as little as one hour if I’m just having a snack. I do know one or two Runners who will eat and then head straight out of the door. This is fine if it’s just a snack, a banana for example, but certainly not if it’s a meal. It’s a good idea to test out different pre run fuelling strategies during training, so that you can understand how your body reacts to different foods and at differing times before starting your run, so that you have something that you know works for you come race day.
Again, whether you need to fuel during a run depends on the time you are running for. Unless I’m running for more than an hour and a half, I don’t tend to fuel during training, as I believe that the body then relies on the additional energy to get it through the run. My thinking is that if I train without it, then when I do use it during a race, it provides more benefit. Others may have a different view. That being said, you should never use something in a race that you haven’t tried out in training. There are a number of types of mid run fuelling and you should try out the different types to see what works for you. I tend to use gels and/or hydration tablets mixed in water. These are easier to digest as opposed to energy bars and things like jelly babies, but again, you should try them yourself to see what works for you. As a race tip, you should never run a race of around 10 miles upwards without some form of fuelling, even if this is just an energy drink.
It should go without saying really but, on race day, you should not try anything that you haven’t tried during training. The same breakfast, that you know you can run on. The same kit, that you know is comfortable to run in. The same footwear, that you know wont give you blisters and the same mid race fuelling, that you know won’t upset your stomach. As for pacing during the race, this depends on the distance but, if you’re a relative beginner to the distance, I would always recommend starting off slightly slower than your target pace. This is to ease in to the race and so not to tire yourself out too early on. The last thing you want is a build up of lactic acid during the first two miles of a half marathon and then struggling for the remaining 11 miles. I’m not suggesting that you start slow, just slightly slower than your goal pace. This should allow you to finish strong, feeling good about the race and enjoying it far more than if you struggle for the majority. Something worth checking for some of the longer races is what