Next month I’m heading up to Newcastle to take part in the Simplyhealth Great North Run. I’m pretty excited about it in fact, firstly because half marathons are probably my favourite distance events and secondly, because anyone I’ve ever spoken to about the race have said it’s one of the best running events in the UK. As half marathons go, there’s not many in the UK that are even close on the race bucket list.
It’s a damn tricky distance to get right though. Although it’s the logical step up from the 10k, it requires a completely different strategy, both in training and on the day. Trust me, I was completely unprepared for my first half marathon. Physically I was in good shape, but I had no idea how to handle the distance mentally. I ran too fast at the start, my pacing was up and down for the whole race and by the last 5k I was pretty much running on fumes.
Luckily I’ve got a few tips from running expert and former international athlete, Gareth Turnbull on behalf of the team over at Simplyhealth, to make race day a little bit easier, especially for any first timers out there.
Yes sorry to be the killjoy here, but if you have only ever attempted a 10km run then it’s worth reminding yourself that you will be running twice as far in a race than ever before! Thinking you can simply set off at your 10km pace and stay on that schedule until the finish is not a great idea! A better and more realistic one is to take your 10km best performance, double it and then add the time taken for three of those kilometres to your final total. For example, if you run 10km in 60 mins, then look at a half marathon time of 2 x 60mins plus 3 x 6 mins. This will allow you to set yourself a per mile/kilometre pace for your whole run and crucially not result in a distinctly hard and unenjoyable latter part of the race. Remember time gained picking up your pace will always outweigh time lost slowing down, so play the waiting game, be patient and stick to your own pacing schedule.
Mind over matter
Great news! You aren’t really doing the half marathon distance after all…in fact, you are merely doing 5km four times in a row. You are a master of this classic park run distance, so take confidence from the fact your body will still be on cruise control as you breeze through the 3 mile marker. Repeat again and now you have broken the back of distance at 10km too. With the last 5km being a celebration of achievement all that’s left is a little mental application to get you through that crucial ‘third 5km’. With this in mind, visualise your favourite 5km route and use that positive mental thought to sail through from 10km to 15km. Don’t let 20km and change frighten or intimidate you. Break things down into easy mental and physical blocks and you will find yourself in control of the half marathon distance rather than the half marathon distance controlling you.
You can’t fluke being amazing
This might seem an unusual thing to say, but let’s just remember that all the work has been done now and your training is going to serve you well. Think of race day as a celebration of the amazing journey your training has taken you on. Keep a particular hard day’s training in your mind and use it when you might be feeling a little low or fatigued during the race. This is what you have prepared for and the training you have done won’t let you down. Your finish line awaits, enjoy the feeling of greatness.
Simplyhealth is title partner of the Great Run Series and is supporting runners every step of the way by helping people make the most of life through better everyday health. For more training advice, please visit www.greatrun.org/training-simplyhealth
Picture Credits: Simplyhealth