I love getting suggestions for posts from other people and I especially love it when they then offer to write a piece. This means that (a) I don’t have to come up with a piece myself and (b) the readers of this blog get a break from my monotonous droning! Anyway, Chris Finch, from Fanbed, has written about training for the Great North Run, so over to you, Chris…
I’m not a professional athlete, but with a little bit of running experience under my belt, the up-and-coming Bupa Great North Run 2014 should be manageable. Running the half marathon along with athletes like Mo Farah and Stephen Kiprotich – who’ll all be competing in this year’s race – shouldn’t be attempted without the right preparation. I’ve never run in any organised setting before, so this will be a big accomplishment to say the least.
When I first started running, I didn’t know where to start or how I should train. With the help of some friends at work who were sports fanatics, the guidance of some beginners’ running books and blogs such as Simon’s, I’ve found that slowly building up your stamina, eating from all food groups and staying on top of hydration is the secret to conquering endurance runs.
Of course I can only speak for myself, as Simon says you should be cautious of where you’re getting your running advice from.
To build the stamina needed to tackle the run, I started weeks in advance and ran 3 days a week, with rest days in between runs – my strategy being to increase my distance by one mile every week. Right now, my stamina allows me to run 9 miles – 4 miles short of the half marathon, so I still have some way to go! When I first started I once went all-out, ran as far as my body could take and burnt out. This was, in essence, down to overtraining. I could hardly move for days, which is completely foolish – when you over-train, you put yourself at risk of injury. I needed to learn not to do too much, too soon, too fast. I had to do what my body is physically capable of and build it up from there.
One of the very first things I changed when I started training was my diet. It’s imperative that your body has the energy needed to maximise your mileage – I don’t bother with calorie-counting, but I do make what I eat my priority. I feel that many novice runners make the mistake of thinking that, to train for any kind of run, you need to dramatically increase carbohydrate intake.
I’ve found that, while carbs (pasta, rice, bread and potatoes etc.) are crucial for energy, what you need to do is eat from all food groups. Each one plays a part in maximising and maintaining your health so that you’re in the best shape possible for the run – protein for repair/re-growth, calcium for strong bones, fat for protecting vital organs and vitamins and minerals to ward off illnesses. When it comes to the day of the half marathon, I plan to have a hearty breakfast around 2 hours beforehand – I need all the energy I can get!
Staying on top of hydration while you’re training is imperative. I’m one of those people who has to remind themselves to keep on drinking water. In order to go the distance, food is important – but in my opinion, water probably plays an even bigger part when doing runs. It affects my ability to withstand the training process and perform at my best.
If you run while dehydrated, you’re slowed down by a few minutes because your blood volume decreases, lowering your body’s ability to transfer heat. As a result, your heart rate increases – making it harder for aerobic demands to be met. That’s one of the most important things I’ve learned – and it’s been my absolute lifeline! I usually drink up to 16 ounces of water 2 hours before a run. If I run for longer than an hour (which the Great North Run will certainly take for me), I bring a bottle of water with me.
Wish me luck when I take part this September – and if you’ll also be running in the big race, I’ll see you there! Let’s hope that the (in)famous North East weather holds up…
About the Author:
Chris Finch is about to embark upon his first half marathon – the Bupa Great North Run 2014 – this September. Although usually a casual sportsman, he was spurred into taking part by his colleagues at Fanbed – an accommodation website for sports fans and athletes.