Every year on a Sunday in March, Bath is swamped by runners who are excited (and maybe a bit nervous) to run the Bath Half. When I had just moved to Bath in June 2015, I very quickly heard about the event. As a runner myself, I was very curious about the race and wanted to join in with the hype. Now, I say “as a runner”, but to be honest I had never run a half marathon before - my furthest distance was 10km. Obviously once I signed up to run the Half, I had to start my training.
How did I prepare for a half marathon? I will take you on a journey through my preparations for this year’s Bath Half marathon and hopefully I will inspire you to try it in the future. It really is loads of fun and the medal and food afterwards make it all worth it!
I started training for the Half around October 2017. I was already running twice a week at this point, 4-6km every time and at a comfortable pace where I was out of breath, but not exhausted. I started adding a third run to my schedule to increase my distance over the week and then started a gym session at least once a week to work on my leg muscles, glutes and core.
A study published last year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that runners who add three days of resistance training exercises to their weekly program increase their leg strength and enhance their endurance. Obviously, runners with better endurance can run longer. A weight training program is important to continue up until a week before your half marathon. To get a good weight training program, see your physiotherapist and get advice on sets, reps and exercises.
Running and increasing distance
The best way to increase your distance is to run varying distances during the week with enough rest period in between. I chose (and would recommend) three runs a week; one short distance with a bit more speed or interval/hill training – 4-5 km where you really feel those lungs burn. One medium distance at a medium pace where you feel comfortable once you have finished 7-8 km. And one long distance at a slow pace which you can slowly increase weekly – between 10-18 km. An important thing to remember is that you do not have to run exactly 21.3 km before the race. Your cardiovascular system will be trained enough to get you to the finish line.
Do you have a lot of DOMS? Wait another day. Running will feel heavy which will not work well for you mentally. Also, when you are less coordinated because of muscle ache, the chance of sustaining an injury increases.
Ah, the joy of injuries. When 'running season' starts, I see a lot of them at the clinic. The most common running injury I see is runners knee (patella femoral syndrome), ITB syndrome, plantar fasciitis and calf or hamstring strains. I have had my fair share of all these injuries – yes physiotherapists get injured too. The best advise I can give is to stick to your strength training sessions! If you don't know what to do, step into a clinic like The Medical and get a consultation with a (sports) Physio or a Sports Injury Therapist, along with a program with exercises and stretches. Bring your running shoes too so we can have a look at what you are wearing and what your running gait is like.
Good luck to all who are running on Sunday 4th of March 2018. Let's take the medal home and be proud of ourselves and our achievements. For those who are not running but getting inspired, the Bristol and Cardiff Half Marathons are still a goal you can reach if you start your training now!