How to run for longer distances without getting tired seemed impossible when I was a beginner. The thought of increasing my 5K run by a whole mile felt out of my reach.
Not long after finished Couch to 5K, I decided to bite the bullet and signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon. I need something to work towards and keep me motivated. I had a whole year to train so it felt achievable, I was sure I could go from 3.1 miles to 13.1 miles by then. Probably.
I started going to parkrun and made a few running buddies then joined a running club. I told them about my goal and they were amazing at giving me advice. The best advice was to keep my training simple and not to over complicate it.
I’m not a professional running coach or nutritionist but have been a runner for over 6 years. I’ve completed 2 half-ultras, 2 marathons, 10 half marathons and a bunch of other distance races. I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks along the way and want to share them with my running community.
Here are the best pieces of advice I had when I started my journey from Couch to 5K graduate to Half Marathoner…
Have a Training Plan
You can’t just wing it, you have to plan your training to make sure you can fit it into your life. I keep my plan simple, if it gets complicated then I’ll rebel against it and I don’t want that.
Usually, I aim for 3 runs per week. I do a short run (3-4 miles), a medium run (the distance halfway between that week’s long run and my short run) and a long run. If I do a 4th run that week then it’ll be another short run which will focus on speed. Here’s an example:
Short run = 4 miles
Medium run = 6 miles (the difference between the short and long runs is 4 miles so half of that is 2 miles, add 2 miles to the short run to get the medium run distance.)
Long run = 8 miles
I increase my long run distance by 1 mile per week. I increase 2 weeks in a row then have a cutback week. This means that every 3rd week is a short-medium distance run instead of a long run. It helps my body recover and helps my muscles get stronger.
Here’s an example of how the long run changes each week:
|12 miles etc…
If I have a lot of time until my race then I’ll take my time with my training. I’ll increase my long run by a mile but do that distance two weeks in a row. After my cutback week, I’ll increase my long run by a mile and do that distance two weeks in a row.
|10 miles etc…
If increasing by a mile a week seems daunting then do ½ mile per week until you feel ready to make the jump to a full mile.
You have to figure out what works for you. I’m not a nutritionist so I’m just going to tell you what I do.
I like to have a bowl of porridge a couple of hours before I do any run 10 miles or more. If my run is 6-9 miles then I might have a banana about an hour before I run. I don’t tend to eat before a run if it’s under 6 miles.
I’ll take sweets and/or gels with me and I’ll have something every 50-60 minutes. Never let yourself feel hungry or as though you’re running out of energy before you refuel, it’s too late then.
Slow Down and Take Your Time
I used to want to do my long runs as quickly as possible but all it did was make them unbearable. Long runs are not a race, they are miles under your feet. Your first mile should be your slowest mile so chill out and enjoy it.
Lately I’ve changed my Garmin so it only shows me distance during my run and this has made long runs so much easier.
Read my blog post How To Keep Running When You’re Tired and Want To Stop for ideas on how to make long runs more enjoyable.
I either wear a hydration vest or run with a water bottle. If I’ve opted for a water bottle and am running more than 15 miles then I plan a route which takes me past cafes. I’ve never been turned away by a café when I’ve asked if they could fill my bottle with tap water. Every time the person has been happy to do it for me. I also use High 5 electrolyte tabs in my water and will take an extra one in my running belt if I think I’ll have to get a water refill somewhere.
I will also make sure I’m aware of where there are toilets along my route, I’d rather stop for a pee than to dehydrate during a run. If I’m trail running then I’ll look for a secluded spot for a ‘wild wee’.
Run With Others
Running buddies always make the run go quicker and feel more do-able. I trained for my first marathon on my own and it was really, really hard. I trained for my second marathon with friends. Not only did it make training more fun, I felt so much stronger at the start line.
A lot of my friends are also runners so we’ll arrange to meet up for a run and end it at a café for a cuppa and cake. Running with friends is my favourite kind of running.
Pick a New Route
I get bored easily with a route so if I’m doing a long run then I always plan a new one. I use Garmin Connect Courses so that I can download my run onto my Garmin and never get lost again. Well, not as lost. My Garmin will beat at me to tell me if I’ve gone off course and it always shows me a little arrow on my watch face to point me in the right direction.
If you don’t have a Garmin then website like MapMyRun are really popular.
I’ll try to finish my long run on a downhill even if it’s just a little bit as it makes the run easier to know that it’s going to end easier. If that’s not possible then I plan for a flat bit to finish on.
Don’t think you can just bang out a long run without building up your mileage first. Your body will not be happy with you and your bank account will be really annoyed when it has to send your money to a Physiotherapist.
Be sensible and build up your mileage slow and steady. You want to make it to race day feeling prepared and ready to smash out those miles!
If you’re unsure about anything I’ve said in this blog (or any other blog!) then leave a comment below or please drop me a message and I’ll explain what I mean. All of the above makes sense to me because it’s how I do things but my explanation might not make sense to someone else. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!
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