Get set for the big race

The countdown is on to the Simply Health Birmingham Great Runs – and here’s our top tips to make sure you complete the course…

It’s only a matter of weeks until the Simply Health 10k (26 May) and then a few months later the Simply Health Birmingham Half Marathon (13 October). So, now is the time for runners to really focus on the nitty-gritty of training with plenty of hard graft running sessions to build up stamina.

Here’s some top tips to keep your training on track in the lead up to the big races.

Set goals – Setting milestones for each month or week keeps you motivated. This may be something to complete, like running four times in a week, or performance goals such as a time for a park or training run. Be realistic though and don’t set goals that are too high.

Pace yourself – Running around a short loop or track is actually quite enjoyable. Keep the mind active with tricks like counting the number of steps of every 100 metres or how many breaths you take per lap. Even just focusing on trying to notice something new on every lap can almost become meditation. On race day itself, resist the temptation to go flat out – if you have been used to completing a nine-minute mile, stick to this speed and don’t follow the crowd.

Breathing – Where are you breathing from? Nose or mouth? Which one allows you to relax more? Belly or chest? Expanding your chest causes tension in the shoulders. The more you can relax, the more you can move the breathing to the diaphragm. Trying to breathe every four, six, or even eight steps can help to both distract and relax.

Posture – Are you engaging the stomach and glutes? Imagine starring in your own run film and run the way you think you would want to see yourself running.

Form – Look at the shadows to see what your arms and legs are doing. Try to feel where the wind is catching you and become more aerodynamic. How much can you relax shoulders and arms?

Internal feedback – What can you feel? Where is there tension? Can you detect different movement in each leg? What muscles feel inflexible? Is your foot strike making the same sound on each foot?

Dedicate miles – Imagine family members are encouraging you as you hit each mile.

Mix it up – There are lots of things that you can change in your training to make it more enjoyable – the venue (off-road, parks, footpaths, track), type of training session (intervals, run/walk, progressive pace) or when you run.

Audiobooks – Rather than music, which is actually a distraction, listening to an audiobook or podcast can be an opportunity to learn something new. There is often an urge to add a bit more distance to get to the next chapter but you also get to associate landmarks, run routes and distances with moments in the book.

Run to a place – It’s easier when you have a goal destination so rather than driving, get dropped off a long way from the destination, take a train somewhere or incorporate as a commute.

Run with others – Time flies by when you are engaged in conversation.

Energy storing – Rest is as important as training. Make sure you eat properly, drink lots of water and even think about getting sports massages. As the race approaches a few weeks away, start tapering your training in order to let your body recover properly and get rejuvenated in time for the big day. Three days before is the time to fill your body with carbs and ensure you are able to store enough energy to complete the race. Stick to foods you know work for you.

Get comfortable kit – Clothing has to feel comfortable. Socks, vests, thermals, gloves, hats and even rucksacks and headphones have to sit comfortably so they are not an excuse to stop. Try before you buy and borrow from others to test. Your trainers should be relatively new, but properly broken in to prevent blisters and other injuries.

Recovery – Stretching properly is a vital, particularly after the race, to prevent injury.

AND FINALLY…

There’s no energy boost like moral support, so invite friends and family to cheer you on and arrange a well-deserved treat for crossing the finish line. And… good luck!

For more information on the Simply Health Birmingham Great Runs visit www.greatrun.org