Double Ironman record-holder Hywel Davies gives his training tips for runners in the countdown to the first Birmingham International Marathon
Just over three months to go – and counting – to the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon. And runners are now getting down to the nitty-gritty with plenty of hard graft running sessions building up the miles. Long runs can be a bit dull if you don’t know how to deal with them. But the boring sessions are the ones that strengthen the mind. This is where you develop the skill and strength to be able to maintain focus in the big race.
Here’s the scenario: You are out on a long run and about 10 miles from home you are battling through a strong headwind. You need something to get you home and through these dark times. The more boring the route is, the more engaging your strategies and distractions should become. Here are a few ways to get you through the boredom and self doubt:
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.
Focus on pacing: Running around a short loop or track is actually quite enjoyable. Looking at how close you can get every lap time or mile time, counting the number of steps of every 100m, trying to keep heart rate stable, counting how many breaths you take per lap. Even just focusing on trying to notice something new on every lap can almost become meditation.
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.
Cadence: Are you plodding or grinding big gears? What happens when you speed up the legs for a few minutes? How do you feel?
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.
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.
Enter races: Take the pace easy and practice for your main event.
Think! Clear the head and work through any problems in life as you train.
Follow these tips and boring training runs will be anything but.
The inaugural Birmingham International Marathon is on Sunday 15 October, starting at Alexander Stadium and finishing at Millennium Point. Full details www.greatrun.org