Signing up to a long-distance race calls for hours of dedicated training and a commitment to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. With the Johnson Arabia Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon (which Spinneys are sponsoring) taking place on 9 December, we’ve compiled your go-to guide for all things peak condition, including expert nutritional guidance, advice on footwear and resting, plus a key 10-week training plan.
Our plan has been devised for people who run on a regular basis – around 20 kilometres over the course of a week – and want to test themselves with a half marathon.
The 10 weeks are split into four sections, each one a crucial step on the road to reaching tip-top shape come the big day. On long-run Fridays, aim to run at a steady speed and start to seek out your ideal running pace the deeper into the plan you get. For the shorter runs, look to stick to a speed slightly faster than the pace of your long runs. This has two benefits: physically, the quicker speed will help your endurance, and mentally, the faster you go during your short runs, the easier your race-day pace will feel. The alternative training (AT) sessions can be anything that helps with your overall conditioning and will come as a welcome break from running – think swimming, brisk walks, cycling or group sessions of yoga and Pilates.
As with all exercise, it’s essential that you set aside time to stretch before and after each run. What you’re really looking to do is get the heart going, loosen joints and muscles for the kilometres ahead and to prevent the onset of injury. Make sure that you don’t just focus on your legs – include hip, sides and upper body stretches too so that your whole body is ready for action.
If you do happen to experience any muscle soreness during training, it’s much better to err on the side of caution. Continuing to run on an injury is a risk you can’t afford to take, so take a breather and rest up to give your injury a chance to heal. If the soreness persists, seek medical advice rather than trying to run through the pain.
What you eat is every bit as relevant as how you train. To perform at your best, you need to fuel your body with the right balance of carbs, protein and healthy fats. Pack your plates with lean proteins such as chicken, turkey mince and salmon, healthy carbs like wholewheat pasta and grains and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Be wary of carb-loading too much and too early. Only look to up your intake of carbs on long-distance run days and a week before the half marathon. And remember – don’t eat anything unusual or new to your system ahead of the race. The last thing you want is for all your hard work to go to waste because you’ve been side-lined by an upset stomach.
When training in a hot and humid climate like the UAE’s, it’s especially important to ensure you’re suitably hydrated. Drink lots of water throughout the 10-week plan and always have a ready supply of water when you’re training. During the race, there will be water stations dotted throughout the course, so be sure to take full advantage of them from start to finish.
Only head outside the front door or step on to the treadmill with a solid pair of running trainers on your feet. When running long distances, it’s critical that you feel comfortable in your footwear (this is why you shouldn’t invest in a shiny new pair the day before the race). Try to find a store that will assess your foot type and help you find the perfect trainers, and give yourself lots of time to become accustomed to your shoes.
Don’t be tricked into thinking that you need to be out there running every day. Ultimately this tactic will only hurt your progress, and it’s much more beneficial that you take enough time to rest properly. This resting period gives your muscle tissue time to recover, which will help prevent injuries from flaring up. And don’t push yourself too hard. If at any point – either during training or the half marathon itself – things get too intense and your body starts to ache, be sensible and stop to take a ‘walk break’.
Click here to download the plan.