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From first run to next marathon: the complete runner’s guide

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March 29, 2018

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Are you a keen runner? Or are you just embarking on your running journey? Whatever level you’re at, this running hub blog post is full of expert advice and tips to help you master the art of running and achieve your goals.

Brought to you by expert ex-BMF instructor and founder of The Run Doctor, Ed Kerry, with regular guest contributors from the OCR community and Olympic running team, you’ll find a wide selection of articles you improve improve your technique and reach your running targets.

Table of contents

Get started with running

As well as the wealth of information found below, be sure to also try out our Running Club sessions at selected BMF parks across the country. Like the traditional BMF sessions, these are an hour long and cater for all abilities. You will learn about running technique, stamina and how to avoid injury, as well as enjoying the company and motivation of others around you. It's a seriously fun and effective way to improve your running skills.

We hold running clubs at the following BMF parks:

Top 5 running tips

  1. Warm up correctly

Use body weight dynamic movements to warm up as they closely mimic movements made during exercise. Squats and lunges are great for this.

  1. Fuel yourself

Getting your eating habits right will help massively. Balance your diet to include good quality protein, seasonal fruits and vegetables and good fats.

  1. Be sure to hydrate

You’ll lose a lot of water when you run and your water intake has to increase in line with this. Whatever your current intake, drink at least half a litre more.

  1. Set a target or goal

Having a goal when it comes to running can really spur you on. Why not sign up for a 5km or 10km race in the spring/summer?

  1. Enjoy rest days

Rest and recovery are a vital part of training. Stay active, keep moving but lower the intensity. Maybe walk or ride instead.

Running advice for beginners

If you’re new to it you will be the nervous, anxious beginner, in awe of other runners who look like they are floating on air as they run. Like Military Fitness classes, all you need to do is listen to some advice and throw your heart and soul into it.

All of us were once a beginner to BMF and I am sure at some point you looked around you at the start of class and wondered how on earth everyone else was so calm and relaxed before doing an hour’s exercise with BMF. After a few classes it probably became obvious. 

Running is no different.

Firstly, set a goal

Every success story starts with a dream, so to be a successful runner you need to choose your dream and set yourself a goal. Whether it’s to complete your first ever 5km without stopping, or smash the course record, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have a clear end goal to work towards. Even if your aim is much higher, maybe a sub three-hour marathon is your target. It’s the same protocol: choose the goal and then a timeframe in which to achieve it.

If you are stuck for a goal, why not sign up to the Spartan Race? This is great for beginners or those wanting an alternative challenge.

Once you’ve set your goal you’ll need to get out there and train.

Get the right kit

You need to make sure you look and feel the part. Running is not expensive as long as you make sure you look after your feet. If you don’t there could be some pricey physio bills coming your way. You need the right pair of shoes - right for you, not what suit your training partner or the guy you sit next to at work. Almost daily I hear someone recommend a pair of shoes because they achieved a PB in them. Please, don’t choose a pair based on this sort of advice. The shoes that work for you will be influenced by your personal running style. Visit a reputable sports shop that will assess your running gate on a treadmill and then advise the correct shoe for your style.

We talk more about this here.

Follow a plan

Following a plan to your goal is a great way of making sure you will succeed. If a training session is in the diary, the chances of you missing it are reduced. Also when increasing your volume of training it helps to write it down to ensure you’re not over doing it. The biggest risk of injury is too much, too soon and checking how much you’re doing easily combats this. Keep a note of day, time, distance and how you felt. It’ll feel great when you look back and see how your times have improved.

Listen to your body

Sometimes you will wake up with every part of you aching and sore. Listen to your body, get some rest and fight another day. Think of the bigger picture and what might be at stake if you run when tired. If your body doesn’t feel up to it you could pick up a cold or worse, injure yourself further. If you feel like you must do something, go for a gentle swim or yoga session.

Don’t forget other exercise

Cross-training is important as it gives your body a break from running. The body will take a lot of impact through running and mixing this up with a non-impact sport such as swimming and cycling will help give the body a little break. Plus, don’t forget to continue your BMF classes, as these will improve your strength and conditioning, which will help when it comes to running faster and for longer distances. 

What is the BMF Running Club?

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Like the traditional BMF sessions, these are hour-long sessions and cater for all abilities. You will learn about running technique, stamina and how to avoid injury. It's a seriously fun and effective way to improve your running skills.

One of the best parts of my job is seeing improvements in members, people progressing through the colour groups and setting goals that would have been a mere pipe dream when they first turned up at the park and donned a blue bib, wondering what the hell it was all about. As people progress they need new challenges and as I’m a massive fan of running, I’m pretty biased as to what I suggest. Whether it’s a Spartan Race or a marathon, each running event has its challenges, but more importantly, each has its rewards.

I often have discussions with members who want advice on how to prepare for their first running event. I see the biggest improvement in members who combine Running Club with their regular British Military Fitness sessions. BMF classes are excellent at burning the calories and strengthening the right areas for running, but if your goal is to complete a running event, BMF alone is sadly not enough. This is where Running Club comes in and yet again BMF saves the day.

Some venues are lucky enough to have a Running Club in their schedule and like BMF sessions this is for all abilities and lasts an hour. In this hour you will warm up, run, have water break, run some more and finally cool down. Sounds simple right? If only! In true BMF style it has its twists and turns. One of the reasons why BMF is so popular is because of the innovative and creative sessions that its instructors put together and Running Club is no different. You will get classes that improve your speed or endurance, teach you drills that will develop your style and technique.

Whilst stepping outside your comfort zone of regular BMF sessions can be scary, you should never fear Running Club. The instructors are all fully trained in how to adapt sessions to cater for every individual, making it hard enough for the front-runners and comfortable enough for the slower runners, whilst still giving everyone a challenging run.

Top tips for your first session

  1. Don’t start out too quick. I often see individuals set off like a greyhound and burn up within ten minutes. Running Club can sometimes be about endurance so keep this in mind and take it a little easy at the start.
  1. You will get a water break, supplied by the instructor, so don’t panic and bring a load of bottles that you then need to carry. You most definitely don’t need energy gels as these are designed for those running for periods longer than one hour.
  1. If you have a GPS watch please wear it. As an instructor, it helps me to see how far each individual has ran. Plus, it’s a great way to see that you’re improving and keeping track of your mileage.
  1. Wear the appropriate shoe. Some Running Club sessions will be off-road and in the winter months it would be hard to stay on your feet in a road shoe.
  1. I get asked all the time, ‘what happens if I get lost?’ Whilst it’s not our intention to lose anyone, sometimes members can take a wrong turn and stray from the rest of the group. But fear not. Instructors regularly perform head counts and will retrace their steps to find any lost members. If you get lost, turn around and head back in the direction you came from. To avoid getting lost make sure you can always see the person in front of you. If you stick by this rule you should never lose the group.

Attending Running Club sessions will really help you to prepare for whatever challenge you have set yourself. Whether you cross the line head to toe in mud, hand in hand with your friends or crawling on your hands and knees, crossing a finishing line is simply the best feeling you can get. Your body is exhausted and you are mentally shattered but somehow you feel more alive and more energised than you did at the start. Then someone puts a medal round your neck and you grow about a foot taller with pride. You might say ‘never again’, but then comes the reflection and the analysis. ‘I could do that quicker’ or ‘I could run further’, to which I would say 'YES, you can. But how do you do that? I’ll see you at Running Club.'

What equipment do I need?

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To get out there and run doesn’t require a great deal of high tech equipment. Most people can start out with some suitable clothing and a good pair of trainers.

Footwear

I have been teaching British Military Fitness for a long while and in that time I have seen all sorts of outfits and clothing combinations turn up at the park. From thermal outfits in the mid-summer heat, to vests and shorts in the winter. I have even seen someone try to do class in wellington boots and the worst has to be someone attempting class in a suit. Yes, a suit!

Whilst clothing options can be an expression of your inner-self, what you put on your feet requires a little more thought. One of the questions I get asked most often is ‘what trainers should I wear when running?’ With developments in the fitness industry you can buy a shoe to cater for almost every need but to ensure you’re wearing the right pair. What makes a pair right for you will depend on a series of factors including your running style and the terrain on which you’re planning to train.

Rinding the right running shoes.jpgEveryone has an individual style - some people heal-strike and others forefoot-strike. Those who heel-strike could find themselves over-pronating, supinating or running in a neutral style as the foot strikes the ground. Depending on which of these you display, you may need a structured running shoe to correct the instability. To ensure you get the most appropriate shoe for your style, you should visit a running store to get a gait assessment. Staff at the store will assess your style and match you to a shoe that provides the correct level of support in the correct places.

If you are a forefoot striker and you are less likely to have any instability issues and you should look for a neutral shoe, one that doesn’t provide corrective support. You could also explore decreasing the heel-to-toe drop of your shoe, reducing the cushioning and helping to transform your running into a more natural and efficient style. Decreasing the heel-to-toe drop is specifically important in advanced runners and those who have transitioned their running style to a forefoot-strike. The heel-to-toe drop of a structured running shoe will be around 13mm, while a neutral shoe will be around 7mm or less. When reducing the heel-to-toe drop you should also look for a wide-fitting shoe. This is because, when your foot hits the floor it relaxes and spreads out, acting as a shock absorber. As you push off it then recoils like a spring to propel you forwards into the next stride. If you’re wearing a tight fitting shoe it will limit the spreading of your foot, causing your foot to lose its flexibility and hindering your running performance.

In addition to your running style you should also consider where you’re planning to run. If you’re looking to eat up the tarmac then there’s a huge variety of shoes that will do the job. However, if you mostly run off-road you should invest in a pair that have increased grip and provide additional stability when running. When the ground is wet and uneven you’ll appreciate these additional features, as they’ll give you the traction you need to avoid injury and the confidence to run faster across the terrain. There are lots of companies out there that produce shoes in this area. My preference is Inov-8 – a company that is really putting some thought into fantastic shoe design.

So, now you have enough knowledge to choose the right shoe, but how long should it last you? The general rule is to change your shoe whenever it becomes no longer fit for purpose. Obvious signs are holes in the fabric or lack of grip on the sole. If you train a lot shoes should last you around 6-8 months or approximately 500 miles. Beyond this, the shoe will lose its shape and cushioning, impacting negatively on your running style and increasing the risk of injury.

 

 

Now, clothing

Now your feet are sorted out, we can turn to your clothing. To be really honest, as long as you feel comfortable and it doesn’t hinder performance you can wear what ever you like. But there have been some great advances since the cotton t-shirt and shorts of yesteryear. The most important thing is to wear clothing appropriate for the weather conditions. Thermal layers are great in the winter months and some of the best products out there for the wet weather are Sealskinz. They provide excellent protection and make exercising in the cold and wet weather a lot more comfortable.

In the summer months it is important to protect against UV rays, heat stress and general fatigue. Along with lighter fabrics, you should invest in a hat to keep the sun off your face and head. If you do find yourself over-heating, one of the easiest ways to cool down is to pour cool water onto your wrists and neck, or to soak a towel or t-shirt in water and wrap it around your neck. This will bring your core temperature down quickly and prevent further over-heating.

Hopefully this has helped you in your choice of running attire. I look forward to seeing you and your new kit at a running club soon. Just be sure to leave your wellies at home.

What are the benefits of running?

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Running has numerous benefits, both mental and physical, and it changes from person to person. The list is endless but we name a few here.

I began running in my early teens and remember it being cold wet and miserable with my teacher shouting at me as I ran past him in a cross country race, something I guess you, as BMF members, can all relate to!

After I left education I joined the forces and started to get serious about my running, leaving the cold muddy fields behind I turned to the roads and the longer distances, performing at various events from 10km to Marathons. I left the armed forces in 2009 and since then I’ve spent almost every day teaching people how to run. Whilst, on the face of it, I show them something physical – training techniques, strength exercises – they actually get a lot more than this out of running.

Mental and emotional benefits

Most people would hazard a guess that my clients’ goals vary between wanting to run faster, getting fit, and losing weight. However, my personal experience of running, and that of training my clients, has opened my eyes to the many other benefits it holds. It provides a sense of fulfilment, of achievement. It provides social opportunities, stress relief and quiet thinking time away from a busy home life.

It would be hard for me to prioritise the benefits in order of importance, I think there is room for all of them in their unique way and the importance depends very much on the individual. Having experienced them all in certain times of my life, I personally think that running provides whatever you need, exactly when you need it. You just need to listen to your body and recognise what it is telling you. If work is unusually stressful why try and complete a 10k personal best, why not just get out there and lose yourself in your run?

Physical benefits

The above benefits focus on the mental side of running, but along with this running will give you some fantastic physical benefits. Cardiovascular health is greatly improved through running by increasing your heart rate and working the heart muscles on a regular basis. Improving you immune system, running increases white blood cells and these are the fighter cells in the body, which will combat the early stages of diseases like diabetes and cancer. Bone health is significantly improved by running regularly. Any weight bearing exercise will increase bone density and prevent injury and the onset of osteoporosis. Lastly and probably most important, running will increase your lung capacity. During running, your lungs work together with your heart and circulatory system to provide oxygen to your working muscles for energy production, increasing the volume, rate and exchange of gasses to keep your legs going at faster rate.

As you can see running has numerous benefits both mental and physical, so next time your run takes you up a steep hill or work is proving tough and holding you back from getting out there, remind yourself of how good you’ll feel afterwards.

Marathon training

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As marathon season approaches, there’s no need to cancel your BMF membership to fit training in. Here, we’ll guide you through your training, alongside BMF, with the expert help of David Hellard from the British Military Fitness Race Team:

So marathon season is upon us, hurrah! Hopefully by now you’re in the swing of running a few times a week. Do not fear if you are not – our BMF marathon training plans, for all abilities, will help you reach your goals. By combining your running with BMF classes you will improve your leg strength, core stability and reduce the risk of injury, which translates into faster running.

The plans are designed around alternating intense sessions with slower days involving BMF classes. The temptation will be to push yourself 100% in BMF, but the intention is that you complete the classes at a jog, instead of running, which is why you can often choose to be in a lower colour group than usual. The classes are to help build strength rather than aerobic fitness. The one exception being Saturdays when you can go all out, but listen to your body; if you are feeling very drained, drop down a colour or swap your class for a slow jog. 

16 weeks is a long time. You will get tired, you might even slow down after 6-9 weeks when your mileage increases and your body is still adjusting, so don’t lose faith, it’s normal. There are 100′s of small factors to research and consider and I’ll be back next month to go into more detail. Until then, make sure you run your slow days slow, try out some gels or shot blocks and book in your half marathons.


About David

British Military Race Team member, David, is a championship marathon runner, with experience of over 20 marathons from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone. He is an official pacer for the London Marathon and writes for magazines including Runners World, Men’s Running and the Guardian Running Blog. For a more detailed breakdown of David’s marathon training you can read his blog.

Any questions, I am here to help, so feel free to contact me through the British Military Fitness Race Team Facebook page.

Perfecting your running technique

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Running properly is very important and there are a lot of things to consider. It really isn’t just a matter of throwing one foot in front of the other and swinging your arms. Bad running techniques can lead to a lot of problems in the knee and ankle joints, as well as back problems and poor posture.

Traditional running

You’ll want to start upright, not slumped, or looking down, even though it is tempting to look down to check the ground in front of you. Imagine there is a string on the crown of your head pulling you upright and this should keep your head up and your back straight.

When you stride forward do not over extend and avoid placing your heel down in front of your knee, as this is in front of your centre of gravity and creates a jolt, or braking effect and also puts extra pressure on the knee joint. Land lightly with the foot directly under the knee and propel yourself forward, with the foot making minimum time in contact with the ground.

Your arms also play a big part here; they assist your balance and help with the rhythm of your running. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed, not hunched up, and arms should be bent about 90 degrees. Allow them to swing naturally from the shoulder, as your left foot steps out, your right arm should swing forward.

Your breathing should be rhythmic to your stride pattern, although it may take a few minutes to get into a good rhythm and as you speed up or slow down you’ll have to adjust accordingly. Try to breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

Barefoot running

An alternative to normal running is barefoot running, this isn’t literally running barefoot, but you can now buy running shoes that give minimum support under the heel to make you run on your forefoot. Most running shoes have big cushioned heel blocks, which lead us to slam our heels down first, trusting the heel block to absorb the impact and spring us forward. However, looking back, man has been running longer than trainers have been around and before trainers came along you couldn’t plant your heels down first, so the running style was to land on the forefoot and lightly spring forward, the heel making barely any contact with the ground. Some African long distance runners and athletes across the world have always used this technique and to very good effect.

Be warned though, if you plan to try barefoot running keep the distance short to start off with. The ankles and calves are working much harder here and will need time to adjust to this new style, but people have noticed less knee and back problems with this technique, as the feet act as a great shock absorber, reducing the impact on the knees.

Using an old pair of trainers is also a big NO, trainers that aren’t designed for running, or are very old, won’t give you the support you need and can lead to ankle and knee injuries and the dreaded shin splints!! Some specialist running shops can work out how your foot hits the ground as you run and recommend the correct running shoes for you. If you’re interested in trying barefoot running Vibram Fivefingers offer a wide range of shoes for the barefoot style running.

Nutrition advice for runners

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Running, like any sport, is greatly affected by what is put into your body’s engine. You will be burning an extra 100 calories roughly for each mile that you run. That means you should be eating extra calories, but you need to eat the right ones. To make sure you get the best possible performance I have put together some top tips for you.

Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates provide slow and steady fuel. Foods such as wholegrains, whole breads and unrefined pastas, vegetables and potatoes will not produce the sharp sugar spikes and lows, providing you with fuel for your entire run. In contrast, eating refined carbohydrates will make you feel amazing for the first mile or two of your run but this will soon end. Refined carbohydrates could also make you stomach upsets as your body will want to get rid of them as quick as possible.

Protein

Protein is essential for tendon and muscle repair, as well as regulating hormones. The more often you run and the further you run, the more repair work there will be for your muscles. If you are training for a long distance run you will need up to 1.5 grams of protein for every kilogram that you weigh. So if you weigh 64kg, you will need about 96g of protein daily. Your protein should be high quality and preferably lean, such as chicken, tofu, eggs, nuts, or fish.

Fats

While everyone deserves a treat once in a while, try to avoid fatty foods like whole milk, red meat, ice cream, mayonnaise, egg yolks, chocolate, butter and cheese. Some fats, however, can actually do you some good. These are the unsaturated fats, particularly monounsaturated fats like those in olive oil, peanut oil and avocado oil. Unsaturated fats can actually reduce blood cholesterol.

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Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals will play an important factor in your running performance and endurance. Your extra energy requirements will also mean that you will need extra vitamins and minerals. Ideally, these should be provided from a healthy and well balanced diet of fresh and whole foods. Bottled supplements will never replace a healthy and varied diet, and should only ever be considered as an extra, not a necessity.

H2O

Water consumption is essential for everyone, but even more so for the runner who will sweat more than average. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least two to three litres per day, but be warned that caffeine and alcohol do not count to your daily total, as these will dehydrate you. Water should be consumed evenly throughout the day to keep fluid levels up and your body evenly hydrated.

Other drinks

Commercial protein drinks, carb drinks and sports drinks can all be useful ways to stock up on fuel before a run. These are especially useful for the early morning runner who doesn't have time to eat breakfast and then wait to run. Drinking meals is also easier on some runner's digestions than a big meal right before a run around the park.

Meals

Balanced meals for runners should comprise roughly 20% fats, 60% complex carbohydrates and 20% proteins. Ensure that you consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Smaller meals more often will also keep your blood sugar levels more steady and your metabolism running high. Aim for three smaller meals, and two to three snacks throughout the course of the day.

Snacks

Nutritional snacks such as fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrain sandwiches, nuts, eggs, yogurts, and protein or health-food bars can all help to alleviate the dreaded energy slump. Healthy snacks will also ensure that your muscles and liver are always ready for further exercise, and additionally, you will have sufficient energy to get through day-to-day activities.

Planning

The timing of your meals will be crucial to the success of your running performance. Not enough fuel and the engine will run out. Too much fuel, too soon can be just as disastrous as not enough. The ideal formula for peak performance is to eat a meal high in complex carbohydrates two to three hours prior to your run. After finishing your session it is a great idea to have a glucose drink within 15 minutes to replenish tired muscles looking for fuel. Also eating a meal rich in protein and complex carbohydrates in the first two hours after your run will assist with muscle repair.

Counting calories

As I said earlier the average person could burn about 100 calories for every mile they run. If you are unsure about how many calories you are burning you can always use a calorie burning counter to figure it out. These counters use factors such as your body weight, age, fitness level, and gender, to approximately determine the calories you are burning up.

Pre-training nutrition

As a general rule, about one to two hours before your run you should aim for one to two glasses of water plus 25 to 50 grams of carbs. Great choices are a banana, porridge, bagel, wholegrain toast or an energy bar. Alternatively, combine the water with carb powder to make a drink.

Be sure to also check out our Nutrition Hub which is full of useful nutritional advice and tips to aid training and assist a healthy lifestyle.

What to do in the build up to a race?

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Two days to go

Aim to go for a light 10-15 minute jog and practice wearing your race day kit. Maintain a good level of hydration. A good guideline is 2.5ltrs per day.

70% of your nutrition intake should consist of slow burning carbohydrates, for example: porridge, brown rice, quinoa and whole grain pasta.

Aim to eat a piece of fruit at every meal, however limit the intake of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc) as that can upset the stomach ahead of running an event.

Eat small amounts frequently throughout the day. A typical days’ nutrition may look like this:

  • Breakfast - Porridge (made with semi-skimmed milk/water) and raisins, bowl of fruit salad with plain yogurt. Cup of green tea and glass of pure orange juice.
  • Snack - Two pieces of wholegrain toast with peanut butter/honey. Glass of water.
  • Lunch - Wholegrain rice with grilled chicken, avocado and cherry tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil or balsamic vinegar. Glass of water.
  • Snack - Handful of almonds with a sliced apple. Cup of green tea.
  • Dinner - Grilled salmon and wholegrain pasta with pesto, olives and garlic. Glass of water.
  • Dessert/Snack - Rice pudding.

One day to go

Follow the same nutrition guidelines as above.

Relaxation is very important, limit any stressful situations and avoid standing still for prolonged periods of time.

Go for a walk.

Ensure that you are all set with your race day plans. Mentally go through how you hope the race day will go – from the minute you wake up to the finish line of the race.

Try to get to bed early, however avoid sleeping for too long or you may feel sluggish in the morning.

It can be beneficial to have a light sports massage to improve blood flow to the muscles. A sports massage can also help you relax if you’re getting stressed ahead of the big day.

Race day

Here are ten tips from to manage the panic and do the best you can:

  1. Get there early

Be informed about the race. This means knowing where it starts and finishes and making the necessary arrangements for transport. Give yourself at least an hour to warm up and get comfortable with the surroundings.

  1. Eat no later than an hour before the start

You can't run without fuel but eating too close to starting time will only cause cramps. Try to eat a carbohydrate-rich meal no later than one hour before the race. Also try and stick to your normal breakfast routine, to avoid any stomach troubles.

  1. For longer distances, have a hydration plan

For races over 10km many people will want to have a drink to stay hydrated. Do you prefer to run with a bottle? Or are you okay with taking drinks at water stations? Decide what you're going to do, and train in the same way. For events lasting over 60 minutes you will require a sports drink.

  1. Decide how you are going to run the race

It is impossible to know how any race will go but that doesn't mean you can’t plan. Try not to let the behaviour of other runners influence you into changing your plan. For beginners I suggest to avoid running fast at the start of a race. Passing those over-enthusiastic people in the second half will make you feel much better!

  1. Dress smart

Check out the weather forecast for the day and dress appropriately. Race day isn't for experiments, so wear your tried and trusted gear - not something new. When running your first event you will undoubtedly be nervous and may over tighten your shoe laces to makes sure they don’t come undone, avoid this at all costs.

  1. Use other runners to keep yourself going

When you're feeling tired it helps to use the pace of other runners around you to keep going. Another useful tactic is to pick out someone not too far ahead of you and try to catch them, or just maintain the same distance between you both.

  1. Divide the course

In a longer race, it can be useful to mentally divide up the course in sections. So for a marathon, you run 10km four times, taking one section at a time. This also works by running to points within view (for example lamp posts or street corners). It makes the distance less daunting and you take the pressure off.

  1. Relax

While you might need some adrenaline, being tense will make you less efficient. Try to do a mental check-over every now and then during the race. Ask yourself: how am I doing? How do I feel? Make an effort to relax your hands and shoulders and your breathing. This will all help to make your run easier.

  1. Bring support

Run the race with a buddy or ask friends and family to come along and support you. Knowing someone is cheering you on will really give you a boost when you're tiring. It's also easier to run when there is someone at the finish line to share the moment with. Have a plan for meeting at the end, also a back up plan just incase you miss each other.

  1. No matter what race it is, enjoy it!

Running is to be enjoyed. Don’t worry if you don’t achieve a specific time goal; feel proud that you have completed the distance. Running a race is an amazing achievement – just think how far you’ve come.

Tips on rejuvenating after a marathon

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What you do in the days post-marathon is almost as important as what you do in the days before. Recovering after running a marathon is vital and something that many people neglect. Having run 26.2 miles, you may not feel like moving again for a while, but you shouldn’t allow your nervous system to sleep completely. Long-distance running takes its toll on your body and leaves you at risk of dehydration, extra fluid in your muscles and even damaged muscle tissue.

Post marathon recovery plan

We recommend you allow a week for marathon recovery, broken down as follows:

0 – 2 days: Complete rest – congratulate yourself for having run a marathon! Make sure you drink water in small amounts, frequently, to help with the dehydration and flush out the extra lactic acid that builds up after intense exercise.

2 – 4 days: Full body stretching, with particular focus on legs. Supplement this with some light activity such as swimming, due to the low impact nature of the activity.

To complement stretching, try foam rolling too. This is a form of self-massage along with a ‘foam roller’, used by athletes to release muscle tightness and tension. Use your body weight to apply weight over the roller to stretch out the tight muscles – it will be painful (and if an area really hurts, go easy on it), but it reduces muscle stiffness and leads to a better recovery. 

5 – 7 days: Up the ante slightly by adding in some light, short-duration jogs (around 30 minutes). Supplement this with lots of stretching / foam rolling.

The overall aim of this plan is to recover safely and effectively by keeping the nervous system moving gently. Therefore, exercise is key, but the amount done should be minimal and low impact.

As well as the obvious physical factors, the stress of running a marathon can affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu, so it’s important to eat a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins, and drink lots of water. In addition, some people often find they gain weight after running a marathon – do not be alarmed, this is usually due to water retention and will pass.

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Topics: Running, Running tips