Sunday, 31 May 2015

Great North Run 2015 Training Begins

The Great North Run 2015 will be the race that I attempt to run a sub 1.25 half marathon. Even though it's 15 weeks away, I feel like now would be the right time to start training for it. Yes, 15 weeks may seem like a long training programme, but these are the reasons I believe that starting to train now would be an advantage..

It won't be a big deal if you miss a week of training due to illness, injury or anything else unexpected. 

Missing a week or two during a 15 week training plan is set-back. Missing the same time during an 8 week training plan could be a disaster. Although we can help prevent some of these things stopping our training, sometimes we have little control.

So even if you need to take two or three weeks away from running, there should be plenty of time to train for a half marathon. Also, if you feel you would benefit from a few days rest or easier training, the option to do so will be there.

Losing weight before the race becomes more achievable.

This is a big one for me. I'm aiming to lose over 30 lbs before the Great North Run, which should help my running speed and endurance improve massively. With having 15 weeks of training, this means that a loss of 2 lbs per week would see me hit my target. I would not recommend trying to lose more weight than this in fifteen weeks.

Chicken kebabs, sweet potatoes and vegetables
My diet for the next 15 weeks looks something like this...

As the weeks progress, you can fine tune your training and diet to help get closer to your desired weight. The less fat you are carrying, the less weight you have to carry for 13.1 miles. A long training plan gives you time to lose weight sensibly, rather than crash dieting, going hungry or not reaching your target weight.

You can run further than the 13.1 half marathon distance.

For beginners, it's not recommended to go over the half marathon distance in training, as it will take too long to recover from. But for a sub 1.25 half marathon, I will want to run between 14 - 16 miles during training. This should help your endurance when the half marathon day arrives.

This should be done gradually, adding a five or ten minutes onto your long run every week. Increasing too much could lead to over-training or injury, so don't rush adding mileage. You also want to be tapering (gradually reducing the distance) your longer runs the month before the race. With a 15 week training plan, tapering after week 10 or 11 sounds ideal.

You can vary training to suit your needs, preferences, weaknesses or whatever you want to work on.

By having a longer training plan, you can change what runs or training you do. There is so much more you can do, other than just tempo runs, race pace runs and long distance runs.

You don't have to stick to a rigid 7 day cycle, so you can be a lot more flexible with your approach to training. For example, it might be an idea to add some strength training (ie: weights or hills), swimming, running drills, core work, spinning classes, high intensity training such as the Insanity workouts, boxing or other high tempo sports. Even adding a mountain or hill walk every two weeks could help with your leg strength training.

You will be able to test yourself with a few more 5K or 10K races.

Racing shorter distances during your training can have many advantages. With having 15 weeks to prepare, 5 or 10K races can provide race experience as well as being a great indicator of your current fitness levels, strengths or weaknesses.

I got two personal bests last week, with a 5K time of 20.30 minutes, and a 10K time of 45.25 minutes. However, the pace I ran these at are still slower than the pace I need to be running at the Great North Run. You can read more on this at What Pace Do I Need To Run A 1.25 Half Marathon.

I am glad I've got fifteen weeks to improve on these. I'll probably only do another 2-3 more 10K races, as these can take a few days to recover from. Just remember, you are using these only as training aids for a half marathon, so don't push yourself too hard that you need a week to recover, or even worse, you injure yourself.

It gives more time to develop good running habits.

You will have more time to improve your form to help you get round the course more quickly. Certainly it's something that I am working on at the minute. But trying to change the way you run in an 8 week training programme might be too much of a challenge.

With fifteen weeks, you can improve your posture, arm movement, your cadence (the amount of times your feet hit the ground every minute), your foot strike and your stride. All these should help your running efficiency and make you less prone to injury.

It gives you more time to develop good non-running habits.

Running is only part of your training. It's the habits you make for the time in between runs that will make the difference. With having extra time until the race, you can change these habits more gradually, so you don't have to perfect them overnight.

Paying attention to sleep, recovery, diet and preparation will be essential if I am to run a sub 1.25 half marathon. I now have fifteen weeks to work on all these elements.

You can have a recovery week. 

I think this is one of the biggest advantages of starting training this early. A recovery week can help prevent injury or over-training. It can also give your body time to heal the muscles, rest your joints and generally recharge your batteries.

However, a recovery week should not mean that you forget about the half marathon, do no training and eat and drink all that is bad for you.

A few sessions in the pool, some yoga or Pilates, or just cutting back your mileage for a week should help your body recover from all the impact of running. I would still suggest using a foam roller on a daily basis and some form of stretching.

You don't have to take a recovery week, but the option will be there if you think you would benefit from it.

15 Weeks To Go....

This will be my approach to training for the next 15 weeks anyway. I hope it will be of some use to you. I also hope it will help me get my first sub 1.25 half marathon... Which is in fifteen weeks from today :)

Half Marathon James

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