Half marathon training: Tips 6 & 7

My rotating trainers. Pairs are assigned to either parkrun/long distance/fencing before getting worn to work.

Have you signed up for a half marathon but never entered a race before?

My final instalments on Half Marathon Training are specifically for you.

Tip 6: Find your perfect trainers

Be strict about wearing them for running only.

Only once they’ve been subjected to 300+ miles of training would I retire them for casual wear. Well-made running trainers are expensive so using them for daily wear is a big waste of your money.

You’ll be able to identify when they’ve reached peak mileage if you’ve read my post on logging your runs. During half marathon training, you’ll be retiring those trainers a lot sooner than anticipated. Long distance running shortens the lifespan of trainers and if you’re only running on the road, it will be less obvious when it’s time to replace them. The upper fabrics might look box fresh after hundreds of miles but that cushioning won’t give you half the support it once did. Once that begins to wear down, it leaves you susceptible to all sorts of injuries.

Your usual trainers may not necessarily give you the right support for miles of pavement pounding. If you have twenty minutes spare you could talk to an expert about your requirements:

Runners Need will analyse your running gait for free and suggest what trainers might work best for you (click here for further info)

They do this by filming your feet from various angles as you run on a treadmill at various speeds for a minute. If you’re lucky they’ll match you instantly with a pair of trainers that feel perfect for you.

My favourite racing shoes were these red Nike Pegasus 34s. These lasted at least 400 miles before retirement.

To maximise your service, go prepared. Take your usual running socks with you. That way you won’t accidentally be sizing up/down due to sock thickness. Talk to them about your upcoming race: if your half marathon is part-trail or rough terrain then you could benefit from a different type of running shoe.

I got my technique assessed for my upcoming marathon and to my delight found I had perfectly neutral running gait. However, many runners overpronate or underpronate (Supinate) which means that their feet roll excessively inwards/outwards when they strike the floor. Some trainers and orthotics are designed to support this so don’t worry if you’re not a neutral runner. Focusing on comfortable and correct footwear is key because you might get injured. But that’s okay too.

Tip 7: Stay injury-free

Hands up who’s run with an injury?

We’re all guilty of it. Sometimes a niggling pain will go away on its own but occasionally you’ll need expert medical advice.

The Stylist Strong studio in Mayfair. Their classes focus on performance, strength and flexibility.

Injuries can worsen if you leave them unattended or continue training. Don’t berate yourself. Accept that everyone will encounter these problems and never underestimate the healing/rest time advised by your physiotherapist or GP. Four months prior to my first half marathon I ripped my hip flexor during a fencing bout which subsequently led to three months of limping around feeling sorry for myself. I’d gotten used to daily running and not being able to do this anymore was tough. The only upside was that I started volunteering for parkrun instead, which gave my weekends fulfilment once more.

Advised by my physio, I spent 4 hours a week doing various pilates exercises in a bid to get better. I recovered just in time for the race but had I not seen a specialist, I doubt I’d have done strength training at all. I naïvely thought that the only way to repair yourself was to put your feet up.

In hindsight that injury was a huge learning curve. My physio educated me about the importance of muscle strength. Keeping leg and body muscles strong through different exercises will make you less susceptible to injuries. If my motivation wanes then I find that putting aside a short set amount of time each week to strengthen my hips and legs keeps them injury free. Experiment with different weights to see what feels challenging, yet comfortable.

If you get injured and it stops you from running then try cross training with a lower impact sport, such as swimming or cycling. Mixing up your weekly routine can help running feel less monotonous.

But the best way to stay injury-free? Stretch immediately after every run you do. Your muscles will be warm after running so this is the optimum time to work on their flexibility.

Thames side stretching with my Runners Need pals Image courtesy of @runnersneedwaterloo

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