Monday, 13 June 2011

Congratulations & Time to Recover

Well done to all finishers!

Congratulations to all of the finishers of the Half Marathon yesterday! It was a great event and a huge success for all involved.  

The conditions were quite good for the race first thing but there was a noticeable sea breeze building up around the seafront and as the race progressed the wind became a little bit stronger and made the last few miles a little bit tougher.  

It was great to see so many people crossing the line with smiles on their faces and obviously ecstatic about completing the Half Marathon which is a great achievement…I’m sure many people will have been raising money for various charities, completing some personal challenges or simply running to try and gain a personal best.

This is the second time we have used this course and from last year we made a few changes. There have been a lot of positives about the course and the race but as always we will be using the feedback from runners and marshals to help us make the event even better next year.  

I am sure many of you will be a little bit stiff and sore this morning so a few words about recovery!   

It is expected that after an effort such as a Half Marathon you may be a little bit stiff and achey! This is down to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. Don’t worry it wont last long but over the next few days you may feel sore due to tiny microscopic tears in the muscles. This should only be temporary and will ease after a few days. Sometimes active recovery can help ease some of the symptoms but there is no miracle cure. Increasing blood flow to the muscles through gentle exercise (walking, swimming) may help or ice, compression or in extreme cases some anti-inflammatory medicines may help.   

Once the dust has settled and you can start to think about running again why not think about a new challenge? There are lots of good quality races in the area – Middlesbrough 10Km, Darlington 10km,  Hartlepool Marina 5 mile race, New Marske Harriers 5km and 10km’s to name just a few. Or if you fancy something a little bit different why not try a Triathlon. 31st July will see a new Triathlon in Redcar with a 750m Sea swim, 20km bike and 5km run. Further details from

For those unattached runners out there (Unattached simply means you do not run for a UK Athletics affiliated club) why not consider joining a running club. In the Redcar and Cleveland Area we are blessed with a number of running clubs who cater for all abilities from fun runners to International standard runners.  

Here are details of the three clubs who have been particularly helpful to the Redcar Half Marathon and supplied many of the Marshalls as well as being represented by lots of runners taking part in the race.

North York Moors AC
New Marske Harriers
Redcar Running Club

Friday, 10 June 2011

Last Minute Preparations

Race Day
After all that preparation Race Day is almost here. Sunday morning will be the pinnacle of all your months of training and it is ready to unleash the racer in you!
Getting to the race and toeing the start line may have involved many miles of training so don’t let last minute lack of preparation let you down.
Now is the time to think about Sunday and your travel, kit, shoes, strategy etc.
Firstly the race starts at 10am. It wont wait for you so you need to be on site at the event area in plenty of time. That means getting up in enough time to breakfast, travel and arrive on site to have a warm up, visit the toilet and sort out any last minute issues.
I like to be at races about an hour before the race starts. This gives me plenty of time to sort out my kit, jog a mile or so, visit the toilet. This last hour at a big race like Redcar also gives you enough time to put your kit into the baggage store, familiarise yourself with the location of the start and finish as well as enjoy some pre-race “reflection” to sort your head out prior to the race.  
Here are my top ten tips for race day.....
1.      Arrive in plenty of time. The park and ride buses are running early and will run often but don’t leave it to chance. Better to be on site early than late!
2.      Breakfast well and early enough for it not to give you any problems. You should know by now what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t eat anything you wouldn’t normally eat but maybe lay off the fry up!
3.      Drink plenty of fluid – sip little and often but don’t overdo the coffee and tea! There are drinks stations at 4 miles, 7 miles, 9 miles and 11 miles.
4.      Sort your kit out the night before and do a, watch, socks, shorts, vest, number, CHIP!!!, safety pins, old t-Shirt to wear pre race once you have put your baggage in, baggage label, Vaseline (to rub on parts of your body that may chafe!), race instructions, drink, snack and anything else you may need.
5.      If travelling with others ensure they are as prepared as don’t want to be turning round half way into the journey because someone hasn’t been as organised as you!
6.      When on site check out where the finish is and also check out the start. The start on Sunday is about 500m from the finish area. It is located near Salisbury Grove so allow enough time for the short walk or jog to the start.
7.      Don’t fight to get to the front unless you think you are likely to stay at the front.  Your chip will record your time so an easy start will do you more good than harm.
8.      Maintain a positive has been proven that a positive outlook will help you run faster! It might not be true but every little helps! Also please be aware that most of the marshalls are volunteers giving up their Sunday to help you. If something goes wrong please don’t give the marshalls a hard time! Everybody wants the race to be successful in every way but sometimes things go wrong.
9.      Don't wear new kit to race in...the kit you choose to race in should have been worn a few times so you know it wont rub etc and cause problems.
10.  Finally please remember there is a load of information available on the website  There is also an event helpline to help with any last minute issues such as lost chips, missing numbers etc. The number is 0757 278 3796.

Enjoy the race and best of luck!


Thursday, 2 June 2011

It's Nearly Here Sunday 12th June

The Final Countdown

With just over a week to go until race day I thought I would take a look at the final week in terms of preparing for race day.

You may have heard the old saying “fail to prepare – prepare to fail!”

This week we had a question from a participant asking what training to be doing in  the final week and also to suggest a nutrition strategy. There is a huge amount of information that covers these subjects on the internet so I thought I would try and answer this with a mix of tips gained through my own experiences.

In terms of training the last week is an opportunity to fine tune the training you should, and hopefully will have, already done. In the last week before the half you should certainly not be doing anything strenuous such as your longest run or a hard interval based session. Training volume (or number of miles) should be at least two thirds, possibly even half of what you have been doing in the build up to the half marathon.   This is an opportunity to refresh yourself (known as tapering) ready for race day. If you normally run five times a week it may be a good idea to run just four times and run slightly less miles on each run. In my last Half Marathon I ran 28 miles in the 7 days leading up to the race and had two full days off in the week (compared to close to 55 miles per week and running 7 days!). This worked for me but the critical things were that I didn’t do any hard sessions in those seven days and had a day off the day before the race to replenish energy stores.   It is also a good idea to try and keep off your feet the day before the race and not do anything too extreme. A day shopping or climbing Roseberry Topping should not be considered the day before the race!

It does take a bit of experience to get the “taper” right before a race and how much you taper will depend upon how much training you are doing. As I have tried to explain stick to some golden rules for the last seven days:

1.                   No speed work or hard sessions
2.                   Don’t cram miles in last minute – reduce your overall training volume.  Last minute miles in panic will not do you any good and may have the opposite effect.
3.                   Take one or two days at least as rest days
4.                   Don’t do anything unusual the week or days before that will make you stiff or sore or tired!

Nutrition – again this is a massive subject that is far too complex to cover in a short blog article so here are a few rules of thumb to help guide you. I would say that in the days leading up to the race you should eat relatively normally. By reducing your training load and eating normally your body should be storing up energy as glycogen in the muscles which will help provide valuable energy on race day. Drink little and often in the days leading up to the race – particularly if the weather is hot. Don’t overdo the tea and coffee or alcohol in the last week and stick to fairly simple, normal foods. The night before the half marathon is not the time to experiment with rich, spicy foods – as tempting as that may be! You may also be tempted to over snack as you may be tempted to substitute normal training with snacking on biscuits, crisps and the like!

In my next (and possibly final pre race blog) I will cover in more detail race day and will look at race nutrition, final preparation and race day strategies.

Finally use the last week to sort your kit, your travel arrangements, make sure you have your number and chip (which will arrive in the next few days) and fill in your medical details/next of kin on the back of your number.   If you have bought new kit make sure you have tried it once or twice at least before the race (longer if you have bought new shoes).

Happy Running.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Personal Safety

Staying Safe!

As a runner of many years I have encountered many incidences of verbal abuse (usually quite harmful and often phrases such as “118” or “Run Forrest Run” ), I have been hopelessly lost (while on holiday and out running) and also managed to pick up an injury and end up walking miles home dehydrated and sore! Thankfully none of these experiences have ever put me off running but I thought it would be useful in this week’s blog to think about personal safety while out running.

Often people (especially women, according to research, who feel this is a barrier to participation) feel vulnerable while out running and this can force them to search out secluded areas, run early in the morning to be anonymous or simply think twice about going out of the door and instead head to the gym for a run on the treadmill.

One of the joys of running for me is the freedom it brings, the feeling of running outside with the wind in your face and being able to explore new uncharted territory. I run in most weathers and think nothing about running in any environment. However…..personal safety is something that we all need to think about.

Here are a few tips to help you out and stay safe….

1.            When you head out of the door have a good idea of the route you are going to do. Think about the hazards you may encounter – road crossings, traffic, pedestrians and terrain. Also think about possible escape routes….what if you are feeling unwell or pick up an injury…how will you get home? Often If I am doing a long run I will choose a loop close to home that allows me to divert from my long run if necessary and not leave me stranded 10 miles from home.

2.            If you do get lost don’t be afraid to ask for directions but look to a pedestrian rather than flag a car down. It’s often a good idea to tell your partner or someone close that you are going for a run, approximately how long you are going for and what route you are going on. I once got hopelessly lost while on an early morning run while on holiday…returning back to the family nobody blinked as they thought I was just on a long run!

3.            If you can carry a mobile phone then consider doing so. Alternatively I sometimes carry a coin which can be used to make a call if needed. Even if your mobile is out of signal emergency services can still locate you using a triangulation system.

4.            Don’t wear headphones while out running. Headphones make you more vulnerable as you cannot hear traffic, cyclists or generally make you less aware of your surroundings.  

5.            Clothing – consider investing in some reflective/Hi Viz kit. There is lots of good quality, nice kit available now.  Bright yellow, orange, pink kit is widely available and often reflective strips are built into the clothing now for additional safety. This will make you more visible to cars, pedestrians, cyclists and is much more widely used now by runners than it used to be.  

6.         ICE – consider having an ICE number available. Some manufacturers are building in labels in running kit for runners to put an “In case of Emergency” number. Put ICE in your mobile phone directory and add your partners/Next of Kin number as an emergency contact. Or create a laminated card with the details on that you can put in your pocket. This is particularly important if you have any medical issues that people need to be aware of. You can also get a small implement to tie into your shoelaces which you can put your next of kin details in. On this point it is also worth noting that on the back of the race number for the Half Marathon you will see that there are sections for runners to fill in necessary next of kin details and any medical issues for the organisers to be aware of. Please do not ever give your race number away as this causes all sorts of issues for race directors if there is a medical emergency.

7.            Run Routes – many people use the same route, run at the same time and on the same days. This can make you vulnerable if anybody is monitoring your movements and might act on it. Vary your routes, time of day running and if possible try and run with a group. Consider joining a running group where you will be welcomed, encouraged to run with a group and be supported as you develop. Clubs are not elitist in any way and there will be lots of support for new members.

Finally consider joining a self defence group and learning a bit more about what to do if you were in the unfortunate position of being attacked or challenged. Your new found fitness will also help you in situations such as this.

Quick Kit Tips:

Wear clothing suitable for the weather. A light thermal top, gloves and a thin outer layer will be suitable for most winter weathers combined with long or short leggings. A light rain jacket will provide additional protection from the wind and the rain. In summer less kit may be appropriate but consider Hi Viz all around to make you more visible. Don’t overdress as too many thick layers will make you feel too hot and you run the risk of over-heating.

Remember sunscreen, consider a cap or sun glasses in hot sunny weather

Use Vaseline or similar to avoid chafing in areas that may rub

Consider buying a light bum bag for long runs….mobile phone, gels, water bottle etc might come in handy if you are struggling.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Tempo Running

What is a tempo?   There are many different definitions of a tempo run and to some extent the term tempo can mean different things to runners depending upon what they are training for, the level of experience and also how willing they are to push themselves! 

For the sake of this post I am going to try and look at the tempo in a bit more detail in relation to the Half Marathon.    The definition that I am going to offer in this instance is "the fastest pace that can be sustained for between 20 minutes and 60 minutes".  The aim of the "tempo" also known as a "threshold run" is to enable runners to sustain a relatively hard pace for a prolonged period of time.  As race day gets closer you may wish to increase the distance and time of your tempo whilst at the same time increase the speed that you do them.

With about four weeks to race day it may be that your training has hit a plateau.  If so the tempo might just be the answer to unlock it.  

An example of a tempo session might be:

1 mile easy jog as a warm up.
4 miles or 30 minutes of running at tempo/threshold pace
1 mile of easy jogging as a cool down.

What should a tempo feel like?    The tempo is about sustained hard running.  You should feel challenged, you may struggle to keep up a meaningful conversation (one or two word answers are a good indicator if someone is working at tempo pace) but you should also feel in control of the should not see you fall by the wayside after two or three minutes gasping for air!

I have used the tempo run in my own training for a long time.   I have two favourite routes that I use.  The first is approximately a two lap four mile route.  The second is an 8.5 mile out and back course.   When I am training for shorter races such as 5km or 10km the shorter tempo is used on a weekly basis.  Likewise if I am training for a race such as the Half Marathon I will use the longer tempo on a weekly basis.  Over the years I have used these courses regularly so the times I am running on them are a great indicator of my current fitness.

There is a theory put forward by an american author called Matt Fitzgerald around making sessions, blocks of training and races personally meaningful.   Matt advocates the use of the tempo run in building race fitness and encourages runners to use these sessions to get "race fit".   Some of the key messages the author gives are around making the session mean something to you personally.   The more personally meaningful the session is the more likely your brain will "allow" the body to perform to its physiological limit and the better you will perform.   

The sessions I use as tempo runs have been a part of my training plans for quite a few years....I know every bend, junction, climb and have a "bank" of times that have been recorded at different points in my training programmes.  In other words they mean something to me...they are not just another training run.

Generally nearly all runners can perform at a higher level in races than in training....have you ever wondered why that is?   The simple answer, according to Matt Fitzgerald, is because we place a higher level of importance on the outcome.

It follows then that if we use key sessions such as tempo runs in our training, we build up to them, we repeat them regularly, we set targets and goals then because we are placing some importance on them we can push ourselves just that little bit more in training than we could before!   Who knows that could be the key to achieving your target time on the 12th June!

It would be great to get a few comments or questions fired into the blog so feel free to post a question or two about your training, the race or any running related subject and I will see what I can do to help!

Happy running!


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Making Progress

Have you ever wondered why sometimes when you run it feels easy or effortless and sometimes it is a real struggle to put one foot in front of another?
Generally if you follow a running schedule over a certain number of weeks leading up to a race you are (hopefully) going to make some progress but what does this mean and how can you measure your progress.
As you get fitter there are certain changes that take place within the body.  These may include an increased stroke volume of the heart allowing more blood to be pumped around the body more efficiently, a lower resting heart rate, increase capacity of the blood to absorb oxygen or muscles becoming leaner and holding more energy.   These are all signs of the body becoming fitter!   These are difficult to measure but make running seem easier and more enjoyable.
What we can measure are things such as speed (doing the usual run but quicker for example), endurance (being able to run for longer) or generally increasing mileage, feeling more comfortable when we run or recovering from runs quicker. Depending upon your fitness background initial responses to training such as running may be self evident as you quickly start to increase distance, improve speed and feel more comfortable. However the more training you do the harder it is to keep those fitness improvements going. That is why it is a good idea to adopt some of the following “principles of training”.
  • Specificity -  if you want to improve your running then running should be your main focus of activity.
  • Progression - start at your level and gradually increase
  • Overload - work harder than normal – this is how your body adapts
  • Reversibility - train regularly or “Use it or Lose it!”
  • Tedium - keep it interesting.   A varied programme of activity, routes, distances make running all the more enjoyable.
Here are a few examples of sessions and how to progress them over a few weeks:
  1. Choose an out and back course (you can use any distance but aim for a route that is traffic free, good running surface and will not take more than approx 20 minutes). Start (after a short warm up and stretch) with a steady run out. Jog/stretch for a short period (not more than 5 mins) then return aiming for a slightly quicker pace on the way back. You could use this session regularly to assess your fitness always aiming for the return leg to be slightly quicker.
  2. After a warm up of about 10 minutes stop at a landmark (i.e a prominent road sign for example). Run hard for 10 minutes and note where you have stopped. Over the next few weeks repeat this session and see how much further distance you are travelling in the same time period (10 mins).  It will be a great motivator to know you are covering a greater distance in the same amount of time!
I hope that your training is going well and you are well on track to complete the Half Marathon on the 12th June.   Remember to plan in those easy or rest days alongside the harder running days!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Introduction & Programming

Redcar Half Marathon – 6 weeks to go...Don’t Panic!
Welcome to the first of 6 weekly blogs leading up to Race Day on June 12th.   These are intended to help out those of you who might be first timers or to generate some interest or discussion in the build up to what we hope will be a super day out at the Redcar Half Marathon.
If this is your first half marathon (13.1 miles) then hopefully you are on track to complete it comfortably and you may even have a target time in mind.     By this time in your training you may not have completed the race distance before but you are hopefully progressing well and building up your general fitness and the number of miles that you are running.
In this short article I will outline a basic weekly schedule with a few suggestions as to how you might want to progress.   Assuming you are already running two or three times per week I would be looking at trying to get a minimum of three runs per week established or ideally five or six runs with at least one rest day.
A typical weekly programme might look like this:
Sunday – traditionally a long run.  Aim to use this run to build up to the race distance.  You might want to Increase by one mile per week up to 10 or 12 miles.   I don’t think it is necessary for beginners to run 13.1 miles in training as the other training you are doing will help you round the race on the day.  Pace doesn’t really matter on this run but what is more important is covering the distance (or time on your feet!)
Monday – you might use this as a rest day or an easy day.   Alternatively a walk, swim or bike ride might help you recover from the Sunday long run.
Tuesday – this might be a shorter run.   If you have a race pace in mind it might be an idea to practice this.  For example if you wanted to run the half marathon at 8 minutes per mile then why not (after an easy 1 mile warm up) do a three or four mile run at your preferred race pace.  Follow this with a mile or so of easy running.   This will help with your general endurance.  As you get fitter you may try and increase the distance or increase the pace to quicker than half marathon pace.
Wednesday – same as Monday.
Thursday – try a little faster running.   Choose a traffic free route up to 1 mile in distance.  After a warm up run the 1 mile (or whatever distance you decide) at a speed quicker than your expected half marathon pace.   After this rest, jog, walk for 3 to 4 minutes then repeat again.   You could repeat this up to 3, 4 or 5 times.  This is the basis of what runners call interval training.   You should feel like this session is challenging but it is not a flat out sprint!   You can make big fitness gains using this type of training...  Remember the saying:  “If you train the same you will stay the same”
Friday – REST DAY.   A good chance to enjoy a treat or two as a reward for the hard work you have put in!
Saturday – A steady run of 5 or 6 miles keeping the pace relatively comfortable or aerobic.  Use the talk test...if you can comfortably keep up a conversation then that is about the right pace for you.

Finally – if you have not yet sorted out a decent pair of running shoes (and don’t forget socks!) then check out the Gait Analysis night on the 4th May at Redcar Leisure Centre.  Experienced staff from Cleveland Runner will be on hand to help you out and suggest suitable shoes that will suit your running style.   Bookings are being taken on 01642 480636