I lick my lips, yes that well-known saltiness. A sign. My heart is pounding in my chest. Another sign. My legs are burning. Yet another sign. Even walking now seems like someone has put treacle on the bottom of my trainers.
The all-too familiar feelings, along with the euphoria. The crowds, the finish, the medal, the search through the goodie bag at the finish line for that something ‘naughty’ that will give us the sugar rush we desire after 13.1 miles. The congratulations from friends and family followed by the social media post of ‘feeling proud’.
I call this the ‘post-race bubble’. The feeling of being on top of the world where nothing can stop you, even the struggle with the stairs the next morning is part of the process.
Then it starts, the one thing runners don’t speak off often, the crash. Those post-race blues, after months of training and focus, all those miles ran in the build-up, on average all 400 of them. The emptiness. Most half marathoners lose focus, motivation and actually stop running altogether until the next big event is booked.
For some this break from training comes as a welcome relief, Sunday morning lay-in, Drinking on a Saturday night returns, no more squeezing in early morning or late-night runs from the ‘training bible’. ‘Life’ returns.
In my experience of training half marathon runners, only 60% of them continue to run after race day. They continue with life, one without running until the next New Year hits and the yearly thoughts of ‘I must achieve something’ and ‘this year will be different’ set in. So they enter their local half marathon again and dig out the old faithful training plan of previous years.
The tables have turned though, they are no longer running to complete, they want to beat that pesky time from the year before, to get that few seconds under the two hours or get that ‘good for age’ marker.
The end of race euphoria is different this time, the salt, the burning legs are the same but something’s missing. The realisation that they have just run a very similar time to the year before.
Why would you expect anything different this time? You do the same thing, you achieve the same, the only difference being you’re a year older. Something has to change. You’re going to have to change. Your running is going to have to change. Change. You have to change. Running is life, a way of life and a way to experience life. Change.
A scary word for those of us who haven’t caught the running bug, those who ‘life’ doesn’t usually include running. In order to get faster, change is key.
You’re going to have to be consistent. Run. Run all year. This doesn’t mean every day, but using a plan that keeps you focused and brings consistency to your running routing. I use a three or four-week build-up then a recovery week for my clients that fits in with their lifestyle, whether that’s running four or five times a week or just twice. Consistency builds results.
Variety is the spice of life, but it also builds aerobic fitness.
Are you a one-paced pony? Is every training run from 5 km – half marathon distance run at the same pace? Do you plod the same route? The same roads? Then nothing is going to change.
In order to get faster you’re going to have to run fast. Bring in intervals that leave you breathless and crying ‘no more’, or do a shorter tempo run faster than a plod. Even run those long runs slower, yes slower, in fact the slower the better as it builds stamina and aerobic capacity more effectively.
You’re going to have to mix it up. Think about the terrain. Trail running is so much harder than road running, but builds great leg strength and core stability as you tackle nature’s obstacles.
Try something new. Bring in strength-specific workouts that also reduce the chance of injury in runners, but the physical gains of a stronger and more powerful stride bring a faster natural pace.
Go further. Yes. Use the half marathon base to train for a marathon. I know what you’re thinking ‘double the distance’, 26.2 miles, but every runner thinks the exact same thing when they set out on that first mile for a half marathon. Break it down one mile at a time, with a marathon the battle becomes more a mental one than physical. You can follow a plan, you can put in the miles, you can fuel for the run (you did it for the half) so that’s the easy bit.
With a marathon, brain training becomes essential. Positive attitude. ‘I can’ do this. Confidence. ‘I will’ finish. Distraction techniques. Describe in your head what you see. ‘Those leaves are beautiful shades of red, brown and green’
Friends. Run with a mate. Amazing how the miles fly by when you’re chatting about life. Use the crowd. High five them, feed of their energy.
‘Believe you can run a marathon and you’re halfway there’.
A typical runner will always run within their capabilities, being one-paced ponies, doing the same races and same routes for that same one event. Never really challenging themselves. Never realising how awesome they could be.
Don’t be a typical runner.
Be better than you were yesterday.
Karen Burles is a personal trainer, running instructor, running technique instructor, insanity and RPM instructor and mother of three children
aged 11, 8 and 7. Head to elite-conditioning.co.uk
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