Ready for the off?

[Originally posted on Bristol Running Resource, 29/08/11]

We’re now less than two weeks away from the Bristol Half Marathon. If you’re running then I hope your training has gone well and you’ve managed to stay injury free. As Ben mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, the conventional wisdom is that if you can run 10 miles then you should be able to manage to get around a Half. I think that’s right, although the last mile or so may present your quads with an interesting challenge.

If your preparations have fallen a bit short of what you had hoped for then it’s a good idea not to try to catch up by cramming in a lot of extra training at the last minute. That’s a good way to get injured. And it’s not really a hugely effective way to increase your fitness – the rest periods between runs are integral to improving endurance. Even if you avoid injury, the chances are you’ll be knackered when race day arrives.

The running magazines and guides typically recommend a period of tapering before a distance race. Do your longest training run two weeks before the race (yesterday!) and then ease back on the training rather than increase it. If you’re new to running that might seem a bit counterintuitive. But it is all about allowing your legs to recover and your muscles to repair so that you are as fresh as possible on the big day.

The year I ran my half marathon personal best I tweaked something in my ankle on a long run late in the training period. As a consequence I didn’t run at all in the ten days leading up to the race. I started the race feeling a bit worried about how it would go. Then I discovered that as a result of the layoff I was full of beans. The ankle was fine and I took something like 7 minutes off my previous best time. I’ve been a great believer in tapering since then.

My training for this year’s race hasn’t gone brilliantly, if I’m honest. That’s for a whole variety of reasons. It’s only in the last three weeks that I’ve been able to extend my long run in any meaningful way. Yesterday I did a – slow – 12 miles for the first time this year. And I’ve not managed to fit in many shorter runs during the week. Usually by now I’ve done a couple of runs of 14 miles, as a minimum. That means I can be confident that I can, at the very least, get round without too much trouble.

So I face the challenge that I’m sure many others are facing. Do I push on next weekend and run the full distance? Or do I avoid the risks of pushing further in training so close to the race? I think I’ll be taking my own advice and not overdo it! I’ll be trusting that I’ve put enough miles into my legs over the years to get me through.

Good luck to everyone on the day. I may see some of you at the start. And, with luck, at the finish!

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