The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) has a 160-strong running squad in preparation for the Great North Run. To help out our first-timers and pros alike, running expert Emma Mitchell from Up and Running in Darlington, gives you an insider’s guide to training before the big day.
Here are her top tips:
Build up your fitness slowly.
“If you’re a total beginner, don’t worry we’ve all been there. You might hate your first run but it gets better. Start with one minute of walking and two minutes of jogging and build up as you go. Training varies from runner to runner so don’t compare yourself to anybody else. It helps if you record your runs and follow a simple training plan.If you feel you have pushed yourself too hard one week, go back to the previous week’s training and take it at your own pace. After all you know your own body so make sure you enjoy the ride.”
Warm up before a run and make sure you stretch afterwards.
“Before your run do some dynamic stretches and jog on the spot. It can often look like you’re doing a silly dance but warm up activities prevent injury and improve performance. A good warm up makes sure that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen and increases your muscles’ temperature for flexibility and efficiency.
“Remember, just as critical is the cooldown which keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. Stopping suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly so winding down slowly allows them to fall gradually. Don’t underestimate the importance of either.”
Put effort into maintaining a strong core.
“Make sure you build a strong core and maintain it. This means concentrating on the muscles in your abdominals, lower back and glutes to help you run your best. They provide the stability, power, and endurance that runners need for powering up hills, sprinting to the finish, and staying efficient from mile to mile.
“This training will help you put more force behind each step and run more capably, as well as stopping you from hunching over when you’re tired at the end of runs. When your core is strong, everything else will follow. It’s the foundation for all of your movement, no matter what level of running you’re doing.”
If you find motivation difficult on your own, make running social.
“Park runs happen all around the country. There are weekly 5k timed runs that are open to everyone. There’s one around South Park in Darlington on a Saturday morning that’s organised by volunteers and free to join. They are a friendly bunch and somebody always runs at the back of the group so you will never be the last one in the pack. It helps you to keep on track and can take your mind off what you’re inevitably doing.
“If this isn’t your thing, then mix it up somehow else – cycle or swim – you don’t just have to stick to running while you’re training. “
Find what works best for you.
“The training stage is all about seeing what works best for you. Decide what it feels like running with a water bottle in your hand and whether you’d like water or an energy drink to take with you on the day. Try energy boosting gels on your training runs and try different types to see how you feel after each. Variables such as the length of your run, the temperature and your pace will affect what you should consume.
“You can take hydration tablets if it’s a hot day but take into account you may be training in different temperatures than what you may be running in in September. Practice what you’re going to eat before the big day too. I eat a small sandwich one hour before I go for a run and then take gels if I’m running for more than an hour. If you’re not sure where to start, seek advice.”
Read blogs and listen to advice from other runners.
“There are some great blogs out there that can provide inspiration and inside knowledge. Lazy Girl Running is one of my favourites but there are others like DC Rainmaker too. These people started out just like all of us, so it gives you a sense that you can achieve what they have. Search around online for training or nutrition tips but gain professional guidance too. We have training plans from beginner to 5k, 5k to 10k or 10k to a half marathon, for every kind of runner, so drop by for some face to face direction.”