THE suggestion would be enough to make many people run a mile. But while the idea of a half-marathon may seem impossible at the moment to those who have done little or no running, with the right training and dedication it can become a realistic target.
Across Edinburgh and the Lothians, training is beginning for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Edinburgh half-marathon in April, which aims to raise money for Cancer Research UK and other causes.
While the event may come too soon for some, for others it could be just the motivation needed to make 2013 the year they get into shape.
Lynsey Macready, who works as an enterprise and research executive, is one of those who has signed up to the event which takes competitors on a picturesque route with musical interludes as local bands perform at every mile point and a special headliner performs at the finish line.
The 26-year-old says: “It feels like it’s going to be impossible but once I start the training it will be fine. I might not be first but I will finish!”
So, how do you go about working up to 13.1 miles from a standing start?
Helen Jackson, senior sports team manager for Cancer Research, says the biggest hurdle is getting out of the front door for the first day of training.
“Start by just going out walking,” she says. “That becomes run walking and then you can build up to running for half-an-hour. If you’re doing a half-marathon we recommend you aim to run nine or 10 miles a few weeks before the race. Once you’ve built up to this distance, allow yourself time to train down, so on race day your body is perfectly prepared to run the whole distance.”
Adrian Stott, an experienced marathon runner, meanwhile, says the most important thing is to set realistic goals when planning your training schedule.
“Don’t be too ambitious,” he says. “Do you want to compete or complete? There are different guidelines if you just want to finish the race rather than go for a time. How much time do you have to train? Look at your whole life work balance.”
Stott, who works at the specialist running shop Run and Become in Queensferry Street, adds: “It’s important to push yourself to go further but you have to allow your body time to recover. Train hard but rest just as hard.”
He suggests joining a running group for the camaraderie and also the moral support.
“You will get the best advice there from people who have done it before.”
Finally, he says, it is important to check out the event you will be running in and practise on the same type of terrain.
“If you’re running on a treadmill, you have to get out running on tarmac. It’s a different feeling with the legs using different muscles.”
If it is all starting to sound a bit daunting, then don’t worry as there is plenty of help and advice out there. Edinburgh Leisure has all the info you need at www.edinburghleisure.co.uk and experts on hand in the city’s gyms.
Gordon Faulkner, gym supervisor with Edinburgh Leisure, says anyone doing a race with “marathon” in the title should be prepared to spend a minimum of 90 minutes training “on their feet” on a regular basis.
“Failing to do enough distance in the build-up to a long race is the best way to cause yourself needless suffering and perhaps fail to finish on the big day. Gradually increasing your longest training session by about 10 per cent per week will ensure you get enough miles into your legs by race day.
“The fact is, you will need to be on your feet in training for a minimum of 90 minutes on a regular basis if you want to be doing these long-distance races. You’ll notice I say ‘time on your feet’, not just ‘time running’ or total distance. When you are increasing your mileage, it’s easy to do too much and push into injury. So it’s OK, for example, to run 25 minutes, walk five minutes, run 25 minutes. That’s an hour ‘on your feet’ but the short break will give your legs time to recuperate and make the overall effort much easier, without compromising the training effect of increasing stamina.”
Another top tip is not to tie yourself into a target time as you never know what will happen on race day. It is better to finish feeling you could have gone faster, rather than pushing too hard and not finishing at all.
Shannon Davis, event director for the half marathon, says: “Thirteen miles can seem really daunting when you’re starting out but with 12 weeks to go, there’s plenty of time to get in shape for race day.”
Donnie Campbell, a personal trainer and running coach, suggests working on your style before taking part in a long-distance race.
“If you’re running more naturally it will reduce the rate of injury,” he says.
As part of a training programme, Campbell, who works at Footworks in Bruntsfield, gets his clients to do different types of running, including speed sessions where they run a certain distance as fast as they can, hill reps where they run fast uphill and more slowly downhill, and interval sessions which involves 10 repetitions of running flat out for a certain distance, with a minute to recuperate.
In addition to running, he is a big believer in cross training, especially for people who have just taken up the sport.
In terms of the kit, he says it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on running shoes – as long as you have a pair that are comfortable, while the top should be made of a lightweight, breathable fabric.
On a final note, Campbell says: “Have fun and be safe. Try to enjoy it.”
Getting in tune …
IF you’ve signed up for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Edinburgh half marathon on Sunday April 14 now is the time to start getting race ready.
Week 1 – Take it easy and let your body adapt to running. Remember to warm up well first before each training session and don’t push too hard. Go at an easy pace, you should be able to still comfortably chat with a friend.
Monday: Rest or core/strength and conditioning – exercises like plank holds and walking lunges are great – hit the gym to help warm you up.
Tuesday: 20 minutes easy run/jog.
Thursday: 25 minutes easy run/jog.
Saturday: Rest or 30 minutes aerobic cross training at an easy pace. Spin or cycle classes and swim workouts are the perfect way to help build your stamina without taxing the muscles.
Sunday: 30-minute easy run.
Lynsey Macready’s diary
As someone who, until a year ago, didn’t “do” running and regularly scoffed at all-weather joggers, it would seem I’ve somehow made the transition to the Dark Side and agreed to run the Edinburgh Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon. In 12 weeks time. With only a 5k under my belt. Crazy? Probably.
Traditional January motivation, peer pressure and classic impulse decision-making have played a part, but my main reason for taking on the mammoth challenge is to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research, in honour of my late uncle Alan who we sadly lost to oesophageal cancer six months ago.
So here we go; 12 weeks, a manageable training plan, a mountain of pressure and most importantly, a massive dose of The Fear. With the exception of one guilt-fuelled Boxing Day run, my training has been minimal since my first and only 5k last summer. The “official” training plan starts next week, so the past seven days have mainly consisted of two fairly short practice runs, two very large pieces of cake and an accidental, slightly traumatic five-mile run thanks to missing my turn-off.
After a serious case of jelly legs and an explosive headache I did feel pretty satisfied afterwards, considering only a matter of months ago I would rather miss a bus than make any attempt to run for it. On realisation of the distance I had miraculously covered, a shocked and slightly smug exclamation of “I’m a machine!” may or may not have escaped my mouth...Nothing like a bit of self-congratulatory encouragement!
Despite a surprisingly reasonable start, the finish line does still feel a million miles away. My weak, little legs will now be repeatedly reminded to “man up” and I think this is probably the time to choose a new mantra along the lines of “my body is a temple” as opposed to “I really love cake”. I’m under no illusions, I’ve a long way to go, but saying that, this is only just the beginning. Hopes are high, determination is strong and as nineties one-hit wonders D:Ream once said, things can only get better!
Keep metabolism in shape with strength training
• As part of our Get Edinburgh Fit series, David McLean, Fitness Manager at Edinburgh Leisure, looks at strength exercises for home or the gym.
Strength training is important for keeping our body’s engine (metabolism) in shape, toning and improving bone health.
Strength training not only burns calories during your session, but continues to burn calories for hours after. It also gives your heart and lungs a work-out.
Correct technique is vital. Always start light and progress to more challenging exercises, alter your repetitions or increase weight to progress.
Just 20 minutes per day can have a positive effect. Here are a few exercises to get you started.
Squats: Great for your legs and glutes (buttocks). If too hard, use a chair and repeat sitting to standing. If too easy add resistance by holding weights or items like water bottles or shopping bags.
Aim for eight to 20 repetitions one to three times.
Push up/press ups: Can increase flexibility whilst strengthening and toning your shoulder, chest and arms. To make them easier, stand and use a wall. To increase the challenge start on the floor on your hands with your legs straight or place your feet on a fixed raised object like a foot stool. You are looking to achieve eight to 20 repetitions one to three times (at least three seconds for every rep).
Side Lunges: To mobilise and condition your thighs. Ensure you keep your back straight and head up. Add reach with your arms and step wider for increased challenge or alternate sides. To make easier, reduce your lunge distance. Eight to 15 repetitions each side one to three times.
Shoulder Press / Military Press: To work your shoulders, parts of the upper back and arms. Start with achievable weights progressing to heavier once you have mastered your technique. Lift your arms above your head at a controlled pace and ensure your shoulders don’t raise up towards your ears. Keep your head stable and look ahead. You should feel this in your shoulder and arms but never in your neck. Eight to 20 repetitions one to three times.
Know your limits – check with a doctor or physician if you are unsure of your limitations or if you have any prescribed medical condition.