The Great North Run attracts more runners than any other half marathon in the world, including lots of people who have not run for many years, or perhaps never even run before.
Regular runners will already be training, and have their schedules mapped out. But for everyone else, especially if you’re starting from scratch, you absolutely must start your Great North Run training as soon as possible. May is a good time to start, so get your trainers on and go for it!
Here is the Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic beginners’ guide to starting your Great North Run training:
1. Find someone to run with
Running can sometimes be a solitary sport – and some people prefer it that way – but if you’re struggling for motivation, the best thing you can do is find someone, or lots of people, to run with. It helps your motivation if you know someone is depending on your to turn up to a session on time!
The best thing you can do is to join a running club or a running group – there are loads around that cater to beginners. Take part in as many sessions as possible, and there will be people who can give you advice on technique, kit, shoes, etc. Alternatively, find a friend who lives locally to you and who is also taking part in the run. Set up regular training sessions with them.
2. Start with short distances and build up
Don’t go out and attempt to run a 10km if you don’t have a strong running background or haven’t run for a long time. Start with small distances and build up gradually. It’s likely that you’ll experience mild pain in your leg muscles, and possibly in your chest and lungs, as your body grows used to exercise. As long as the pain isn’t too acute, and goes away quite quickly, then it’s perfectly normal.
Remember: even a short training session is better than no session at all. If you only have time to run a mile, then that’s fine (as long as you still warm up properly!)
3. Join in with Park Runs
Park Run is a fantastic non-profit movement that has really grown in popularity over the past few years – it’s free to take part in races near you (they are all over the country) and very friendly and welcoming to new people. The 5km (3.1mi) races take place every Saturday morning and would be a great place to start your training. It will also help you to get used to running in groups, with people all around you.
Of course, Park Runs are not long enough to provide the basis for all of your training (it’s less than a quarter of the length of a half marathon), but they will provide a good early foundation. You can find out more about Park Run on its website here.
4. Leave your stopwatch/GPS watch at home (at first)
When you start training, it can be easy to fixate on times and distances – this is great if you’re running well, but it can be demoralising if you’re still in the process of gaining fitness.
For the first month or so of training, ignore the speed you’re running at, and try to focus on running in a relaxed manner with good technique, keeping in control of your breathing. When you can run a few miles in relative comfort, it’s time to start thinking about pace and increased distances.
5. Listen to your body
Listen to your body, especially if you haven’t run for a long time. When you are just starting out, it can be difficult to tell the difference between fatigued muscles and actual injuries, so make sure you always warm up carefully before your exercise, and cool down properly afterwards. The benefit of starting your training with plenty of time to go is that you don’t feel rushed. You can give your body time to recover between sessions, safe in the knowledge you have plenty of time to build up the strength and stamina you’ll need to complete a half marathon.
If you do feel you have picked up an injury, don’t be tempted to ‘run through it’. You might make it worse, and it can affect the way you run: you may over-compensate for the injury, causing problems elsewhere. If symptoms of an injury haven’t gone away after a couple of days, it might be worth seeking professional help so your training is not disrupted. Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic is the best-known physiotherapist service in the North East and has decades’ worth of experience in helping runners to recover from injuries. Contact us via the form here if you need help and advice.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Seek help from experienced runners or coaches to work out what you should be doing and when.
You can find training schedules online, but they won’t be tailored and they might not be appropriate for you, so bear that in mind and work at a pace that suits you. If you are relying on online resources to formulate a training plan, make sure you do plenty of research and cross-refer your sources to get a good mix of advice.
7. Enjoy the weather!
The London Marathon is notoriously difficult to train for because it requires runners to train through the winter. This year, especially, we had a very harsh winter, which made training especially arduous, and the warmest ever London Marathon, which provided very tough conditions for runners.
The Great North Run is the exact opposite – you get to train through the summer, and then the temperature has usually cooled off by the time the event comes around, frequently leading to great running conditions on the day.
8. Get advice on what trainers you should wear
It’s important not to guess at what footwear to wear. Also, don’t stroll into a ‘fashion’ footwear shop and expect to come out with appropriate long-distance trainers. Speak to a specialist in a dedicated running shop or, even better, speak to us for a foot and gait analysis. Our podiatrists can analyse the way you run, and look at the way your feet hit the ground, and advise the best shoes for your specific style. Contact us here to book a gait analysis.
9. Attend our running class!
Our Track, Trail and Tarmac running class is also a great way to get started with running. It’s aimed at all levels of runner and, if you’re a beginner, will give you a perfect grounding in starting running. It will also help to motivate you by ensuring you feel more confident in what you’re doing. You can find out more about our Track, Trail and Tarmac class here.