I’ll be 100% honest: when I went for a 5km run in Byron Bay on January 3rd, feet thumping and breathing so loud people in Perth could hear me, I was so nervous at the thought of running 50km through the Blue Mountains I had the sweats. Well, I think it was a mix of nerves, combined with the alcohol seeping out of my pores and being ridiculously unfit.
But what made me slightly more comfortable was that I had a plan. At that stage, it was a fairly loose plan, but I felt it would get me into shape – and hopefully over the finish line.
If you’re thinking of doing an endurance event, here are a few tips, tricks and techniques that will help you tick it off the list.
Put together a timeline. If you’re looking to do a big run, you can’t run 5km every week thinking that will be enough to get you over the line. From the first week of Jan, Em and I mapped out a 16-week program – to be fair, I’d probably do it in 14 weeks if I had my time again, because the less time pounding the pavement for this ol’ body, the better. We started with 5km, and every two weeks we increased our LONG run (we did shorter runs around the long run each week) by 5km, until we worked our way up to 35km two weeks before the race. Here is our 2nd week of Jan and our 10km run – at the time it felt MASSIVE!
You don’t need to run a marathon to run a marathon. Though the race was 50km, we never actually ran 50km before the race. The furthest we ran was 35km to Manly (and then caught the ferry home). Here’s the thing: if you’ve done the conditioning, you don’t have to run the full distance before you rock up to the starting line. For example, if you’re aiming to run a half marathon, I’d advise conditioning your body so you’re able to run at least 15km. And for a full marathon, I’d suggest working your way up to 30km. When you’re well conditioned, you’ll be able to get more kilometres out of your legs – it’s just about pacing it and having the strength.
Make sure the plan is specific. We stuffed up on this one a bit. With the 50km blue mountains run there were a sh*tload more stairs and hills than we expected, and if we’d known that, we would have done more stairs and hills in our training. It’s all well and good training on flat roads, but if your event involves hills and bumpy terrains, then you want to practice on those!
Find your weakest link and work on it. Every time I went for a run, I’d LISTEN to my body to see what hurt first. My body has been frail in the past, so everytime I ‘felt’ something, I would make sure to focus on it the gym. My knees have always been a problem, so I worked on strengthening my legs. My ITBs were causing problems, so I got plenty of physio work with Em. My cramping has been a problem with past endurance races, so I did epsom salt baths and took magnesium, especially in the 3 weeks before the race. In the end, it was my groins (probably tightened up by the uneven terrain) that caught me off guard and the cramps kicked in with 1km to go – that’s when my body started to shut down on me.
Don’t underestimate recovery. I find recovery boring, like really boring. But in the 3 weeks before the race, I was SUPER conscious of it because I knew it could make or break me. I limited my alcohol intake (I had two drinks on my birthday), did some work in the water to freshen up my legs, and had epsom salt baths and massages twice a week. I also took my nutrition up to the ‘next level’ and tried to get an extra half hour of sleep each night.
On nutrition. It plays a massive role, and I’m lucky I had my good friend and 6W2S program nutrition advisor, Kira Sutherland, on my side. She’s the best in the business for endurance events and nutrition. We tried and tested a number of different gels, bars and powders on our long runs to see what felt right and what didn’t. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t eat or drink while I’m running but once you get over that 15km mark, you kind of need to. I also made sure to do a bit of carb loading in the two days before the race so I had enough fuel.
Above all, listen to your body. The plan and details above will WORK WONDERS for you, your training and your body, but everyone is different and every body responds differently. The rules above are a great guide, but you’ll need to tweak them depending on the event you’re doing.
And remember, I’m not a runner. And over the course of the last 4 months, I’ve been reminded of that NUMEROUS times from friends and family who’ve seen my body break down before, to endurance athletes who’ve told me I’m “too heavy” for long distances (Oz and I would have weighed 15kgs more than most of the runners).
I’m not a runner and I’ve just completed a 50km run. If I can do it, YOU can do it.
Big question is – how bad do you want it?