3 month preparation guide for the Great North Run

May 24, 2023

Updated 24th May 2023

Great North Run – 3 month preparation

Whether it’s your first time running the Great North Run or you’re an experienced half marathoner, preparation is key to reducing injury risk, achieving your goal, and enjoying the event. The training period for a half marathon is usually around 3 months, so now is a good time to have a
goal in mind and begin your preparation. The first key point is to reduce your injury risk throughout the training period and during the event itself. Here are some easy tips to do just that:

– Run your easy runs easy (so that you can run your hard sessions hard!). Easy runs should make up about 80% of your training. Only 20% should be moderate to higher intensity. Remember the ‘3 Cs’ of easy running: comfortable, controlled and conversational.

– Variety reduces repetition and is important for reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Keeping some variety in your training will also help with your motivation by keeping your training fun! Try running on different surfaces (trails, road, track), run with a group, and
build in some strength workouts into your week.

– Include a dynamic warm up before running and strengthening exercises post run to build strength and improve efficiency, therefore reducing injury risk and improving performance.

The Building Blocks of Marathon Training

 Base Mileage

-Increasing weekly mileage is the most effective way of building your endurance. Three-to-five runs per week is sufficient, with the majority being easy runs. This will help to build up your aerobic capacity and therefore efficiency – meaning you will be able to run for longer
without getting as fatigued. This type of training transfers to harder runs, or tempo runs, meaning you can hold a faster pace for longer, due to a higher aerobic capacity.

– When gradually building your mileage, never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent from week to week. Steady progression will reduce the risk of injury and discouragement. You should include 1-2 rest days (from impact activities) per week.

– Aim for an overall weekly mileage of 20-30 miles. This total workload ensures the body is capable of handling the stress of covering 13.1 miles and the impact forces of running for about two hours on race day.

The Long Run

– Your next step for your Great North Run preparation is to build up to a weekly long run. This should be done once every 7–10 days, extending the long run by a mile or two each week. More substantial increases in distance predispose you to injury. Every 3 weeks, scale it back by a few miles so as not to overtax
your body and risk injury. Before the race, it’s best to build up to running at least 10 miles once or twice to ensure you can confidently complete a half marathon.

– Doing these runs at a substantially slower pace than usual builds confidence, lets your body adjust to longer distances, and teaches you to burn fat for fuel.

Speed Work

– Speed work is great for maximising your aerobic capacity. Intervals and tempo runs are the most popular forms of speed work.

– Intervals are a set of repetitions of a specific, short distance, run at a substantially faster pace than usual, with recovery jogs in between. For example, you might run 4 X 1-mile repeats at a hard pace, with 5 minutes of slow jogging or even walking between the mile repeats.

– Tempo runs are longer than an interval—generally in the range of 4–10 miles, depending on where you are in your training—run at a challenging, but sustainable, pace. This kind of workout teaches your body, as well as your brain, to sustain challenging work over a longer
period of time.

– Always allow your body to warm up and cool down with a few easy miles at the beginning and end of any speed workout.

Rest and Recovery

– Rest days mean no running. They let your muscles recover from taxing workouts and help prevent mental burnout.

– It can help to do something active on your rest days, doing some cross-training is a great option. You could incorporate 1-2 30 minute cardiovascular non-impact sessions such as cross-trainer, cycling, swimming, walking, alongside 1-2 20 minute strengthening sessions weekly.

Strength Training

– Although strength training is excluded from many runners’ training programs, it is the backbone of great endurance training. When race preparation includes phases of general strengthening, such as running-specific strengthening, hill training and explosive work, running fitness can be maximized. Strengthening exercises will build the strength, agility and explosiveness you need to conquer challenging hill intervals and speed workouts. Supplementing running with strengthening exercises will not only aid in injury prevention but will make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.


– In the two or three weeks leading up to the Great North Run, or any half marathon event, scale back significantly on overall mileage and difficulty of your runs to let your body rest up for race day.

Running form and technique

There are a few factors to consider when it comes to running technique that can help reduce injury risk and improve efficiency and therefore performance. The main one you can look out for yourself is cadence. This is the number of steps you take per minute. Increasing your cadence to around 170-180 steps per minute reduces risk of heavy heel strike and overstriding, improving how you land and your ability to propel forwards. You can check this by counting your steps per minute or tracking it on your running watch.

For further running specific advice and injury treatment and prevention, get in touch to speak to one of our physios on 0191 285 8701, or email info@physiotherapymatters.co.uk. For help with running technique, injury prevention and strengthening exercises, why not consider booking in for a running gait analysis with us – have a look at our web page or contact us for more information on this.



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