3 month preparation guide for the Great North Run

July 5, 2017

Great North Run – Preparation for Success

Running a half marathon seemed like a fun idea when your friend talked you into it a few months ago. But now that it’s time to hit the road, you may be wondering what you got yourself into. Don’t worry. Getting to that start line may be daunting, but it’s not as tough as it seems. The training period for the half marathon is usually around three months (versus five for the marathon), and recovery is substantially faster than for the marathon.

Stay Healthy Long-Term You can’t train (or race) well if you’re injured.

Reducing your risk of injury

  1. “Sandwich” your runs between a dynamic warm-up and a runner-specific strength routine Both the warm-up and the post-run strength workout help build athleticism, strength in the areas that runners need it most, and gradually improve your running efficiency.running-498257__340
  2. Run slow on your recovery days. Too many runners push the effort on their easy days, compromising recovery and performance on subsequent priority workouts. Instead, remember the “3 Cs” of easy running: comfortable, controlled, and conversational.
  3. Variety reduces repetition—and injuries are technically called repetitive stress injuries.

By rotating 2-3 pairs of running shoes, running a variety of paces throughout your training, getting off the concrete and onto softer surfaces, and introducing dynamic stretching and strength exercises, you’re teaching your body to be more athletic and more injury resilient.

Mileage and the Almighty Long Run

Increasing weekly Mileage is the most effective way of building your endurance. Combined with a regular long run, these two training elements will get you ready to complete 13.1 miles with enough gas left in the tank to finish strong.

Most beginner half marathoners should aim to complete at least 20 miles per week, but preferably 25-30 miles, during their highest volume training weeks. 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 is also critical. 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.

The Four Building Blocks of Marathon Training

 Base Mileage

Three-to-five runs per week is sufficient. The vast majority of these runs should be done at a relaxed pace. You should run at an easy enough pace to be able to carry on a conversation. Initially these runs may include walking/jogging/running pace.

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

The Long Run

Your next step 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 (and we know how valuable injury prevention efforts are for runners). Every 3 weeks, scale it back by a few miles so as not to overtax your body and risk injury.

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 an optional element to incorporate into your training program. It can increase your aerobic capacity and make your easy runs feel… well, easy! 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. The greatest enemy of any aspiring marathoners is injury, and the best protection against injury is rest.

If you are itching 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, rower, cycling, swimming, Pilates, walking or core strengthening sessions, 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.

Single leg exercises are of huge benefit not just to runners, but athletes of all types. Take something as fundamental as your running stride, you’re only ever supported on one leg or the other as you run… whether you’re running a marathon, or chasing after a ball in the outfield. You’ll also be challenged a great deal more in terms of stability – at the ankle, knee and hip in particular.


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

If you feel you need any individually tailored expert advice, exercises or treatment Physiotherapy Matters is here to help you! Make this once in a lifetime experience as memorable as possible and reduce your risk of injury by contacting us today.

Look out for our 4 week count down for the GNR preparation final tips and advice


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