My running curiosity began at a young age- strongly influenced by my parents whom both have run as their form of exercise for as long as I can remember. I commenced running in high school in the cross-country team. From here, I ran for leisure with the sole reason of clearing my mind and the post-run endorphin rush.
Until November 2022, I felt quite stagnant with my running. I would always complete the same 5km distance, running a similar route, with a very similar time. I was very consistent- running 2-3 times per week interspersed with other forms of cross training/exercise as well such as Pilates and strength training with weights. I always found this “same-same” challenging- regardless of how often I was running. I even recruited some friends and formed a small run club of just 4 of us- but we all found we had a similar feeling of hitting a plateau.
I was in awe of people who had completed a half, or full marathon. I felt this was beyond my limit so decided to challenge myself and set a long term goal to complete a half marathon within 5 years.
One morning, my friends and I decided to run 10km. Not aiming for any time- just aiming to complete the kilometres. We finished the distance and felt quite good (to our surprise)- so decided then and there to book into a half marathon, in 3 months’ time.
With my knowledge of running from a Physiotherapist’s perspective, I wanted to be gradual and thoughtful with my training. I was very keen to avoid any overuse injury by overdoing training or spiking my workload too quickly. I also wanted to enjoy the race, and knew training effectively would promote these goals. Running with a friend was absolute key to my success and commitment. Along with this, some of the key elements that went into my training considerations include:
1. Shoes: I knew that a good quality pair of specific running shoes was integral- so purchased a pair of Hoka Clifton 8s (my holy grail!). Please note different bodies need different shoes so ensure you get informed advice re shoe options for yourself. 2. Environment: The half marathon I signed up for was the Busselton Half- which I knew was a relatively flat terrain with barely any hills so a good one to start with. This meant my training runs were on flat routes.
3. Muscle Soreness: Whilst still participating in weight training, spin classes, and dynamic Pilates classes- my muscles were quite sore, a lot of the time. I was experiencing DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) frequently- and this posed a challenge to running. I found I had to schedule my strength work around running, so set aside days to complete each. I would run each Wednesday and Sunday, with strength training on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Avoiding strength 1 day prior to my run was what worked best for my body and is the recommended guideline.
4. Prioritising Rest: This was something quite foreign to me. I have never been that great at resting or taking things slow. I found that having a minimum of one rest day (just walking for exercise on these days) allowed my body to feel energised for the run, and to ease any DOMS. As well as rest days, increasing my sleep was another important factor for success.
5. Nutrition: Everyone always reiterates the importance of fuelling properly for exercise- specifically running. I truly found this to have such an incredible impact on how my run felt. If I prioritised protein and carbs the night before the run, this made my run feel far easier and more enjoyable. WHAT MY TRAINING LOOKED LIKE:
I began training by running twice per week- solely based on how I was feeling on the day.
I commenced with 1 x 5km run per week, and 1 x longer run per week. This longer run started as a gradual build. The longer run began at 8km. Each week, I increased the longer run by 1km or 2km based on how I felt during my run. Being realistic and flexible was important, some weekends the long run just wasn’t going to happen as I still wanted balance and a social life.
Some runs felt more challenging than others. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to give up multiple times. It honestly was mind over matter.
My shorter distance soon progressed to 8km or 10km, with 1x longer run. If I felt up to it in the week and had time - I would go for a short and fast 5km run. Pace change allows muscles to fire differently and can avoid repetition overload and injury.
I tracked all of my runs through my Apple Watch and also the app ‘Strava’. During every run, I would continuously check my pace to ensure I wasn’t starting too fast and leading to a quick burnout, or alternatively wasn’t fluctuating my pace too much throughout.
My goal throughout the entire process, was never to achieve a specific time. I purely wanted to complete the distance injury-free and in one piece. My long runs would be slow - once again with the purpose of completing the distance.
As much as I had hoped to remain consistent with training, I had a period of 9-10 days where the motivation to run lacked. Despite my good intentions, I didn’t run a single day… and was a bit apprehensive about the half marathon looming in the very near future of just over 2 weeks away
I completed my longest distance run of 15km, 2 weeks before the big day. From then, I weaned my training down to allow for my body to recover and be prepared.
One week before the run, I booked a physio consult with Jill at Featherstone to check in on my body. I had noticed my quads (front thigh) and IT (side thigh) bands were quite tight and was just seeking advice on best management and steps moving into the week leading up to the run, as well as immediate recovery after. Jill advised me to ensure I was ‘warmed up’ prior to the run on the day through light walking and stretches, and to consistently foam roll my quads and IT bands both leading up to the run and afterwards for recovery. Jill’s advice was specifically targeted for me at this point. I felt confidence post check in that I was ready to run and had a pre race routine in the few days leading up to the event.
The week leading up to the run I ran 1 time, 3 days prior, with a medium distance of 10km at a chilled pace to ensure my legs and body weren’t shocked by running the full half marathon. The day after this, I did a reformer Pilates class for exercise and that was all. I then rested the next day. I was conscious of my diet and hydration and prioritised protein and carbohydrates prior to the run. In addition to getting 7-8+ hours of sleep per night for the entire week in preparation for the big day.
Stay tuned for Courtney’s next blog on how she went on the day and what she focused on for her recovery. Be in touch if you have questions, concerns or are keen for guidance with your running goals – however small or large they are.