First of all congratulations to you all for taking this first step.
13.1 miles – 21.1k and 22 weeks to get there.
How do you run a half marathon?
You can run it all; run/walk; or crawl. You cannot quit.
But don’t worry – by the time we get there none of you will contemplate quitting. You will feel strong and full of energy – possibly the best you’ve ever felt. You’ll have me nagging you – ‘don’t bolt off. Remember your pacing, run your own race not anyone else’s. Remember to drink – remember to gel, etc’ – your main problem will be excitement and over exuberance. Even the slowest of you won’t quit because I’ll be running with you – coaching you round in the best time you’re capable of. The finish line and Otto’s later will be something to behold.

So how do we train for a half marathon?

Specificity is the key word here. We simply have to run. Nothing else will benefit us as much as running although some core and strength work will contribute.
So, we need one ‘long’ and slow run per week preferably at the weekend and other shorter faster runs during the week.
The long run (starting short and gradually building up) will ensure you complete the 13.1m distance and the shorter runs will ultimately determine how fast you do it. The long run is most important obviously and every effort should be made to do it – even at the expense of missing the others.

Gear up for the weather – if it ain’t raining it ain’t training. We can talk about this when we meet. The good thing about Winter training is that you’ve experienced the worst – April will seem tropical.

On occasions we can treadmill and work in the gym but long runs are outdoors.

Real training will begin 3 January – 13 weeks from the race. So we need to be at a level where we can run 7k (4.3 miles) comfortably by the New Year. Then we add 1k every week to our long run – taking us up to 17-20k two weeks before the race. So the more we can .get in now the better – its called Base Training. We begin to condition your body for the training to come – too much too soon will just cause injury and disillusionment. The key, long run will be done at a comfortable pace for each individual. This run is to be enjoyed and looked forward to. You will not feel knackered at the end – you will have enjoyed it. The short midweek runs will be the ones to take you out of comfort zones.

Core and resistance work in the gym will help but not substitute the runs.

Got all that? There’s lots more to it but we will have plenty of time to talk during sessions. I can advise you on nutrition and we will practice nutrition strategies for the race.

It will be fun I can already tell from Whatsapp. Keep remembering your goal because there will be tears and downers but you will come through. Every time that gremlin taps you on the head and says ‘Haven’t you got things to do instead of training?’ Visually swipe him away; do not engage in a discussion with him because you will lose. He doesn’t really exist anyway (you know that right?) – so you’re pretty foolish even acknowledging him. But he keeps coming back – ‘one more bottle of Prosecco won’t hurt’. He’ll do everything he can to derail you. Even during the runs he’ll be there – ‘your lungs are going to explode, your knee’s going to give in, is everything foggy?’ Just keep batting him off and eventually he gets bored. We’ll discuss strategies to top him.

What happens when we’ve done the run?
Other than the obvious celebrations?
Here’s what I think: One of you at least will be sat at home 2 weeks later watching the London Marathon. Marveling at the site of 40,000 runners smiling and excited in Greenwich Park about to take on one of the greatest endurance challenges known to man in one of the greatest cities on the planet. The number 1 marathon in the world. Your heart will swell with pride for the large woman you’ve never met with a photograph of someone on her vest. She’s got bottle. You’ll stand up and wipe away your tears. Then the gremlin reappears but this time his face is contorted with panic. You give him your brightest, best ever smile. This time you don’t swipe him away, he’s no longer a threat, he’s puny and weak – he can watch. You pick up your phone and you set up a new Whatsapp!

ps – no apologies for the gratuitous photo of Gal Gadot – she got the most votes for the body you would most like to have.

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