Not exactly in shape for a cheeky 13.1 miles? Don’t sweat it, says Nicola Moyne
Earlier this year, I bit the bullet and ran the marathon. I positively whooped with joy at the finish line. Then I cried. Then I swore I’d never do it again. (I swore that part quite loudly, actually.) I was far safer, far wiser, to stay at home, I reasoned, lolling happily in my comfort zone (i.e. the sofa) with a packet of Hobnobs.
And so I spent the next few months gloriously ignoring my state-of-the-art running trainers and insulating my organs with deep-fried mac ’n’ cheese. After all, why stay in shape if you’re never going to run a marathon again?
Then something strange happened. A few friends declared that they were going to run the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon – a seriously scenic route that showcases London’s iconic Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’s Park and Green Park, as well as Buckingham Palace and the Royal Albert Hall. (Spoiler: it’s regularly voted one of the best organised half marathons in the country.)
A seed of doubt crept in as my friends excitedly started their training; even, dare I say it, jealousy. I could almost feel that finish-line rush again; the sun on my face as I high-fived enthusiastic spectators. Maybe I hadn’t made the right decision after all. Maybe running was my friend. And if I could run 26.2 miles in April, I could definitely run 13.1 now. Probably. My tipping point was hearing Ben Fogle had signed up. I HAD to enter.
But how to get in shape super-quick? Here’s the lazy girl’s guide to training for a half marathon in half the time. Don’t try this at home, kids…
For more information on the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon, which takes place on Sunday 9th October, visit royalparkshalf.com
Ditch the doughnuts
One run and you’re upping your dessert allowance. I hear ya. But a good diet is key in the build-up to race day and if you’re short on time, it’s even more important. The official line is that whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats are good (think wholemeal bagels, chicken and avocado), but stuffing yourself with pure, unadulterated sugar is bad (yep, that includes your Saturday-night round of cosmos. Sorry, ladies). Taking up running for the first time? Be sure to check out these 13 all-important running tips for beginners.
Finesse your fartleks
No, it’s not a rude addition to the Urban Dictionary – fartlek is Swedish for ‘speed play’ and it’s a great method for getting fit, fast. Start by warming up at your normal pace for a mile, then run as hard as you can for 60 seconds. Recover with a 90-second jog, then repeat. Work your way up to 3-minute intervals and you’ll soon be giving Usain a run for his money. OK, that’s a lie, but regular fartlek training will improve your fitness and speed.
Get hot on your hills
Hill starts teach your body how to push through the pain and keep going, despite dreaded jelly legs. Find a long hill, sprint up it for 90 seconds at 90 per cent effort, then jog slowly back down to recover. Then repeat 6 (yes, 6) times. Finish off with a 4-minute recovery jog, then run 2 or 3 miles at your desired half-marathon pace. You’ll be knackered, but your confidence will soar as your stamina improves.
Work the plank
Yes, we’ve all seen Millie Mackintosh’s perfect plank – but now it’s your turn. Why? Because it’s a great way to build up your core strength and you’ll thank me for it later. I promise. Try perfecting the push-up plank for some killer glutes.
Soak up the atmosphere
I’m not talking race day. I’m talking baths – lovely scented, steaming baths. There’s nothing better for soothing sore muscles than a hot, lavender-oil laced soak at the end of a run. Use the time to envisage yourself making it over that finish line in one piece and it also doubles as an effective PMA session. #winning.