Top 10 | Tips for running your first marathon

1. Stick to what you know

Adopting a new meal plan, sleep pattern, running shoe or warm-up technique on the day of your first marathon is a recipe for disaster. Follow your routine from training on the day of the race. Train like you plan on racing. Eat what you’re going to eat before the race. Marathon morning is not the time for even a slightest change in your routine.

2. Don’t over-carb it

By all means up your carb content during your taper – but be wary over overdoing it! If you’re not a big carbohydrate eater as it is, this is just going to make you feel pretty bloated and rotten come race morning. Your mileage is already going to be lower during this week, therefore your calorie burning is lower too. Be conscious of this, and stick to a good balance without going crazy on the spaghetti carbonara!

3. Do some pre-race map reading

This may sound silly, but if you’ve not managed to already get out on the marathon course during your training plan, it’s worth spending some time looking over the course map and familiarising yourself with some key points on the way round. This will give you piece of mind along the course

4. Don’t underestimate the amount of fuel you’ll need

As much as a good breakfast is critical to fuelling your energy levels before a marathon, it won’t keep you going the whole way around. Muscles use up carbohydrate, which will quickly deplete during your marathon. By consuming gels as you run, your muscles will take less fuel from your carbohydrate store to keep you going for longer. Keep things consistent with your training and what works for you – but as a good starter I’d say consuming 2 gels every hour to ensure a large store of carbohydrate will set you up for a strong finish.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

If you have a bad run, don’t beat yourself up about it! It’s common to have a ‘bad’ run a month or two before your marathon. We’ve all had that confidence shattering run, where we’ve struggled so much we’re left contemplating whether the race we’re training for is even in our reach. Struggling is natural. If your body is telling you that 12 miles is too much on that day, listen to it – there is always tomorrow.

6. Don’t start too fast on race day

A mistake new marathoners commonly make is getting carried away with the excitement on the day. The hype of the race often makes people sprint , I remember this back in Paris. If you take off flying, three miles in you’ll be tired with 23 more miles to go. Start off slow. Pick up your speed as you get going. Once you’re on the move, be aware of how your body feels so you can create your own rhythm. Take the time to decide what to do next – pick up the pace, or stay where you are. Don’t get caught up with everyone around you,. Listen to what’s going on with your own body.

7. Wear the right clothes

Just as I mentioned with trainers, finding and wearing the right gear is just as important as finding the motivation to get out there and get started. There’s something about pulling on a new pair of leggings or  investing in a fancy sports bra (so what if it’s only you that gets to appreciate it) that makes getting out the door that little bit inspiring, after all if you’re forking out on some Lululemon or Sweaty Betty gear you’ll want people to appreciate it right? As cliched as it may sound — theres a whole lot of truth in look good-feel good.

8. Keep your head high

Don’t let people who look like serious runners intimidate you. Many people look like they are about to race for a gold medal at the Olympics. But don’t get caught in that place of thinking that everyone looks so strong and fit. Looks mean nothing. Only your own inner determination to do your best gets you to the finish line. This is your race.

9. Write your name on your shirt or wear something unique

When I ran the New York Marathon in 2016, I wore a plain white running top and one fan actually yelled right to me, “Go white T-shirt guy!” In 2017, when I had my name plastered across my chest for the first time, the personalised “Go Lily!” cheers made a huge difference.

10. Bring warm clothes and a throw-away blanket to the start

Sitting on the ground in the cold for two to five hours is not a pleasant way to prepare to run a marathon. If you are cold or stiff before the race you are probably going to be in trouble. Although most marathons have race staff that will bring your clothes to the finish line, the bag provided usually isn’t big enough for the blanket, so bring something you don’t mind leaving behind.

 

The Habit Hunter x

Insight Into | Mission Marathon Week 5 – 8

January was a hit and miss (more miss than hit) month for me. I was gutted to be struck down with a relentless IT band injury. One that seems to have been clinging to me like a bad smell since I ran the Race to the Stones back in July. However, the past week has brought me some new positivity. I must first credit Neil Meekings from Kinect Health, who has been working with me to put things back in place. Over the past few months I’ve seen physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths – you name it, I’ve seen it! my nearest and dearest will vouch for me on this one. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend this, there has been a silver lining to the process, and that has been finding Neil at Kinect Health. Finally, someone looking at things with a fresh perspective, analysing all aspects of my movement (and lack of), and seeking to find the root cause of the problem, and not just dealing with the localised pain.

Needless to say this has been a set back to the first month of training, and has left me on the back foot in terms of achieving my Runners World x Vifit Sport Mission Marathon goal. However, I will be coming back stronger, fitter & (fingers crossed) injury free over the next week!

Whilst, I may be behind on my schedule, I wanted to share my original plan for the next 4 weeks of training for those of you that are perhaps looking towards a similar goal and have already under taken the first 4 weeks of training that I outlined in my previous post.  Here goes:

Week 5 – Total Miles: 55

Monday – 9 miles easy with 10x100m strides
Tuesday – 2 mile warmup, drills, 4x50m strides, 7x1k @ 3.45 to 3.40 pace, recovery 400m jog, cool down 2 miles
Wednesday – recovery 5 miles a.m., recovery 4 miles p.m.
Thursday – 2 mile warmup, some running drills then 16×400 @ 3.30 pace rest is 400m jog, cd 1 mile jog
Friday – recovery run 7 miles
Saturday – 14 miles easy pace with last mile at 4.05 pace
Sunday – Rest

Week 6 – Total Miles: 60

Monday – 8 miles easy with 10x100m strides
Tuesday – 2 miles warmup, drills, 4x50m strides then 4x1200m @ 3.45 to 3.50 pace, recovery 400m job, cool down 2 miles
Wednesday – recovery 5 miles a.m., 4 miles p.m.
Thursday – 3 mile warmup, drills, with 4x2mile tempo @ 4.05 to 3.55 pace, cool down 2 miles
Friday – Rest
Saturday – 17miles start @ 4.40 to 5 pace until mile 5, 6-10 miles @ 4.25, 11-16 @ 4.15, last mile @ 4.09
Sunday – Recovery 5 miles

Week 7 – Total Miles: 61

Monday – 10 easy with 10x100m strides
Tuesday – 1 mile warmup, running drills, 4x50m strides then 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 with 400 jog in between all at (400 @ 3.35, 800 @ 3.40, 1200 @ 3.50, 1600 @ 4.00)
Wednesday – recovery 5 miles a.m., 4 miles p.m.
Thursday – 2 mile warmup with 7 mile tempo @ 4.05 pace, 2 mile cool down
Friday – recovery run 8 miles and 5x50m strides and 20min core workout
Saturday – 16 miles easy
Sunday – Rest

Week 8 – Total Miles: 54

Monday – 8 easy a.m, 4 miles with 5x100m strides p.m.
Tuesday – 2 mile warmup drills, then 6 x mile @ 3.55, 2 min rest, cool down 2 miles
Wednesday – recovery 4 miles a.m., 4 miles p.m.
Thursday – 2 mile warmup, 6 miles @ 4.05 then rest 2 mins, then 2 miles sub 4.05, cool down 2 miles
Friday – Rest
Saturday – 18 easy with last mile 4.05 pace
Sunday – Recovery run 6 miles

Please do let me know if you have any questions, or any tips that can help me on my journey!

Thank you, The Habit Hunter x

Top 10 | On-the-go Running Snacks

Since completing my first ultra-run back in May at the Dukeries 40 Ultra, and whilst training for the Race to the Stones 100km a key focus has been figuring out which foods I can enjoy whilst on-the-go. Considering for both of these races I am required to carry the food myself, I was keen to ensure nothing was too heavy so they all tend to be snack size (i.e. mars bar size or smaller). I had a big reality check at the Dukeries Ultra having ill-prepared. With a complete and utter sweet tooth I packed an abundance of sweet treats, but hitting mile 30 all I was dreaming about was a packet of ready salted hula hoops – lesson learnt.. you need to prepare for every craving.

Over and above this, I am slowly learning that the key is to eat when you’re not hungry and drink when you’re not thirsty, sticking with the classic ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ motto that is very often drummed into me! But seriously – whilst I know more than most how difficult it can be to take fuel on board whilst running, and not feeling a big appetite, it’s the key to keep you ticking over and ensure you get to the finish line in one piece! There’s a mix below, whilst for an ultra gels and jelly sweets just aren’t going to cut it, indulging in a protein bar for a 5km might be a tad extravagant! So I’ve tried to help out and suggest when I think they could be best, but ultimately your body will tell you what it needs!

1. Coconut Almond Butter Filled Clif Bar


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: Half-Marathon to Ultra-Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: Protein Pick & Mix

2. Tribe Cacao Orange Energy Bar


​RECOMMENDED FOR: Half-Marathon to Ultra-Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: Tribe

3. Clif Blok Shot Energy Chews


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: 5km – Ultra-Marathon (not going to cut it for more than a quick energy boost during an ultra)
WHERE TO BUY: Wiggle

4. Torq Rhubarb & Custard Energy Gel


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: 10km – Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: Wiggle

5. Pip & Nut Peanut Butter Squeeze Packs


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: Half-Marathon – Ultra-Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: Pip & Nut or Ocado

6. Good Health Filled Salted Pretzels


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: Marathon – Ultra-Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: iHerb

7. Optimum Nutrition Watermelon Amino Energy Drink


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: 10km – Ultra-Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: Optimum Nutrition

8. Ape Crunchy Coconut Bites


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: Marathon – Ultra-Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: Planet Organic

9. Tribe Infinity Choc Salt


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: Marathon – Ultra-Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: Tribe

10. Clearspring Seaveg Crispies


​​RECOMMENDED FOR: 10km – Ultra-Marathon
WHERE TO BUY: Planet Organic

The Habit Hunter x

Top 5 | London Running Routes

“Unexplored Paths Lead to Undiscovered Treasures”

‘Spring Marathon Season’ is upon us, which for many means ‘Panic Season’ is among us. Regardless of what anyone says, running in the Winter can bring the bleakest of times, battling with wind, rain and the unpredictable British climate. However, there’s also those crispy frosty mornings with the most beautiful sunsets that can suddenly seem to subside the drab feelings of those miserable days! So don’t let the weather be an excuse, mix up your training spots, explore some new London running routes and don’t stress about missing a training run now and again (we all do it).

1. THE UNEXPLORED PARK ROUTE


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WHERE: Richmond Park
DISTANCE: 11.6KM
NEAREST TUBE: East Putney or Barnes

2. THE CANAL ROUTE


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WHERE: East London Towpaths
DISTANCE: 10KM
NEAREST TUBE: Mile End or Limehouse

3. THE LUNCH BREAK ROUTE


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WHERE: Regents Park & Primrose Hill
DISTANCE: 5.4KM
NEAREST TUBE: Regents Park, Great Portland Street or Warren Street

4. THE TRAIL ROUTE


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WHERE: Hampstead Heath
DISTANCE: 5.8KM
NEAREST TUBE: Hampstead

5. THE ROYAL PARKS ROUTE


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WHERE: Hyde Park, St James Park, Green Park & Kensington Palace Gardens
DISTANCE: 10.5KM
NEAREST TUBE: Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, St James Park or Lancaster Gate

The Habit Hunter x

Top 8 | Tips for New Runners

“Run in the morning, before your brain figures out what you’re doing” 
​​

1.Buy a good pair of trainers

This might sound obvious, but the number of people I get asking me ‘How do you not get blisters? Why are your feet never sore?’ has made me realise that too many people start out the wrong way — with the wrong shoes. Yes, trainers can be expensive,  but investing in a good pair that suit you, your running stride and the shape of your feet is vital to your training, even as a beginner.

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Asics Gel Nimbus 18 or Adidas Ultra-Boost ATR (they’re honestly like running on clouds)!

2. Enter a race

Something that to many beginners sounds both ridiculous and daunting. However, when I bit the bullet and entered my first 10km race that was the motivation I needed to get out and run. Not only have you paid the entry fee (it’s a waste of money if you don’t run)! But if you’re running for a charity, the added pressure of fundraising and not letting the charity down can encourage (pile you with guilt) to get your training started.

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Dependent on your ultimate goal I’d recommend the following events close to/in London, they’re all really friendly (mildly competitive), and great for first-timers:
5km:  ZSL London Zoo Stampede
10km: Richmond Spring Riverside 10k
10miles: Valentines Tough Love 10ish Miles
Half-Marathon: Royal Parks Half

3. Time > Distance

It’s easy to spend too much time thinking about reaching distance goals, saying to yourself “I’m going to run 5km today” or “I need to get in my 10 mile run to keep to the training plan”, reality is, we feel different each time we run. Some days, you might feel like you are dragging yourself around the course, others you get to the end and could do another lap. Needless to say these feelings alter the pace at which we run at, so spending too much time focussing on getting distance in is counteractive. Instead set yourself time goals — start with a low target (maybe 25/30 minutes and just keep going) and gradually increase it over time, whether that means you end up running 2km’s or 10km’s you’ve kept going. Training your feet to be out and moving for a set time is just as (possibly even more so) important as building up distance.

4. Don’t beat yourself up over missing a run

If you’re not feeling up to it — simply don’t do it. There are some days where you’ll hit a complete lull, any runner telling you otherwise is either superhuman or lying. Yes there are days when we all need a little motivation and once we’ve made it out the door we feel a whole lot better for going. However, there are other days when simply the thought of stepping out of the door is too much to handle. On these days — don’t bother. Not only will it just start making a run into a chore rather than an enjoyment, but neither your mind nor body will thank you for it either. After all, rest is key to letting yourself recover properly and avoiding injury.

5. Don’t stress too much over 10% increase

As a beginner you may find yourself heading over to your expert running coach ‘google’ who no doubt will inform you of a training plan that involves this 10% increase — having to calculate percentages and go for a run? That’s enough to put any beginner off tying their shoelaces and getting out the door. Whilst it is important to increase your running time as the weeks go by, being as structured as a percentage increase can just be overwhelming. After all, you’ve set the goal, you’ve started that’s a positive in itself. If you’re sticking to what you want to achieve, whether that’s 3, 4 or 5 weekly runs (doing any less is just going to be a little counteractive) you’ll soon begin to feel comfortable and know when you can start to pick up the pace or run for that little bit longer!

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Spend some time noting the pace of your first few runs and how you felt afterwards (I’m talking one word not a whole diary insert) – “Great, Comfortable, ‘On Deaths Door'” – this will give you the chance to find a good starting point and figure out what’s achievable over time.

6. Join a running group (not for everyone) — do what’s right for you

For some, the prospect of running alone is enough to put them off altogether, for others (myself included) that downtime is the best time. So do what is right for you, don’t get me wrong, I love speaking to like-minded people, and running with others on occasion, but I also enjoy the headspace of just myself and my music. Getting started can be a lot easier by surrounding yourself with others in the same boat, so whether it’s simply using one of your runs every week as a social run with others it could be the boost you need to keep yourself motivated. But most importantly, do what’s right for you. Running clubs are great for providing that supportive network, the likelihood there’s a constantly active Facebook group that you’ll be immediately enrolled into once you join, and that in itself is a great way to find that support network. So give it a shot — what’s to lose?

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: If you’re not 100% sure that a running club is right for you head along to a session first. Most (if not all) running clubs will let you go along to a couple of sessions before you make your decision to join, that way you can see if it’s going to suit you or not. It’s also worth spending some time looking up some free clubs, a lot of running communities have popped up all over London and wont charge you to join them — whilst you might get less running related content on Facebook — you’re bound to make some friends along the way too. (Nike Run Club, London Midnight Runners, Run Dem Crew & Tribe all host free weekly events)

7. Wear the right clothes

Just as I mentioned with trainers, finding and wearing the right gear is just as important as finding the motivation to get out there and get started. There’s something about pulling on a new pair of leggings or  investing in a fancy sports bra (so what if it’s only you that gets to appreciate it) that makes getting out the door that little bit inspiring, after all if you’re forking out on some Lululemon or Sweaty Betty gear you’ll want people to appreciate it right? As cliched as it may sound — theres a whole lot of truth in look good-feel good.

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Check out my Top 10 Winter Fitness Favourites

8. Park Run

Park runs are weekly 5km events held all over the world, and the likelihood is there’s one less than a couple of miles from your home. The best part about park runs? They’re free & they’re properly timed. There’s always a mix of runners, from the experienced to the first-timers, but one thing that never changes, is the friendly atmosphere. As an event held and hosted by volunteers, there’s an abundance of goodwill and spirit flying around and a great way to meet new people – keep a record of your progress – and not spend any money!

THE HABIT HUNTER’S RECOMMENDATION: Don’t just think about it, get a friend involved and find your nearest park run!

The Habit Hunter x