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Six ways to fire the starter’s gun on your training

Originally appeared in Run For Your Life (Feb/Mar 2017)

Often in life the most difficult aspect of any task is just having the courage to start. Beginning training for a race at the Gold Coast Marathon is no different. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced runner, it can be a daunting prospect. Use these six tips from some of the greatest running minds in Australia, who know the Gold Coast Marathon all too well, to help kick-start your training and reach your finish line.

1. Enter early

The energy of an uncommitted debut marathoner is very different to the marathoner who has paid their entry

Gold Coast Marathon advocate, physiotherapist and author Brad Beer believes there is something powerful about taking the step of officially entering the event and paying money a significant time frame in advance.

“There seems to be an indescribable ‘pull’ or certain magnetic energy that draws the best out of your preparation when you have made a solid commitment by officially registering for the Gold Coast Marathon,” Brad said.

“This magnetic energy will work in your favour when you have the inevitable tough days in training when you are fatigued, sore or just generally lack-lustre in your approach.

“The psychology is very different when a concrete commitment has not been made. The energy of an uncommitted debut marathoner is very different to the marathoner who has paid their entry. So don’t wait, enter the event right now, if nothing else you will enjoy the early bird fees!”

2. Take aim

Having a goal is critical for any runner wanting to achieve their best at the Gold Coast Marathon

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and this is particularly true when it comes to achieving your sporting potential. Two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist and former marathon world record holder Rob de Castella insists that having a goal is critical for any runner wanting to achieve their best at the Gold Coast Marathon.

“Without goals, you’re just a jogger. Joggers just jog around, runners have structure and are focused on a destination, a personal best, first marathon or anything that will make them stretch physically and emotionally,” Rob said.

“There is nothing more satisfying than achieving your goal. Regardless of the event or time you’re aiming for – the full, half or even the 10k, focus on your goals. Challenge yourself but make sure it is not stupid hard.”

Creating your goal is the easy part, sticking to it during your entire training program is difficult, especially if you don’t make yourself accountable.

“Write your goals down and think about them most days. You don’t need to spend hours dwelling on them, but just flash the goals and your purpose through your consciousness and imagine success,” Rob said.

“Write your goal down and stick it somewhere you’ll see it every day. Have a reward that you’ll give yourself when you achieve it and share your goals and dreams with friends – just make sure they are the sort of friends that nurture and feed your dreams and not those who shoot them down!”

3. Make it personal

Enlisting a professional to create a personalised running program is a sure way to reach your objective

Four-time Gold Coast Marathon winner and Australian half marathon all comers record holder Pat Carroll believes enlisting a professional to create a personalised running program suited to your current fitness level, goal and commitments such as work and family is a sure way to reach your objective.

“A personalised training program factors in a runner’s initial level of fitness and is structured to meet availability with the amount of training sessions per week. They can be re-jigged to allow for injury and illness which may strike during training,” Pat said.

“To front up to the Gold Coast Marathon knowing that your campaign has been monitored throughout and culminated with advice as to what is achievable on race day provides confidence and a sensible plan of attack.”

When it comes to deciding on your training timeframe, Pat says it’s never too early to start.

“The ultimate period is 52 weeks for years on end. I’m aware that such a commitment is only one that elites can manage, however, we do need to acknowledge that the more we move away from this, the less ideal the campaign period will be,” Pat said.

“The bare minimum period for those locking in the Gold Coast Marathon (42.195km) would be to start laying the foundations in January or February. ASICS Half Marathoners could hold off until February or March with 16 weeks being the bare minimum period.”

4. Find a friend

Sharing training sessions with another person will push you to run further and faster

Having a running buddy of a similar ability will boost your training motivation and increase the likelihood of you achieving your goal. Four-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Steve Moneghetti says that whether your running buddy is a friend, a member of a running club or a co-worker, sharing training sessions with another person will push you to run further and faster.

“The benefits of running with a friend or group in the lead up to the Gold Coast Marathon include having someone or others to keep you committed because it is easy to skip a run if it is just you. If there are others waiting for you then you are more likely to do it,” Steve said.

“Training can often be long and arduous but it certainly goes a lot quicker when you do it with other people. We have a rule that our long runs must be easy and a good guide is the ability to chat and hold a conversation. It is hard to do that by yourself!”

Steve believes running groups can create lifelong friendships and are worth seeking out in the lead up to the Gold Coast Marathon.

“Go to a local event as the runners there will point you in the right direction, such as parkrun which has a social focus. Or, head into your nearby running store and look for brochures about training groups and ask the staff where the local runners meet,” Steve said.

5. Mix it up

Variety not only keeps training fun, but it also enables you to develop each energy system

Four-time Olympian and Australian female marathon record holder Benita Willis recognises the importance of mixing up runs, tempos and environments to reinvigorate your training program.

“Variety is so important and is an integral component to all training programs. It not only keeps training fun, but it also enables you to develop each energy system – vital for good running performance,” Benita said.

“Cross training, such as swimming or cycling, enables your body to recover and regenerate from your running program while enabling your aerobic system to continue to develop. It also lessens the chance of injury as it has a lower impact than running. This is especially important as we get older. It also breaks up the monotony of doing the same thing every day. Keeping training fun and interesting is the key to success.”

Benita says runners should mix up the surfaces they run on but admits it is essential the majority of training is done on the surface specific to your race.

“The Gold Coast Marathon is on the road and therefore you should do plenty of training on the road. But it is also important to mix up surfaces. Training on grass has a lower impact on your body and is good for intervals or hills. Dirt surfaces develop speed and slightly uneven ground helps develop body awareness and strength which is especially important in the latter stages of the marathon when you get tired.”

6. Chill out

It’s normal for runners, elite and recreational, to experience a bad session or miss one entirely during a training program

Three-time Olympian and 2006 Gold Coast Airport Marathon winner Lee Troop reveals that it’s normal for runners, elite and recreational, to experience a bad session or miss one entirely during a training program. It’s essential not to panic and feel as though you need to make it up.

“No one session makes your marathon successful but one session can ruin it. Your preparation is built over time and with proper planning you can make it work,” Lee said.

“Make sure your program is balanced and just not thrown together without any thought. You may miss one long run or one quality session but if you have trained properly, you should have numerous other long runs or quality sessions to fall back on.”

Lee also highlights the importance of recovery sessions.

“Recovery sessions are crucial. Remember you are not an elite athlete where you can get eight hours sleep each night and an extra two hours during the day. Most work long and strenuous hours and have families to attend to. Make sure you get your long runs and quality sessions in, but if you need a rest day, drop an easy run.”

As race day approaches, it’s easy to stress about whether or not you have put enough kilometres in the bank or worry about what could happen on the day. Lee assures you that it’s fine to feel this way.

“Make sure you give yourself adequate time to prepare and confidence will come in the work that you do. Many panic leading into marathons as they decide to start training late or they have missed too much of the training. Running is not a sport that you can cheat. You need to do the work,” Lee said.

“Nerves are common and this happens even to elites. The secret is to have faith in the training that you did.”

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