Run your best race: advice to get you to the finish line faster

March 23 2018

Whether you’re aiming to finish your first-ever 5km or have a crack at personal best in the marathon, there are 4 basic elements every runner should take on board. Get those in place and we promise you’ll produce something really memorable.

Goal setting

Work back from your ultimate goal, write it down and then establish a timeline building up to the day of the race. So, using a first-ever 5km in two months time as an example, you should aim to complete a two-mile run by week 3 or 4, a full or over distance outing at week six so you can be confident for race day. Likewise, a marathon runner aiming to crack three hours would programme in a variety of long runs, a timed effort or two at race pace and probably a half marathon six or eight weeks prior to the big day in around 1hr 22min or faster.

Choose the right kit

The right running kit is so important – and we can help. Starting with shoes, you should get yourself tested in-store to find out what kind of foot strike you have, being realistic about your needs. Do you live near a trail, or are you running mostly on the road? We have shoes to cover every requirement, all backed up by trained experts who’ll make sure you pick the right pair.

Moving on, don’t forget to correct lightweight, seamless sports socks; you may even want to consider compression ones, which work particularly well worn as part of your recovery programme. Lightweight, breathable shorts, t-shirts and jackets are also a must to regulate body temperature as you run and avoid overheating (and slowing down). Likewise, correct fitting sports bras are critical for women runners.

 Don’t forget to take it easy

Great training is all about following hard days with easy days. That might mean a hard 10-miler one day, followed by a relaxed three the next or for most of us mere mortals, a day or two off! Every programme must have suitable rest days built in - but don’t just loaf around during those well-deserved breaks. Think of them as an important part of your workout week and make sure you eat correctly - high carbohydrate diets with suitable levels of protein and fat are a must, stretch a little, work on your mobility on off days or perhaps book in a massage with a sports masseur.

Go short, go long

Think one distance above (not required for the marathon) and one distance below when you start to plan your training month. Using 10km as an example, don’t be frightened to add some speed to your week e.g. 10x20sec striding out, working on form and then the following week, run longer and slower e.g. 10 or 12 miles at about 2min a mile slower than race pace. Speed is often an element ignored - wrongly. Learning to run fast for shorter distances will improve your form and make you better at longer runs!

The science

“Faster running requires more energy, which can be met either aerobically (where oxygen is used within the muscle to produce energy) or anaerobically, where energy is produced without oxygen being present,” says professor John Brewer. “This will result in rising levels of the fatigue-inducing substance, lactic acid. Speed training helps to develop both of these systems, so that when faced with the need to run more quickly, the body has adapted either by improving it’s oxygen uptake and transport mechanisms, or by developing an improved tolerance for lactic acid.  Both of these adaptations to speed training will contribute to improved performance in longer endurance races, so it is vital that speed training is an integral part of your training programme.”

The perfect fortnight

This is a great way of mixing shorter, faster work with endurance. Packing it all into a week is tough, but 14 days a much more realistic option.


Day 1: 20-30min easy run

Day 2: Warm up 5 or 10 min, then 10x100, walk recovery, cool down 10min

Day 3: Off

Day 4: 45min run easy

Day 5: Warm up, 4x4min hard during a 20min run, cool down

Day 6: Off

Day 7: 30min easy

Day 8: 8x1min, with 1min rest during a 25min run

Day 9: 15min easy

Day 10: Off

Day 11: Warm up 5min, 20min sustained effort, cool down 10min

Day 12: Off

Day 13: 8x30sec with 30sec rest during a 35min run

Day 14: 1hr 15min run