As the mornings are slowly getting darker and the sun is disappearing earlier each day, its beginning to feel like autumn is coming. I love Autumn. The leaves falling and crisp cool mornings. Bonfires and fireworks. It’s one of my favourite times of year and another reason is because of the autumn half marathon season.
The first half marathon I did was in the Autumn of 2016, The Royal Parks Half. 13.1 miles around Londons glorious Royal Parks. I returned a year later and ran over a 10 minute PB which you can read here, and this year I am returning with the hope of doing exactly the same thing, running another PB.
I have the pleasure of training runners for Autumn half marathons and I’ve also been through it many times myself. So I have put together my top Autumn half marathon training tips to help you keep on top of your training and edge closer towards achieving that PB.
Prepare yourself for race day weather conditions
The first time I did the Royal Parks it was warm, the second time I did it, it was mild and last years race saw torrential rain and wind batter runners around the course. Yes, it’s usually mild in October here in the UK, but always remember that its the UK. And rainfall is never too far away.
Take every opportunity to practice running in different weather conditions during training. This will give you a much better understanding of how your body reacts to different temperatures during runs. You’ll be able to identify things like; if you sweat excessively during warm weather training runs,. If this is you, you might want to look at adding salts to your race day fuel plan to ensure your muscles don’t cramp up. Or if you get really cold hands during runs in the rain, you might want to look at running in gloves.
This is also the perfect opportunity to try out different types of clothing too, to find out what feels best on you.
No one enjoys running in the wind, rain or blistering heat but the familiar you are with how your body reacts to different temperatures, the more relaxed and the easier it’ll feel on race day.
Prioritise your training!
I don’t know if its just me, but life suddenly seems to get so much busier after summer ends. Its kind of like that back to school feeling all over again. You desperately want to catch up with friends who have been away for the summer, and depending on the industry you work in, work picks up as the countdown to Christmas and the Christmas campaigns begin.
Try to map out your week in advance and figure out where you can fit in your training. Try to get in your essential runs/training sessions early on in the week. I find that if I leave my long run till Saturday or Sunday, it gives me very little room for error. Whereas if I plan my long run for a Wednesday for example, it gives me a few days extra to fit in in before the week ends. You might be much more disciplined than I am, but life also gets in the way unexpectedly sometimes and this is how I stay on track of my training when I’m travelling or working at lot.
One of the worst things you can do is turn up to a half marathon armed with gels that you’ve never tried before. Race day fuelling is so personal. What works for someone else probably won’t work for you, so don’t feel the need to consume a copious amount of gels on race day because everyone around you is doing so.
I personally don’t have gels because I hate the taste and they’re known for giving people upset stomachs mid run. Which is why it’s paramount you try fuelling with gels during your training runs, if you want to use them come race day.
It might also take a little bit of trial and error with your fuelling strategy too. The key is to fuel before your energy levels dip, or before you hit the wall. So this means you’ll be fuelling a lot earlier than you probably think. For half marathons I am generally ok but for the marathon I had something every 4 miles.
You don’t have to fuel using gels or anything artificial like that either. I personal prefer food. Whether its bananas, sweets or flapjacks. You might not be able to carry all of this on you so its worth having someone in the crowd waiting for you at different mile points with your half banana or whatever it might be.
I can’t express how important recovery is. Its just as important as your long runs and your strength sessions. At first it might feel like you should be spending every spare hour of everyday running. But the reality is, that is only going to leave you feeling sore, stiff and result in a dip in your performance.
Your foam roller is your best friend, closely followed by regular stretching and lets not forget about your pre run warm up and mobility.
This will only take up 5-10 minutes of your time, but its the best few minutes that you can invest in your body so look after your body. You’ll be thankful in the long run. Pun intended.
You can follow my Royal Parks Half journey on my instagram.
Best of luck with your race day,