Want to go from 5k to 10k or take the step from half- to full-marathon? Take advice from mad-for-it marathon runners who began with zero miles on the clock
When Liz Goodchild started training for her first 5k, she couldn't make it down the road without feeling exhausted. Now she's got multiple marathons under her belt and is officially an ultra-runner - having completed an epic 50k race!
Similarly, Kevin Betts was two stone overweight when he began running. Now he’s in super shape having completed 52 marathons in 2011. Plus, he ran from Paris to London in four days! What an athlete! Their expert tips will help take your running to the next level, so you can really go the distance…
1. Channel the pain
‘If I ever wrote a book I’d call it Chasing Pain,’ says Kevin. ‘When I run, I want to feel like I’ve worked myself to exhaustion. I want to take my body to a place where I want to give up - but I won’t. I want to show that my mental strength is stronger than my body - and my mind will go on forever. Proving mental strength as a runner is vital.
‘At a race, I stay behind after I’ve finished running and clap everyone else in. Those people have been in the same amount of pain as I have but for twice as long. So who is really the stronger athlete?’
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2. Lose distractions
‘I often see people out running with a bottle of water. If you’re doing a 5k jog, for example, you don’t need any water,’ says Kevin. ‘It becomes a mental crutch: they’ve got water so they think they're safe. If I’m running under 15 miles I don’t take on any water at all. I strip myself down and go out with the bare minimal. I can’t run with music either. It gets in the way of my thinking.’
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3. Integrate speed work and hill sessions
‘My next goal is to qualify for the Boston marathon, which is a fast race that requires a time of 3 hours 35 minutes,’ says Liz. ‘At the moment I’m doing lots of interval training and hill running - but combined with steady runs so I don’t damage my legs.’
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4. Vary your runs
‘Don’t go out and plod,’ says Kevin. ‘Start with an idea of what you want to get out of each session to optimise your time. Don’t go out running every night either. I’ve never run seven days a week in my life. Go for quality not quantity and, whether it’s intervals or hill runs, vary the session each time.’
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5. Feed effectively
‘Eat to fuel the tank efficiently. Don’t eat a big pizza when you get in from your run, for example - even if you’re craving carbs. Instead, eating protein is vital,’ says Liz.
‘After coming in from your run you’ve got a fueling window of 20 minutes,' says Kevin. 'In this time you can feed your muscles 120% more than usual. Your body will rush it through your gut and into your muscles because it thinks you’re about to exercise all over again.’
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6. Personalise your diet
‘When you start following a training plan you’ll feel less likely to go out and eat junk. You become more holistic about what you eat as you start to think how it will affect your training,’ says Liz. ‘I love cocoa powder with warm almond milk, for protein and a boost of sugar when I get in from a run.'
‘Before London Marathon I thought it was a good idea to eat pasta for breakfast,' says Kevin. 'Now all I eat is a banana because that’s what works for me. You need to rehearse and find out what works for your body.’
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7. Find self-belief
‘I ran 60 miles in one day when running from Paris to London,’ recalls Kevin. ‘I never thought that was possible. One of the other runners turned to me after we’d run one and a half marathons and said, “we’ve only got another marathon to go”. I never thought I’d hear someone say that.
'When I ran Brighton Marathon I looked to my side and there was a man running past me with two prosthetic legs. That’s surely proof that the sky’s the limit and anyone can run a marathon.’
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8. Have no fear
‘Whenever I run a marathon I don’t enjoy it! I want to stop,' says Kevin. 'It’s not until I’ve finished the race that I love it and want to do it again and again. It's the endorphins, the sense of satisfaction and the acknowledgement that you’ve overcome something you never felt possible that makes you enjoy it.’
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9. Book it!
'It’s important to book that longer race,' says Liz. 'Take the step up from a 10k to booking a half-marathon. After all, a half-marathon is a big deal. Once you've booked it you have to train and you have to commit.'
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10. Go BIG!
‘When you choose a race, go for a big one – a massive one,' says Kevin. 'There will be loads of people watching. It feels great to have them cheering for you.'
'I defy anyone to watch the London Marathon and not feel emotional,' adds Liz. 'Everyone watches with envy, just like I used to do. Then one day I was there doing it.’
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11. Tell everyone
‘If you’re not working towards a race it’s so easy to make excuses,’ says Liz. ‘If you tell friends and family then you’ve made a commitment and you have to do it.’
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12. Feed your ego
‘You’ve put in 16 weeks of training - on your own, with nobody there, in the rain. But on race day there’s hundreds of people watching and waving,' says Kevin. 'When I was a kid I dreamt of competing in the Olympics. Although I didn’t make it, every time I run the Brighton Marathon I feel the same glory. So I spend a lot of time waving and enjoying myself. I don’t zone out.'
PLUS: ‘Run with purpose! I always run for charity. Although money is great, it’s more about raising awareness and talking to people. Run for a charity close to your heart.’
Both Kevin and Liz lost a parent to suicide. Running became a way of releasing emotions and finding solitude to think. Now they are committed to raising awareness of mental health through running. Find out more about Liz at www.runnerstood.com and check out which marathon Kevin is training for at www.52marathons.co.uk.
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