With just three weeks to go until the inaugural EDF Energy Birmingham Half Marathon, Post Health Correspondent and regular runner Emma Brady joined top triathlete Toby Radcliffe to find out if she is ready for race day.
With more than 8,000 people preparing to take part in the city’s first half marathon on October 26, getting the right training is vital if all is to go to plan on race day.
Having run a personal best time of 1:50:48 in the Wolverhampton Half Marathon last month I had lulled myself into a false sense of security, thinking all was going well.
But if my eyes had been opened to the challenge at hand during a training trot along part of the route, then a hardcore session of intervals with professional triathlete Toby Radcliffe shattered any remaining illusions I had over my fitness levels.
Having asked for my running history, the 30-year-old’s eyes lit up when I told him my times. “So I can push you hard then!”
After a gentle jog around Cannon Hill Park, in Edgbaston, and some strange-looking dynamic stretches, which no doubt amused the patrons of the coffee shop as we swung our arms and legs about, it was down to serious business.
On paper the main session may look easy: 5 x 1 min (5k pace)/30 sec recovery jog, 3 x 90 sec (5-10k pace)/45 sec recovery, and finally 3 x 30 sec (as fast as possible)/30 sec recovery.
But after the first set of reps I was puffing and panting like a pensioner. Toby assured me this just meant I was working to my V02 max, giving my lungs a good workout. Then again, he barely broke a sweat.
“Come on just two more sets to go,” he said cheerily. I looked on in disbelief, having really pushed myself, but dogged determination and professional pride would not let me quit.
While I do not mind being shown up by professional athletes, I will not tolerate being effortlessly overtaken by plodding pensioners or fun runners in fancy dress.
Even with this in mind, after three sets all I wanted to do was collapse in a world of pain, but I knew that was just a sign of old fashioned hard graft.
After the session, Toby said: “You’re in great shape for the half marathon so now’s the time to work on your body’s effectiveness, which you know after getting a PB in Wolverhampton.
“But that kind of session isn’t just for experienced runners, it’s all about tailoring it to your own pace, the important thing is it should feel like you’ve really worked whatever your ability. It should be a challenging session.
“It’s always good to challenge yourself, not just physically but mentally, so if you make this a hard session it will give you the psychological tools to help push through those last miles of the course on race day.”
Organisers of some of Britain’s major running events, including the Flora London Half Marathon, produced an advice sheet following serious concerns by medical teams at the lack of preparation by runners. This can be found at www.runnersmedicalresource.com
Toby will fly out to Hawaii this month to compete in the Ironman World Championships for Timex Multisport Team – which involves a 112-mile bike ride, 2.5 mile swim and a full marathon of 26.2 miles.
As a sustainability consultant for Athletes for a Fit Planet and Birmingham Half Marathon’s race sustainability director, he knows how hard it can be to timetable sessions.
“For me training is a full time job which I can fit my consultancy work around, but I probably train about 25-30 hours a week across all three disciplines, so it takes a lot of dedication,” said Toby. “I know how hard it can be for people to fit even half of that around their own working lives, but anyone taking part in the half marathon, whether they are club runners or first timers, should not get complacent in their training now, even though there are less than four weeks to go.”
He added: “I think the Birmingham Half Marathon has the same ability to inspire people to exercise in the same way the London Marathon does.
“The city has great sporting facilities but that doesn’t mean people are using them, so events like this are important in turning people on to sport and exercise, especially if it makes them think about improving their nutrition and looking after their health better.”
The EDF Energy Birmingham Half Marathon starts from Alexandra Stadium, in Perry Barr, and finishes in Centenary Square, in the city centre.