Last year I ran the KL Standard Chartered Half Marathon. It marked two firsts:my first race after having my second child and my first race in Malaysia. In light of these two factors, I ran with no great expectations. I didn’t train in the strictest sense; I just increased my distance weekly until the event.
I completed the course in 2 hours and 16 minutes (vs. my UK personal best of 1 hour 55 minutes). Whilst I was proud to have completed it, deep down I was thinking - surely this wasn’t as good as it could get? Okay, it was 7 years since my PB in the cool English breeze but I was more focused in my older age. I was wiser and ever so slightly more determined.
And so, here I am, one year on and training for the 2015 event. In order to try and improve my time, I have taken on advice from friends who are seasoned runners and I am optimistic - maybe not that I will smash that PB, but that I might do a bit better than last year.
Here’s what I am doing:
1. Training with a friend
Until quite recently, my running buddy had been an ipod shuffle. This time round I’ve been doing a large portion of my training with an actual human. This has had massive benefits so far. Firstly the longer runs pass in a flash (she is much more interesting than the shuffle). I feel like I have an ally and someone to celebrate with each time we complete a longer run or a super fast mile. Whilst we are not aggressively competitive against each other (or we don’t admit that), there is an element of motivation and commitment when you run with someone else.
2. Using a GPS to understand and track pace
This has been a huge epiphany. A bit like having an army coach on your wrist. The friend with whom I run has a Garmin, which bleeps after every kilometer (many people I know do this using apps on phones). Historically I never thought I would be interested in this, but it’s hard to not want to know the information that is bleeping on your wrist. During a run last week, we found we were running our first 5km really quickly. We were so proud of ourselves. Whenever a time split slipped we’d pick up pace. Overall we were hitting much stronger times, just because of a little knowledge and a bleep.
3. Using a treadmill creatively for speed work
I did most of my early running in KL on a treadmill. This soon got boring though and it can never compare to a lovely early morning outdoor plod. Following advice of seasoned runner friends, I’m now using the treadmill for speed workouts such as intervals and tempo runs. The interval sessions are basically short spurts of distance at a much faster pace interspersed with short recoveries. The tempo runs build speed in increments to a peak and taper back down. These have been fantastic, a) for making a treadmill run a whole lot more interesting, b) for making my normal pace seem like a walk in the park and c) for giving me the best 5k times I’ve ever managed. And I’m still beating them each time.
4. Incorporating a strength-based circuit class into my routine
After last year’s half marathon, I was experiencing hip pain. I spoke to a personal trainer who recommended I incorporate some strength training into my weekly training and so I did and still do. The class I do is amazing and great fun and more than anything, showed me that whilst I was fit in terms of stamina, my strength endurance was pretty low. I can’t remember the last time I suffered the hip pain and I feel so much stronger. What I can’t do with a kettle bell these days.
5. Making running an integral part of my life
This is an interesting one as in many ways running has been a part of my life for the past 25 years. What I am doing now however is making that part bigger and more established like a comfy pair of slippers. Now my family is complete, it feels like I can really do this. At the beginning of the week, rather than picking a few days to run, I just look at the days when I genuinely can’t (no childcare) or shouldn’t (just after a really long run). All the other days I just do. It feels good. I feel fitter. A day with a run in it is a better day for me and now I have more of those days.
And so, on Sunday 4th October, I will be running the 2015 KL Standard Chartered Half Marathon. My second go.