Dewi Griffiths and Emma Wookey proved two of Wales’ top long distance athletes during the past 12 months but neither will be resting on their laurels in 2016.
The New Year brings fresh challenges for both including the defence of their respective titles at the JCP Swansea Half Marathon title on June 26 when they will be part of a record 8,000 strong field. Before then, however, lies a few months of hard racing and training for the recently appointed Swansea Half Marathon race ambassadors.
As part of their wide-ranging ambassadorial roles Swansea Harrier Griffiths and Wookey of Lliswerry Runners have teamed up to offer expert tips and advice for runners of all abilities to maximise the benefit and enjoyment of winter training routines.
1) Be Seen
Winter months bring lots of cold and wet evenings with low visibility at times. So, make sure you can be seen. There are plenty of reflective running jackets on the market which could be the difference between being seen or getting seriously hurt.
2) Join a club or group
Many people believe they aren’t good enough to join a running group or club but it couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a perfect group out there for everyone; from beginner to elite with similar level runners to yourself.
The key is finding one that suits you. Joining a group will provide company on those long runs or tougher sessions. But it will also give you the chance to talk to more experienced runners for advice for further improvement as well as taking you out of your comfort zone. Even though the session I do as part of a group with my coach is the hardest part of my week, it is also the part I look forward to most.
3) Run free
Training runs should be done on feel. I don’t need a watch to tell me I’m running well or I’m running tired and slow. I can tell that from the way I’m feeling. Every runner has a loop of their own, which they probably know to the 100th of a mile how long it is. Mine is a five-mile loop. Try running the loop with just a stop watch. Or even without a watch at all.
What difference does it make if you don’t know exactly how long it took? This will teach you to listen to your body (sometimes you need to take things easy) rather than you racing yourself from a previous day because your watch isn’t saying you’re going quick enough.
Alternatively, if your normal run of six miles takes 45 minutes, try a 45 minutes run on a route you don’t know how far it is. This will help prevent mental fatigue. A change is as good as a rest they say!
4) Race Regularly
Many people don’t race enough. Training teaches you to run within your limits but racing teaches you to explore the limits. There are plenty of races on most weekends. Plan a few more as part of your training and development and as a warm up for your goal race. Racing is more fun than just slogging it out on your own anyway.
5) Have fun and mix things up
Elite runners don’t do the same thing every day of every week, so why should everyone else? Try something new this winter.
A complete training schedule will include a balance and variety of short reps sessions, long reps sessions, speed endurance reps / hill reps. threshold / tempo runs, long runs, medium runs and short runs. Every two to four weeks try and tick all the boxes. You wouldn’t turn up to a race without your racing trainers so don’t neglect your training, and give you the best chance of a personal best.
Wookey, like Griffiths, training for the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff on March 26, confirms the importance of being a bright spark until the longer, lighter days start to arrive. So, her first tip is:
1) Hi vis should form an essential part of any runner’s wardrobe. Whether you’re rocking a day-glo tee or a fluorescent jacket, make sure you wear something bright so you stay safe when running.
Running with others not only helps with safety on dark evenings but can also be great motivation. Try and find someone of a similar pace/ speed and even better – join a local running club.
3) Mix It Up
Try to incorporate different running workouts to keep your training varied. Hill reps and fartlek sessions are a great way to work different muscles and incorporate some speed work while also keeping your training fun.
4) Cross Train
If you can’t get out with bad weather or other commitments then don’t let it hold you back. Core strength is essential to running and doing strength work and stretching works wonders for recovery.
5) Finally, hydrate.
Although it gets a lot colder this time of year, you still need to take on fluids to replace the water lost through perspiration. If you’re planning a long run take a small bottle with you or have one close by for when you finish the session.
So, 10 essential tips in total from the 2015 King and Queen of the JCP Swansea Half Marathon. Draw on their knowledge and experience and a personal best or long cherished target may not be far away in the coming months.
The JCP Swansea Half Marathon 2016 takes place on Sunday 26th June 2016 and is quickly becoming a firm favourite amongst the running community. The flat fast course is perfect for beginners, first time half marathon runners and charity runners, whilst attracting a large elite field from Wales and beyond to #RunSwansea.
Starting and finishing in the city centre, the route takes runners along Swansea Bay to The Mumbles and back, featuring six miles of stunning coastline, beautiful views and fantastic crowd support. A total of 8,000 places are available for 2016 and entry is open now.
Go to www.swanseahalfmarathon.co.uk for further race details and to secure your place on the start line, like the Facebook page www.facebook.com/SwanseaHalf and follow @Swansea_HM #RunSwansea #FromTheCityToTheSea on Twitter.