Running offers mental and social rewards, as well as getting you fit fast.

Description: According to race organizers, half-marathons are the new fun run

Running is simple: you can do it anywhere, at any time, it can help you find a social outlet or solace, and as you learn to set goals and bask in the glory of achieving them, it won’t just improve your fitness; it can change your life.

It’s a goal!

According to race organizers, half-marathons are the new fun run. At the Sydney Running Festival, in the past five years, half-marathon entries have risen by more than 170 per cent – and women are definitely boosting those numbers. Only one third of the half-marathon field was made up of women in 2005, now it’s 44 per cent. And, in fact, many race organizers report that for the first time last year, women outnumbered men in many races.

Clearly we all want a challenge, and if that challenge also helps us lose weight or raise money for charity, so much the better.

Certainly, entering a race of any distance is a good way to set a goal and so improve your running, and you don’t need to be a speedster to do it. There’s nothing wrong with run-walking if you’re a beginner or with talking short walk breaks, especially at drink stations, points out O’Brien. “You’ll go further, recover faster and probably enjoy it more. The important thing is to participate.”

To find a race

Try coolrunning.com. They list everything from fun runs to “ultra runs” in every State and Territory.

Getting support

Troop believes it’s important not to overcomplicate running. Its beauty is its simplicity, but it’s good to have a guide on how much and how fast so you avoid injuries.

The best online coaches usually require payment but you’ll get top advice, feedback and have your questions answered.

Check out

Lee Troop: www.marathontrainingschedule.com

Pat Carroll: www.patcarroll.com

CoolRunning CoolRunning.com

Description: As you get fitter it’s natural to want to run more but it’s too hard on your body

Avoiding injury

Rule number one? Never increase your weekly distance by more than 10 per cent. “I’ve seen many runners get into trouble increasing distance too quickly,” says O’Brien.

As you get fitter it’s natural to want to run more but it’s too hard on your body. Instead, Spin classes, deep-water running, weights, Pilates and yoga classes are all great complementary workouts for runners. Rest and recovery days are essential.

As a rule, if you’ve never run before and want to enter a 5km or 10km race, allow between eight to 14 weeks to train. If you’re already running 10km regularly and have a reasonable level of fitness, allow 12 to 16 weeks a half or full marathon.

If you are getting niggling injures see a physic who can either give you advice on Pilates, massage, stretches or gym work to strengthen deficiencies or can refer you to a podiatrist to get orthotics, says Troop.

Run on grass or gravel when possible. Pounding pavements puts too much stress on knees, shins and the lower back.

Hydration & nutrition

Watch your weight

If you know you’re carrying a few extra kilos, review your diet, says Radcliffe, and cut out unhealthy snacks and sweets. Dropping a couple of kilos will give you an easier run. On the flip side, if you suspect your nutritional intake is low, you must eat more to cope with harder training.

Hydration levels

Even a state of mild dehydration can reduce an athlete’s performance by 10 to 20 per cent. Multiply your weight in kilos by .033 and the figure you’ll get is your optimum daily intake of non-caffeinated fluid. To that you should add an extra liter for every hour you run.

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