Race day

Eat alight breakfast, like two pieces of toast, three hours before the race, says Troop. Don’t load up on muesli as you’ll want to go to the toilet 2km into the race. A big breakfast will make you feel heavy and increase your chance of getting a stitch.

If it’s cold, take old clothes you can chuck away or even a bin liner for standing on the start line.

Many races start in the dark but finish in bright sunshine. Be prepared with sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.

Description: Race day

If you’ve entered a big race, know that it might take a few minutes to even cross the start line but don’t waste energy trying to zigzag round people to get there faster. Major races give runners chips to tie on o their shoes so your time won’t start until you cross the line anyway. Don’t panic when you see the crowds. Try to find some space and know that by the 5km market, things will open up.

Psychological hurdles

Troop probably knows more about bouncing back than most athletes – he has hard three disastrous incidents at the Olympics mostly due to injuries, but he still loves running.

Here are his tips:

Remind yourself that when things go right and you achieve your goal, you will bask in the euphoria for a long time

Beware of becoming compulsive and obsessive. That can eradicate your enjoyment and make you frustrated if you miss goals.

Keep a check on your training-life balance

If you aren’t enjoying your running, do something about it.

Find new people to run with, run new routes, cut down on your running, change your goals, and remind yourself of the reasons you run.

Description: To build up racing speed, you need to run two or three shorter, harder sessions during the week

Running faster

A common mistake runners make is to do their long training runs at the pace they want to run their race. Even elite athletes don’t do that. To build up racing speed, you need to run two or three shorter, harder sessions during the week. The accumulation of the training load is what gets you across the line in a personal best.


This is when you do bursts of speed followed by recovery jogs. Start by running hard to a lamppost, then jogging to the next lamppost. Once you’ve got the idea, get a training schedule which will recommend interval sessions depending on your race length and experience. This could include timed bursts or distances of 100m to 800m and you’ll be trying to run at a speed faster than your race pace.

Tempo runs

For this you need to estimate the time you want to run your race. Use an online race time calculator (go to runningtimes.com, then Pace Tools, then Calculators) and then measure out a course, usually at least 3km. warm up for 10 minutes then attempt to run the entire course at your race pace. Cool down for 10 minutes.

Hill training

This is fantastic for building strong legs, glutes, heart and willpower! Aim for a hard run-up time of at least 45 to 60 seconds, and then jog to recover.

Running better

Here are some tips from Radcliffe’s new book How to Run (Simon & Schuster, $27.99) to get you started.

Optimize your strike pattern

Over striding will cause you to land heavily on your heel, putting stress through the body and acting like a brake on each stride.

You should aim to land lightly, midfoot, under your centre of gravity, and take off from the propelling foot when it’s directly under your hips. If you’re struggling, book a session with a biomechanist who can analyze your stride and help correct it.

Improve leg turnover

The more steps you take per minute, the faster you’ll go. Aim for 170 to 180 steps per minute. Counting strides is also a useful mind-focusing mantra.

Women’s issues

Some women who train for long distances find their periods stop or become erratic, says Radcliffe. If that happens to you, reduce stress, increase your intake of nutritious foods and see a doctor or dietitian. Scientists say that women need around 17 per cent body fat to menstruate but Radcliffe thinks her periods continue when her body fat is far lower and that lack of nutrition could be the key. If you’re only just eating enough to meet your exercise requirements, it can affect your hormonal balance and switch off your menstrual cycle.

Get a blood test to check iron levels if you’re inexplicably tired. Not only can we lose iron in menstrual flow, runners tend to absorb less iron from food as their bowels move faster. Anti-inflammatories can also increase this loss.

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