Half marathon training advice

Neil Stewart
Neil Stewart

Hundreds of runners have already signed up to take part in the first ever half marathon to be held at the National Trust for Scotland’s Crathes Castle on 17 September.

To help those who are already in training, top North East athlete Neil Stewart and owner of Running the Highlands, has pulled together his top tips to make sure you get the best time over the 13 mile course.

And for those who have yet to sign up, there is still time – visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Crathes_Half_Marathon.

Neil’s tips are:

1. Get hold of a training schedule and then keep a diary of what you have been doing. The type of training will need to do depends on your current running ability and fitness level. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the training you do is suitable for you. If the training is too intensive then you risk injury and if it is too slight then you will not give of your best on the big day. Training schedules for differing ability levels for different race distances can be found on numerous websites, such as:


Once you have chosen a suitable schedule you should try to stick to it as closely as you can. However, don’t worry if you miss the occasional session – and don’t try to compensate next time by doing twice as much (injuries beckon!). Keep a diary of what you have done. It will help to keep you motivated to stick to the plan as much as possible.

2. Try to find a running buddy to train with. It is much easier to go out running (especially if the weather is not being too kind) if you have someone else to run with. Most of the running that you will be doing should be at a pace which will allow you to talk. Chatting away with another runner on training runs be incredibly enjoyable and can make the whole training thing much easier.

3. Vary your training routes - Scotland offers some of the best places to train for endurance running in the world – fabulous scenery, limitless off road trails, etc. Get out and explore the countryside. Running is a great way of getting to know your surroundings. Running on wonderful trails – whether through forests, across the moors, along disused railway lines, etc – can really help to inspire and motivate. It may mean getting in the car to get to the start/finish of a run but it can be well worth it.

4. Do some cross training such as cycling, spinning or working out in a gym (with lots of lighter weights and a high number of reps). This helps rest some of the muscles used a lot in running whilst developing others which don’t get much of a workout in running.

5. Prepare for race day: There will be 3 on course water stations on the Crathes Half Marathon – at approx 4 miles, 7 miles and 10 miles. In your long training runs, make sure that you are used to drinking water ‘on the run’ or perhaps decide to stop and take a drink (the decision is yours but you should decide what works better for you).

Check the race registration and start times and ensure you bring all you need with you on race day. The night before, pack your bag and check you have everything (several times!). Don’t pack new trainers to run in. A half marathon is a long way to run to find out that they don’t quite fit properly! You should always wear running shoes which you have properly tested and know will not hurt your feet.

Stick with tried and tested methods of what to eat and drink – the night before and on race day itself. Avoid alcohol and don’t eat too close to the race.

Arrive at a sensible time for the race; not too early that you will expend excess energy nervously waiting around but also make sure you don’t arrive at the last minute. It is important you leave enough time to park the car, register, warm up and get yourself mentally prepared.

If it is cold then keep your outer gear on until the last minute and try to have someone there to take your stuff away.

After the race don’t forget to cool down. It is all too easy just to lie down/chat with friends/etc straight after a race. However, you won’t see elite athletes doing this.