Bupa my first run: race preparation

The experts at Bupa have some words of wisdom to prepare you for the big day.



by Annie Rice

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This year Bupa have launched the My First Run campaign offering thousands of first time runners free race places as part of its quest to inspire more people in the UK to be physically active.

They’ve got some tips to help the thousands of first time runners – like DJ and broadcaster Jo Whiley – who are lining up at the start line of the world’s largest half marathon this weekend.

Bupa Physiotherapist, Simon Fairthorne has the below advice for you whether it’s your first race or not:

Week before the race

With a week to go you should have done your final long run and be looking to taper your training. You may want to go on a short run, but to avoid injuring yourself you shouldn’t try anything new or push yourself too hard; you should look to run at about 50% of your race speed.

Dealing with nerves

It is normal to be nervous, even elite athletes will have nerves before a race. It’s common to be worried the night before and to get to the start line feeling like you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep. A lot of athletes use techniques such as visualisation, simply meaning that you try to picture yourself running, doing well and crossing the finish line – all positive things. However, if you find that you have negative thoughts when you visualize, then trying something more practical such as watching a DVD to take your mind off the run can be very beneficial.

Also try to find out as much information as you can about the race beforehand, nothing is worse than having pre race nerves that are actually all focused on how you are going to get to the start line.

Tips for the run

Mass participation runs like the Bupa Great North Run are always busy at the start, so you will find it difficult to get enough space to adjust to your race pace. Therefore, in the first mile or two, just go with the flow. Use this time to get your mind settled, the crowd will soon thin out and you can then find the pace you are happy with. Find someone who may be running at the same speed as you and run with them for a bit, this will be great motivation and you might even make a new friend.

Race Recovery

1.     Keep walking. It might be the last thing you want to do, but keep walking after the race for 10-20 minutes to allow your muscles to cool down and help relieve the onset of aches and pains.

2.     Ice. If you feel like you have any inflamed joints or swollen muscles then grab a bag of frozen peas and a towel and get them iced. This will help reduce the inflammation. 

3.     Don’t think too much alcohol. Sorry to be a bore, it may be tempting to go for a few celebratory beers after a race, but too much alcohol could lead to you becoming dehydrated very quickly, and it could also increase the damage to a small muscle tear.   Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, particularly if it’s been a hot one, to replace the water you’ve lost during your run.

4.     Sleep. You’ll probably collapse into your bed after a half marathon, but make sure you’re giving your body a chance to recover with plenty of rest and relaxation.

5.     Light exercise. You’ll probably be grateful to hear this, but you shouldn’t resume vigorous exercise for at least five to seven days. However, a light swim or aqua-jog, two or three days from the run can work wonders.

6.     Time out. Take some time to look back at what you’ve achieved and be proud that all your hard work and training has paid off!

Bupa Dietician, Bianca Parau suggest the following nutrition plan to help power you through.

Pre – race

Train yourself to drink more fluid in the lead up to the race, ideally you want small volumes regularly – 200-300ml every 15-20 mins, this will ensure that come your longer runs you are sufficiently hydrated.

If you maintain a healthy balanced diet in the lead up to race day then you will not need to carb load, just ensure that you always have a moderate amount of carbohydrate as part of each of your meals. Carbs will make sure that you can keep going for longer but they won’t make you run any faster.

Race day

Ideally you want to have your last meal 3-4 hours before your run and this should be a mixture of low GI and high GI carbohydrates, for example porridge with milk and some fruit. If you can’t face a meal then a liquid replacement a couple of hours before the run, such as a smoothie or drinking yogurt is great.

Limit your intake of salty snacks or sodium drinks such a sports drinks before you start.

During the race

Don’t just drink water during your run as this will not replace any of the electrolytes you are losing in your sweat. A small amount of sports drink will solve this, and if you want a bit extra then a couple of jelly sweets or some dried fruit is perfect

After the run

Try to eat something within the golden hour after finishing your run as this is the best time to replenish your stores and replace any electrolytes lost.

If it's your first race, you're in good company, Radio DJ and Bupa ambassador Jo Whiley will also be tackling it as her first ever half marathon and said: “I’ve never done anything like this and I can’t quite believe the big day is nearly here. I wanted to take part in the run to help me stay active and to give me something to train for. But this is a big challenge and the training has been much tougher than I ever envisaged but I have really enjoyed the journey of learning to run. It is certainly easier to train with someone and I have been really grateful for Bupa’s expert support over the last few months. So many people have told me what a special event the Bupa Great North Run is and I’m really looking forward to lining up on the start line. Good luck to everyone involved.”


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