Training Advice

Here’s a page of training tips and ideas from club members.

Please add to it, by sending your ideas to Mike McSharry (see contact page for details). This will let us build a page that becomes valuable for all members.
We’ll also be able to add pictures – copyright sorted please – along with links to other websites.

The information given by club members is provided “as is” in good faith with no implied or explicit guarantees!
Please note that any club training sessions are governed by this Risk Assessment.

Your ideas and experiences go here!

Can we make this a page by the members for the members?

General Training

By Phil Watts

Well! You’ve run Park/Run; you’ve joined the Harriers and started to run on a regular basis; you’ve probably entered the odd race or two and you might be asking the question, “how can I make a significant improvement?” There may also be runners in our Club who are not novices, but are stuck at a certain level who also wish to improve and reach the next level.

There is another incentive to do well: being a member of Huncote Harriers Athletic Club affords you the opportunity to take part in competitive club athletics. For us, this is principally road and cross country running. This means racing against other club runners/athletes and trying to beat them – it is not just a matter of getting round the course. Training is an important factor in improving your performance thereby making a contribution to our Club’s success and reputation. It will also give you a “feel good” boost which helps to make your running worthwhile.

The bad news is that, if you wish to rise above the pile and be amongst the leading finishers, or, for older runners, be competitive in your age group, then you must be prepared to commit to some hard training, not just on an occasional basis when you might be preparing for a marathon, but all the time, i.e. it is a life style choice. There are no secrets to achieving success: it is all down to hard work! Furthermore, there are no short-cuts; self discipline and mental fortitude are required to maintain both the volume of training required and to cope with the intensity. The higher up the ladder you progress the harder the training becomes!

Running the miles

An important component of training for road and cross country running is running enough training miles at an easy pace. Easy pace means being able to hold a conversation with a fellow runner. There are no hard and fast rules for the quantity of miles you should run: much depends on the individual – age, gender and type of racing to be undertaken are significant factors in determining training mileage. It will probably help if you can establish a regular routine. The key element of running enough training miles is generally the long Sunday run. For most runners the Sunday run is almost a religious ritual. Sunday is the day most people do not have to work and affords time to spend with family and doing sport. Use it wisely and build up the training miles especially through the winter months – don’t get bogged down by running too many trivial races!

The good news is that Leicester runners have in their locality some of the best training there is anywhere in the country – Bradgate Park. This venue provides an infinite number of training routes, mainly off road over trails which provide enough hills, and, in the winter time, mud, which are ideal for distance runners. The tough uneven terrain around Bradgate Park makes for harder running and is better for building strength and stamina than merely running on the roads. In addition, the softer ground of Bradgate is less likely to lead to impact injuries caused by continuously road running (although care has to be taken to avoid falls and twisted ankles!). From Newtown Linford car park, a circuit around the immediate park including the summit of Old John is around 4 miles. From there you can run around Cropston Reservoir, Swithland Woods, Buddon Wood, Lingdale Golf Course, Broombriggs Hill, Windmill Hill, Beacon Hill, The Outwoods and it is possible to link all the major hills in the County out to Bardon Hill to get a mileage of 20 miles plus. Bradgate Park has been the preferred venue of weekend running for many generations of runners from our Club, and from other leading local clubs, Leicester Coritanians, Charnwood & OWL’s.

There is a very important point to note about mileage: DO NOT INCREASE YOUR MILEAGE TOO QUICKLY (that is jump from nearly nothing to 20 miles in a few runs)! Increment your training miles gradually. This way you are less likely to get injured; you will not get too tired; and you are more likely to enjoy the training and not become disillusioned! Little and often is best for beginners – then gradually build up the mileage. Also, aim to run continuously – do not keep stopping and starting.

Intensive training

Provided that runners have enough easy training miles in their legs the next stage of development is to consider doing more intensive training. This should not be undertaken by novices – it would be akin to running a race without doing any training! Intensive training can take a number of different forms; intervals (repetitions) done on the flat or uphill, pyramids, fartlek, tempo runs; all of which may be described under one heading: speedendurance training. Basically, they involve running at a faster pace (generally faster than race pace) over shorter distances than the race. The aim is to reproduce the stresses encountered in race conditions (breathlessness and aching limbs) but over a much shorter time scale. Ideally, speed endurance training should be tailored to the individual to take into account age, gender, ability, state of fitness at the time, and the type of races to be undertaken. For example, a runner returning from injury requires an easier training load than one who is almost ready to race! To give you a taster, on certain Tuesday nights during the winter months Nicki Nealon and Andy and Marie Wilford take out groups to do this type of training, also on Saturday mornings the improvers group run repetitions around Jubilee Park.

Training is about overloading your body and tiredness is the inevitable outcome of that process but the overload should not be debilitating – if you are not recovering very quickly, you might be overdoing it! The basic rule of distance running is easy to understand: the further you run, the slower is the average pace you will be able to run at. Therefore, if you wish to run a marathon inside 3 hours you will need to be able to run a half marathon at least in under 1.1/2 hours – ideally well under, say at least 1 hour 25 minutes! To run a half marathon at that pace you will need to run 10K in under 39 minutes and, therefore, 18.1/2 to 19 minutes for 5K, and so on down the distances. In short, if you are unable to run fast over short distances you will be even slower over the longer ones! Thus running fast is an important element in being able to run quicker times. By incorporating some intensive training into your schedule it should help to maintain your speed and improve your racing performances.

Race ethos

Racing is about competition but only a small percentage of runners will be in contention to win the races in which they compete. Nevertheless, for club runners it is still desirable to beat your rivals and be amongst the best in your age and gender groups. Good club runners/ athletes train to race and have a good race ethos. Whenever they race they like to be fully fit and ready to compete to the best of their ability – there is pride at stake in not being beaten by rivals and doing the best possible for the sake of their club. Do you train to race? Or are you doing it the other way round – racing to train? Today, there are so many races, it has become too easy to lose focus and use races as training runs in preparation for say, a marathon in a few months time. This results in declining performances for the individual and for the club. Concentrate on the race and prepare properly: this includes tapering down mileage and training in the days just before so that you arrive on the start line fresh and ready to go – not with leaden legs tired from a hard training run the previous day!

Warming up before the race and warming down post race are important facets of good race ethos. Warm-up involves getting muscles ready for a high work load in the race to come. It involves very easy running. This is especially true for cross country running: it is beneficial to run a lap around the course beforehand to check if there are any hazards and to assess conditions underfoot (What footwear? What length of spikes to wear?) After this, a quick strip down into racing gear and some last minute “strides” will get you “into the zone” and ready for the off. Strides are mini-sprints over a distance of up to 100 metres done at a fairly quick pace but not flat out: the idea is to prepare heart and lungs for hard work in the forthcoming race.

Post race warm-down is also important: lactic acid build-up in the muscles is a by-product of hard exercise and causes tiredness and stiffness. By running slowly after the race an athlete speeds up the dispersal of the lactate thereby speeding up recovery. Do not run too fast as you will cause a further build-up of lactic acid. Stretching can be done but with caution: it is easy to traumatize muscles which have already been worked hard during the race.

Having a plan

Most people have a rudimentary training plan when they are preparing for a marathon. However, having a more long term plan is likely to bring about a general improvement in your racing. It is important to understand the element of rest in your plan. Training and racing over a long period of time can easily lead to staleness resulting in a decline in performances and perhaps even injury. Plan your races over a year and build in rest periods. Plan your training cycle up to race day and gradually increment the volume and intensity of your training as you get closer to race date, subject, of course, to tapering down immediately prior to the race. It may not be just a single race you are preparing for but a series of races eg. the Leicestershire Summer Road Race League. Getting to peak fitness as race day(s) approaches is known as “peaking” and is a concept familiar with all international athletes but applies at club level too.

Hopefully, by adopting some or all of the above will give you an edge over most of your fellow runners and improve your performances. Remember! Running is a competitive sport and a race is a competition. It is about beating other competitors – it is not just about getting round the course.


Helpful Information on this site

Things to Help
Mike McSharry

In Phil’s brilliant notes he mentions various races and also some ideas of different targets for different distances.
The links and help notes below give you some ideas on how to find events in the club calendar and then how to use the club standards to check your progress.

The club calendar has events tagged in different categories and there are different ways to view the calendar.
To help you find the event you are looking for these notes should be helpful.

The club standards can also be used to help your training plans. Here’s one way.

Working on a target of a 2 hour half marathon, go to the standards page and check through the mens’ and womens’ standards to find the one nearest to your target. Be brave, go for the one a bit faster.

Looking through the tables we can see that womens’ bronze for age group 45-49 is 1:59:16.

one59 half


Now, find the table for the that category and it shows you the following:-

womens races

The crucial thing to remember, when planning training, is that these are target RACE figures.
In a race the roads are marshalled, you don’t have to carry your own drinks and everyone (hopefully!) is going in the same direction as you. You don’t have these luxuries when training. Also, following the guidance in Phil’s notes, your training is about getting the miles in comfortably and being able to hold a conversation.

Based on that, then training runs could be anywhere between one to two minutes slower than the target race pace.

The figures show a 10 mile standard race time in the same category as this target half marathon is 1:29:46. Give an allowance of 90 seconds per mile adds 15 minutes to this training run. This means that a ten mile training run should be in the 1:45:00 region.

Remember to make allowances for your terrain, conditions under foot and the weather.

By Phil Watts

When you join an athletics/ running/ jogging club your running performance generally improves. This is because you are probably running in a faster environment and taking part in a more regular training programme. After a period of time there is a tendency, however, to stop improving and your performances start to level out. If you are predominantly a fun runner with limited spare time to commit to running you may be happy to continue at this level – after all, you are keeping fit and presumably enjoying your new found life style. However, if you wish to progress further and become a reasonable club runner/athlete, you will need to ramp up your training in order to reach the next level.

In the October Newsletter there was an introductory article on training which aimed at giving you an insight into how you might improve your running performances. This time, we are going to concentrate on repetitions which are a type of speed endurance training you might like to try. Some of this type of training we already do in certain sessions, on Tuesday evenings in the winter months and on Saturday mornings at the “Improvers” training sessions at Jubilee Park throughout the year.


Repetitions are perhaps the most common type of training used, also known as “reps” or “intervals”; these  are often done on a running track over a set distance. A running track is commonly used as it provides an accurate measurement of the running distance, and running times over given distances can be compared from week to week to ascertain progress. Distances often used are over 200/300/400 metres but longer distances are sometimes used especially by runners training for longer events like the marathon.

Using a running track is not a necessity: fields, parkland and roads may also be used as long as the taken to run the distances can be compared throughout the training cycle.

There are four variables to decide when running reps:

  1. Distance of the reps.
  2. Number of reps to be run.
  3. Time taken to run each rep.
  4. Recovery time between each

Your state of fitness and what you are training for should determine the type of session you undertake. An athletics coach should be able to advise you in this respect. The coaches who know their athletes should have an idea about the strengths and weaknesses of their charges and be able to indicate the type of session required.


These are reps done with various distances being run during the same session. So, instead of running, for example, 12 x 400 metre reps with recoveries between each one, you might do a 200 metre rep, then a 400 metre rep and then a 600 metre rep and then back down to 200 metres. Each rep will have its own recovery period. This type of session is generally done to get the athlete running at different speeds: the shorter distances being run at a faster pace than the longer ones.



As you progress through your training cycle you should, hopefully, be getting fitter. This will enable you to increment your training to make it harder. This can be done by either, a) increasing the number of reps that you run or, b) reducing the recovery time between reps: i.e. If you are taking a recovery of 75 seconds between each rep, then reduce it to 60 seconds each time.

There are important points to bear in mind:

  1. The faster you are running you need to be more meticulous with your warm-up and warm-down. Don’t start running reps from scratch – you need to warm-up first; injuries are more likely if muscles are cold before you start. Afterwards, do a slow warm-down run to start the process of lactic acid depletion.
  2. Reps need to be practiced rigorously. Probably the most important element of your session is recovery time: if your recovery time is too long you are wasting your time! This is because you are not producing a training effect. Your next rep should be started BEFORE you are completely recovered from the last one.

Recoveries can be static or moving. An example of a moving recovery, if you are using a 400 metre running track (I.e. Saffron Lane), would be a 200 metre rep then a 200 metre jog half way round the track to start again. Or, for 300 metres, start a quarter way round, do the 300 metre rep and jog back to the 300 metre mark to start again.

Hill repetitions

Running reps uphill can be a valuable training tool as they provide a concentrated session to improve your cardio-vascular  (heart and lungs) capability and your leg strength. Generally, hill reps should not be too long: around 150/200 metres length is about the maximum, on a hill that is not too steep. Runners should be sprinting up the hill concentrating on good stride length, knee-lift, and using exaggerated arm movement to assist upward momentum. At the top runners turn to jog back down the hill to start the rep again. If the hill is too long runners get badly out of breath and lose control of their running movement. It should go without saying that your warm-up prior to running hill reps should be thorough  as you are severely stressing leg muscles and tendons during this exercise!

In a future article I will discuss other methods of speed/ endurance training.