One of our contributors is training for her first half-marathon and has some very helpful training tips for anyone considering doing the same!
Now that the temperature has finally cooled down in Hong Kong, you might have noticed a few changes in the air. The jeans have come out the closet, the shops are brimming with cozy winter clothes and everywhere you look there are runners pounding the pavements, preparing for one of the many full and half-marathons approaching in the next few months.
After starting running just ten months ago, I decided to take the leap and sign up for my first half-marathon, which I’ll be running in Singapore on the 6th December. So, here are my tips so far if you’re thinking of joining me for the 13.1.
If the Shoe Fits
In that moment of beginner running fervour when you’re dying to crack on with your training, it will be tempting to dig out those vintage running shoes and race out the door all guns blazing. And your enthusiasm is absolutely to be applauded! But unfortunately running in old, knackered trainers will only end up killing your knees and your motivation. Treat yourself to some high quality trainers, as after clocking up 20 plus km per week they’re going to become you’re new best friends. I couldn’t believe how much easier my runs felt after switching to my Adidas Boston Boost runners. They were so comfortable from the moment I put them on and no breaking in required, not even a blister! On top of being gorgeously girly, they’re lightweight, flexible and have saved me from shin splint misery, amazing!
Stick to a Schedule
Your half-marathon training plan should start 10-12 weeks before your race date and consist of three short runs and one long run per week. Integrating these runs into our already hectic Hong Kong lifestyles is definitely a challenge, and turning down dinners with friends and brunch invitations to train is certainly no way to live! Alternatively, if you can work your short runs around your daily routine, you’ll be able to clock up the miles without sacrificing all your free time. Check out if it’s possible for you to run to or from work, or squeeze in a run on your lunch break. Using time that you may have spent commuting or sitting in front of your computer will make training for the half-marathon totally doable.
With the crowded streets, air pollution and lack of green space, Hong Kong initially seems like a runner’s worst nightmare. Nonetheless, where we may lack parks and fields, in their place we are blessed with mountains and waterfront promenades, complete with stunning views that are a reward in themselves. As running isn’t exactly the most thrilling sport, it’s important to scout out a running route that you enjoy and can keep you interested on your longer runs. Here are my 3 favourite running spots in Hong Kong.
- Bowen Road Fitness Trail
My absolute favourite running route, Bowen Road is a flat path conveniently located between Stubbs Road on the Eastern side and Magazine Gap Road on the Western side. Etched into the side of the mountain, shaded by trees and serving up glimpses of Hong Kong skyline, you truly feel you are running within a concrete jungle. In addition, if you’re feeling particularly hardcore, you can start your run from Bluepool Road in Happy Valley, where the very steep incline up to Bowen will provide some torturous hill sprint training!
- Quarry Bay Promenade
If you’re looking for some free entertainment on your run then check out Quarry Bay Promenade. Along the 1.8km harbour front stretch between Quarry Bay and Sai Wan Ho, you will share your run with many furry friends who are dressed to impress (part of the promenade is a very cute dog park). If you can arrive early in the morning, you’ll catch Hong Kong senior citizens at their best, including old men rocking speedos as they give swimming lessons in the harbour and pensioners practicing Tai Chi with more grace and elegance than is acceptable at 6am! The elderly community in Hong Kong are a uniquely gritty bunch, making them the perfect running companions as you try not to look like a pathetic sissy next to these absolute legends!
- Lugard Road, The Peak
This 3.4km loop that circles The Peak boasts the most incredible views in Hong Kong and will have you literally running in the clouds. The short hike up starting from Hatton Road makes for the perfect warm up, or if you’re feeling zealous you can ty running it (I’ll just meet you at the top!) For an unencumbered run, it’s probably best to hit Lugard Road in the mornings or evenings to avoid the busloads of tourists pottering around the trail. And if the views and fresh air aren’t enough incentive, there’s always the option to finish your run in Haagen Dazs for a well-earned treat!
And Speaking of Treats…
Undoubtedly the best part of training for a half-marathon is guilt free treats! With all your training you will be starving, and you should feel no shame in letting your portion control go out the window. When you start running, the thought of incorporating meal plans on top of a new running schedule is quite overwhelming. Fear not. You don’t need to overthink the nutrition side of things, as one of the wonderful benefits of half-marathon training is that your body will tell you what it needs (and it isn’t to be found through the golden arches!) You’ll crave water instead of wine, fresh food instead of takeaways and to top it all off you will sleep like a log. And for those tough weeks when you’re looking for excuses not to run, much needed motivation can be found in promising yourself some uninterrupted sofa time with tea and chocolate, or splurging on a massage and pedicure for those fatigued feet.
Rest for Recovery
For a beginner runner, I think half marathon training is all about quality, not quantity. Plan your rest days thoughtfully and give your body a chance to recover. There’s nothing half about the effort and energy that goes into half-marathon training, and it’s likely that you’re going to have a few wobbles along the way. So on those days when you’re exhausted and burnt out, the most productive thing you can do is listen to your body and get an early night. Missing a run or two isn’t a train wreck, so don’t beat yourself up about it! Relax, remind yourself of the reasons why you decided to do this in the first place and talk yourself back into that positive frame of mind you started out with.