Group of people running on the beach

Race Around the Corner

With February’s Brighton Half Marathon and April’s Marathon rapidly approaching I thought I’d explain about distance running and how to train for a successful race. Words by Adam Lewis.


For people doing their first race, the main aim is getting to the end. Hoping their body holds up and that they have enough energy to cross the finish line. With respect to getting round injury free, resistance training plays an important part and has been the topic of a previous article by me. Stronger muscles help absorb the repetitive strain of every step, supporting and protecting your joints and posture for longer. Aim for 2-3 strength training workouts each week.


The energy for prolonged running comes from burning fuel with oxygen (oxidative phosphorylation). We easily have sufficient fat stores to last a race, the problem is releasing its energy quickly enough. The rapid energy requirements of running just can’t be met by fat alone. Instead the body has to use carbohydrates, which can release energy fast enough but bodily stores are small and gram for gram give less than half as much energy as fat. Running out of carbohydrate stores is a problem contributing to ‘hitting the wall’, leaving only slow burning fat as fuel, meaning you have to slow down…a lot!

Slow & Steady

To develop stamina, perform 1-2 shorter runs a week and one long run a week, peaking 2-3 weeks before the race around 18-22 miles for a marathon and 10-12 for a half. Remember, start small and build up gradually. Increasing running distances by more than 10% each week risks overdoing it.


By doing stamina training your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) develops a better blood supply, making you better at breathing in oxygen and transporting it to your muscles. Once in your muscles, energy both from carbohydrates and fat is released aerobically in tiny little regions of muscle cells called mitochondria. Over time, aerobic training develops more and bigger mitochondria. This means fat can make a greater contribution to the energy your muscles need, sparing the limited carbohydrate stores a little longer and delaying when you hit the wall.


If you run harder than you can use oxygen your body burns carbohydrates without oxygen (anaerobically) quickly causing the by-product lactic acid to build up in the muscle, resulting in fatigue. But if you can run faster and harder before going anaerobic (lactate threshold) and if you can tolerate acidic muscles better without fatiguing then you will get to the finish line quicker and in a much better state. Therefore, try adding 1-2 sessions a week where you run deliberately anaerobically, i.e. faster than race pace. A session may look like running hard for 1-2 minutes followed by slow jog or walk for 1-2 minutes to recover, then repeating for 20-40 minutes.

So in summary, get ready for race day by strengthening your muscles and joints with two resistance training workouts a week, improve your aerobic fitness with one long run a week, plus 1-2 shorter runs or other forms of aerobic training, such as cycling. Finally, raise your lactate threshold and learn to tolerate tired acidic muscles with a some shorter, faster interval training, such as hill running. Now, get out there, and good luck!

Brief Bio: Adam Lewis holds a degree in Sport & Exercise Science, a Masters degree in Human Nutrition (with Sports), is a Strength & Conditioning Specialist and has been a certified personal trainer for over 10 years. Adam provides a mobile fitness service around Brighton and Sussex.