Whether you’re steeling yourself for the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Half or you’ve signed up to any of Simplyhealth's races, 13.1 miles of running is no small feat.

Running a half marathon takes not only physical preparation but mental endurance too - and if you’ve never taken on the challenge before, not knowing exactly what to expect can be rather daunting. 

That's why it pays to prep yourself. Here, Gareth Turnbull, a former international athlete offers advice for the first-time half marathon runner.

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Half yourself a great 13.1 miles!

So the 5km and the 10km’s just aren’t cutting it for you at the moment and you now want to get your head (and feet!) in gear for the next challenge of the half marathon distance. And if you are taking a journey into the running unknown then here are a few helpful tips to hopefully make your Simplyhealth Great Manchester Half Marathon an amazing and enjoyable experience from start to finish.

Be realistic

Yes sorry to be the killjoy here, but if you have only ever attempted a 10km run then it’s worth reminding yourself (more than once!) that you will be running twice as far in a race than ever before. Thinking you can simply set off at your 10km pace and stay on that schedule until the finish is not a great idea. A better and more realistic one is to take your 10km best performance, double it and then add the time taken for three of those kilometres to your final total.

For example, if you run 10km in 60 mins, then look at a half marathon time of 2 x 60mins plus 3 x 6 mins. This will allow you to set yourself a per mile/kilometre pace for your whole run and crucially not result in a distinctly hard and unenjoyable latter part of the race. Remember time gained picking up your pace will always outweigh time lost slowing down, so play the waiting game, be patient and stick to your own pacing schedule.

(Philip Oldham)

Mind over matter

Great news. You aren’t really doing the half marathon distance after all…in fact, you are merely doing 5km four times in a row. You are a master of this classic park run distance, so take confidence from the fact your body will still be on cruise control as you breeze through the 3-mile marker. Repeat again and now you have broken the back of distance at 10km too. With the last 5km being a celebration of achievement all that’s left is a little mental application to get you through that crucial ‘third 5km!’.

With this in mind, visualise your favourite 5 km route and use that positive mental thought to sail through from 10km to 15km. Don’t let 20km and change frighten or intimidate you. Break things down into easy mental and physical blocks and you will find yourself in control of the half marathon distance rather than the half marathon distance controlling you.

You can’t fluke being amazing

This might seem an unusual thing to say, but let’s just remember that all the work has been done now and your training is going to serve you well. Think of race day as a celebration of the amazing journey your training has taken you on. Keep a particularly hard day’s training in your mind and use it when you might be feeling a little low or fatigued during the race. This is what you have prepared for and the training you have done won’t let you down! Your finish line awaits, enjoy the feeling of greatness.

Tips provided by running expert Gareth Turnbull on behalf of Simplyhealth, helping people make the most of life through better everyday health. For more, please visit Simplyhealth.

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