How To Train For The Great North Run: Your Complete Guide

How To Train For The Great North Run: Your Complete Guide

Wondering how to train for the Great North Run? Our no-nonsense guide dives straight into practical training techniques to equip you with the endurance, speed, and nutrition strategies you need. Stay tuned for a straightforward plan that’s tailored to turning novices into successful half-marathon runners and helping seasoned athletes smash their previous bests.

Key Takeaways

  • Consistently increase your base mileage with a focus on endurance, aiming to achieve 20-30 miles per week including a weekly long run, while ensuring your body adapts safely.

  • Incorporate a varied speed training regimen with tempo runs, intervals, ladder workouts, and strides to enhance your aerobic capacity and overall running speed for the race.

  • Balance your rigorous training with adequate rest and recovery, at least 1-2 days per week, and complement it with proper nutrition, cross-training, and strength-building exercises.

  • Ensuring you have the best running gear and the right fit to perform at your highest level!

Building Your Base Mileage

The cornerstone of a half marathon success lies in establishing a solid base mileage. Think of this stage as the building blocks of your training plan, where you condition your muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the journey ahead. Begin with a few miles at a time, letting your body adapt to the increasing demand without overexertion. Though gradual, this process of accumulating miles weekly sets the groundwork for more demanding training runs in the future.

Aim for 80% of your runs to be at an easy, conversational pace; this helps you burn fat more effectively and builds endurance while minimizing the risk of injury. A good rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10%—a gentle yet effective progression that ensures your body adapts safely. By the end of six to nine weeks, your goal is to clock in 20-30 miles each week, including a weekly long run that gradually extends in distance.

As you gradually increase your mileage, bear in mind the importance of consistency. Regular training runs, including those mile repeats, build the endurance you need for the half marathon while keeping your training plan on track. The weekly long run becomes a staple of your routine, setting you up for the more specialized workouts to come.

The Long Run Strategy

The weekly long run serves as a crucial element of any successful training plan, essentially your secret weapon for the north run. Long runs bolster your endurance, the very essence of marathon and half marathon running. They’re not just about physical conditioning; they’re about mental fortitude, teaching you to push through when your legs scream for respite.

Adding a mile or two to your long run each week establishes a consistent progression, preparing your body for the great north distance. However, it’s a fine line between building strength and inviting fatigue. To prevent doing more harm than good, scale back the miles every three weeks, giving your body a well-deserved break and a chance to recuperate. By the time you’re a couple of weeks from the start line, you should have completed at least one 10-mile run, ensuring you’re well-prepared for the 13.1 miles that await.

A smooth transition from your base mileage to the long run strategy requires attuning to your body and honoring its boundaries. With each long run, you’re not just adding miles; you’re building an endurance base that will carry you through the great north with confidence and strength.

Speed Training Techniques


Speed adds a dash of variety and challenge to your training, effectively spicing up your running routine. Injecting speed work into your training schedule is the surge you need to kick your fitness into high gear. Tempo runs, for instance, teach your body to maintain a hard pace over time, while interval training boosts your ability to hit a faster pace and recover quickly.

Ladder workouts and fartlek sessions are your training days’ wild cards, keeping your legs guessing and your heart rate soaring. These training tips not only help you gradually increase your speed but also build a robust aerobic capacity that’s crucial for race day. And let’s not forget about strides—these short, sharp bursts of speed are the perfect finisher to an easy run, honing your technique and giving your legs that extra zip.

Blending these speed training techniques into your regimen involves striking a balance between a slower pace and more intense workouts. Alternate hard training days with easy runs to allow your body to recover. Remember, steady progression is your mantra, ensuring your training peaks at just the right moment: race day.

Rest and Recovery Essentials

Allow yourself a pause. The importance of rest and recovery parallels that of your longest run or fastest sprint. Schedule 1-2 rest days each week to let your muscles heal and your mind refresh—a crucial step to keep you bounding towards the north east with zest and endurance. These days are not about laziness; they’re about giving your body time to strengthen and adapt.

Active recovery techniques such as walking or yoga can be both soothing and beneficial on these off days. They help flush out the lactic acid, easing the muscle soreness that can come from a particularly grueling session. And remember, if you feel persistent pain or suspect an injury, it’s time to seek professional advice. Running through pain can do more harm than good, jeopardizing your hard work and potentially sidelining you from the event.

Rather than viewing rest days as adversaries, consider them allies. They complement your training days, ensuring that every step you take is strong, confident, and injury-free. Listen to your body—it knows when it’s time to push and when it’s time to pause.

Nutrition Tips for Half Marathon Training

The choice of fuel for your body can significantly impact your performance on race day. A balanced diet is the cornerstone of any training plan, providing the energy and nutrients necessary for those training runs and the great north run itself. Good carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats should be staples on your plate, creating a varied and nutrient-dense diet that keeps your engine running smoothly.

Pre-run, consider a meal that combines complex carbohydrates with protein—think oatmeal topped with fruit or a bagel slathered in peanut butter. During those weekly long runs, arm yourself with easily digestible snacks like gels or sports bars to keep your energy levels up. And don’t forget about hydration; practicing your drinking strategy during training will ensure you’re well-hydrated when it counts the most.

Post-run, your focus should shift to recovery. Here are some key tips for post-run nutrition:

  • Consume a mix of simple carbohydrates and protein to kickstart muscle repair.
  • Make sure to hydrate properly to replenish lost fluids.
  • Consider incorporating foods rich in antioxidants to reduce inflammation.
  • Don’t forget to refuel within 30 minutes of finishing your run. Remember, nutrition is not just about the race; it’s about supporting your training every step of the way.

    Cross-Training and Strength Building

    Cross-training serves as an excellent supplement to your running routine. Engaging in activities like:
    • cycling
    • swimming
    • kayaking
    • hiking

      can enhance your overall fitness, reduce injury risk, and break the monotony of running every day. These activities can keep you active while allowing your running muscles to recover on rest days.

      Strength training targets the muscles less used by runners, bringing balance to your physique and power to your stride. Plyometric exercises, on the other hand, inject a dose of explosive speed into your legs, which can be a game-changer on race day. And incorporating yoga into your training schedules not only aids flexibility but can also be a powerful tool for mental focus and relaxation.

      Injecting variety into your training days aids in sustaining motivation and fostering a well-rounded, resilient physique. Varying your exercises is like cross-stitching your fitness fabric—strong, intricate, and ready for any challenge the great north run throws at you.

      Warming Up and Cooling Down

      Warm up cool down

      Acting as the bookends of your training sessions, warming up and cooling down encapsulate your hard work, demonstrating care and attention towards your body. A proper warm-up activates your cardiovascular system and prepares your muscles for the work ahead, reducing the risk of injury and enhancing your performance. Dynamic exercises that mirror the movement of running, adjusted for intensity and duration, are ideal for getting your body in the zone.

      After you’ve hit your last stride, cooling down allows your body to gradually transition back to a state of rest. It aids in recovery, ensuring that your legs are ready to take on the next challenge without feeling like lead weights the following day. Stretching post-run can also enhance flexibility and muscle relaxation, with benefits that extend beyond the training day.

      Whether you’re training in the warmth of summer or the chill of winter, don’t skimp on these crucial sessions. They not only help maintain your fitness but also safeguard your body from the strain of repeated workouts.

      Choosing the Right Gear

      Preparing for the Great North Run involves more than just physical training—it also requires the right gear to support your performance and comfort on race day. At, we offer a range of high-quality running gear designed to enhance your training experience and help you reach your goals with confidence. Here are some essential products to consider:

      Compression Shirts: Our compression shirts provide targeted support to key muscle groups, reducing muscle fatigue and enhancing circulation during long runs. Made from moisture-wicking fabric, they keep you dry and comfortable, allowing you to focus on your training without distractions. Explore Compression Shirts
      Running Shorts: Stay cool and comfortable during your training sessions with our lightweight and breathable running shorts. Featuring built-in briefs and secure pockets for essentials, they offer maximum freedom of movement and convenience on the go. Discover Running Shorts
      Long Sleeve Running Tops: For cooler days or early morning runs, our long sleeve running tops provide warmth and protection without sacrificing performance. With moisture-wicking technology and ergonomic design, they keep you comfortable and focused on your training goals. Shop Long Sleeve Running Tops
      Running Socks: Don't overlook the importance of proper footwear and socks. Our running socks feature cushioned soles and moisture-wicking properties to prevent blisters and keep your feet dry and comfortable mile after mile. Browse Running Socks
      Accessories: Stay hydrated and fueled during your training runs with our range of accessories, including hydration belts, running hats, and reflective gear for visibility in low-light conditions.


        Investing in the right gear can make all the difference in your training journey, helping you perform at your best and stay motivated as you prepare for the Great North Run.

        Shoes are the most critical piece of equipment for a runner, and choosing the right pair is paramount. They should provide the appropriate support and cushioning for your unique foot mechanics and the surface you’ll be training on, whether it’s the smooth pavement or rugged trails.

        The fit of your running shoes should feel like a natural extension of your foot from the moment you slip them on. There should be enough room in the toebox to prevent blisters, yet the fit should be snug enough to avoid unnecessary movement. And don’t underestimate the impact of the heel drop—it affects how your foot strikes the ground and can influence your overall running mechanics.

        When in doubt, seek professional advice. A specialist running shop can provide personalized recommendations based on a thorough foot and gait analysis. Investing in the right gear is investing in your success and enjoyment of the great north run.

        Staying Motivated and Setting Goals

        Setting running goals

        Maintaining motivation throughout your great north run training plan can pose as much of a challenge as the training itself. Setting clear goals early on provides direction and a measure of success as you progress. Remember why you signed up for the great north run—whether it’s for personal achievement, a charitable cause, or simply the love of running—this knowledge will fuel your motivation on tough days.

        One of the top tips for staying motivated while running is to run with a friend or join a community, whether it’s a local running club or an online platform like Strava, which offers support and camaraderie to keep you going. And don’t forget to mix things up—vary your routes, listen to music or podcasts, and reward yourself for milestones reached.

        Your motivation is a personal journey, one that ebbs and flows. But it’s also a shared experience, bolstered by the support and knowledge of those around you. Keep your aim in sight, and let your confidence grow with every step towards the start line.

        Preparing for Race Day

        As the great north run draws near, it becomes crucial to refine your preparation. Tapering is your final phase of training, a delicate balance where you reduce your mileage but maintain the quality of your runs. This is when you train your body to expect less but perform more, keeping your legs fresh and eager for the distance ahead.

        Visualize the course, see yourself overcoming the hills, and cruising down the slopes. This mental rehearsal makes the event feel within your grasp and helps maintain your focus. Practice your pre-race routines in shorter races or trial runs to iron out any kinks, ensuring that on the day of the marathon, you’re as prepared as you can be.

        Race day is the culmination of your hard work, your dedication, and your dreams. You’ve trained your body and mind for this moment, and now it’s time to shine. Embrace the nerves, the excitement, and the anticipation. You’re ready to conquer the great north run.


        From the first mile to the finish line, training for the Great North Run is a journey of persistence, dedication, and self-discovery. You’ve built a solid base, fine-tuned your speed, practiced your nutrition, and chosen the right gear. Each step, each run, each day of rest has led you to this point. So, take a deep breath, trust in your training, and step forward with confidence. The road ahead is yours to conquer.


        Frequently Asked Questions

        How many rest days should I have in my training schedule?

        You should have 1-2 rest days per week to allow your muscles to recover and prevent mental burnout. Rest is crucial for your overall wellness and performance.

        What should I eat before and after my long runs?

        For better performance before long runs, go for easily digested complex carbohydrates and protein like oatmeal with fruit or a bagel with peanut butter. After your run, prioritize simple carbohydrates and a protein-rich snack within 30 minutes to an hour for recovery and muscle repair.

        How long is a half marathon?

        A half marathon, also known as a 13.1-mile race, covers a distance of approximately 21.1 kilometers. This 13.1-mile race is often an organized event where participants can choose to run, walk or jog the entirety of the event.

        What's a good half marathon time?

        A good half marathon time varies depending on individual fitness levels, experience, and goals. For seasoned runners, a competitive time might be under 1 hour and 30 minutes for men and under 1 hour and 45 minutes for women. However, for many recreational runners, completing a half marathon is a significant accomplishment regardless of the time, and finishing times can range anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours or more. The most important factor is setting a realistic goal that aligns with your fitness level and training regimen. 

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