Sonia O’Sullivan’s tips for beginner runners
‘If you can meet up with friends to prepare for an event, it can be so much easier’
Rachel (8), Lucy (5) and Kate Dowling (9) with Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan who will lead out the Great Pink Run, which comes for the first time to a second location, Kilkenny Castle Park, on Sunday, September 10th, the day after the Dublin run. To register go to greatpinkrun.ie. Photograph: Pat Moore
This is my fifth year taking part in the Great Pink Run which raises funds towards Breast Cancer Ireland’s research and awareness programmes. When I first took part in the Great Pink Run it was just another run and instinctively I wanted to run fast and win the race.
Each year that I return, I see how much more there is to this event. It is not just about the run but the message it promotes. It is a great excuse to burn off some energy and have a target to aim for but it’s an even better reason to get together with friends and family to raise awareness and much-needed funds for continued research into into the disease and to help raise awareness of good breast health.
Once you decide which event to do, 5km or 10km, then it’s is a good idea to work out a plan over the next six weeks to get yourself fitter and more prepared to be able to enjoy it more.
It doesn’t matter if you run or walk, if you know before September 9th and 10th that you can complete the distance, then you will have a much better experience on the day and be able to relax and enjoy as you loop through the beautiful Phoenix Park or Kilkenny Castle Park or maybe even both as a super pink weekend challenge.
Our minds want to go further and faster but the body may not be ready
Depending on where you are starting from and what level of running fitness you have, you may need to start slowly and gradually build up to your chosen distance. I know recently I’ve been returning from injury so it has taken me a good few weeks to run 5km without stopping, but now I am also including an extra 5km of walking, 500m jogging, to complete 10km three times each week.
The plan is to run 10km in Kilkenny on September 10th, but more important is not to get injured along the way, so it is a slow cautious process. Often our minds want to go further and faster but the body may not be ready, so we do need to listen to our body and stop and walk rather than push through when we are not ready for the full distance.
I always find if you can meet up with friends to prepare for an event, it can be so much easier, not just to do the training but also when you have set an agreed time, you are more likely to stick to a regular routine and plan. It is as much a social event and the exercise and training is not the sole focus.
It’s a good idea now to check your shoes as they may be a bit old or worn and it may be time to replace them. There is nothing like the feeling of putting on some new shoes and running out the door. Just be sure to get a style of running shoe that suits you and your running or walking style.
We are all different how we land, so it is important to get the right shoe to avoid injury. It’s never a good idea to choose running shoes based on the colour and how they look. The most important thing is how they fit and that they are comfortable, as you don’t want to have sore feet or cause injury through ill-fitting shoes.
It’s worth driving a short distance to enjoy the peace and quiet of a nice park
There are so many places to run and explore, but they may not be straight out your front door. It’s worth having a look at a map to see what parks, trails or river paths may be close by. As well as being more interesting than running through the streets or around the block, the softer surface will be kinder on your body and help to prevent injury.
There are lots of ways to plan your route now, different apps you can get on your phone or Google maps, so you can work out a loop or out and back course, so you know where you will run too and not get lost in the woods. It’s worth driving a short distance to meet at a nicer running venue, to get away from busy streets and traffic and enjoy the peace and quiet of a nice park.
It’s always nice to know how far you are going and how long it will take. A good idea is to work out how long it will take to complete the Great Pink Run and then make a plan that will get you to the startling point confident that you can cover the distance and knowing how long you will be running for. There is a good chance when you are in the park with lots of people around that you will take less time than you expect and so receive a nice boost on crossing the finish line. I have no doubt most people surprise themselves with what they can do when running or walking together in the sea of pink.
If you haven’t exercised for a while this can be an opportunity to kick start a fitness routine, to incorporate some exercise into your week that will also help to improve your diet and lifestyle. You are bound to feel a little sore when you start a new training plan and the temptation is to race out the door but it is important to take it one step at a time and gradually build up. Gentle stretching is good while standing around waiting for others join you or while chatting after the run. Use the talking time to stretch together.
Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand. You need fuel to exercise but also to recover and it won’t take you long to realise the healthier you can eat, the better you will feel when exercising. Most people don’t need to make huge changes to their daily routines, just take an hour to yourself three times a week and really look at what you are eating to see what small changes can be made to help with a healthier lifestyle.
A good starting point is to ensure that you are drinking enough water each day, at least one glass with every meal. A glass before and after exercising is a good start. In the warm summer days, a diluted electrolyte drink will help to replace lost minerals and help you to recover faster. It’s a good idea to look at the ingredients and try to avoid too much sugar, which is why diluting a sports drink will also dilute the sugar content.
The more natural foods that you can include in your diet the better, less packaging and fewer ingredients in the food are good choices.
The best place to start is vegetables and fruits – include some in every meal. Always plan with some prepared meals if travelling, as this is when you can be stuck for what to eat and make some less healthy choices. I always pack some fruit and recently have taken to bringing a bag of salad leaves to snack on in the car or at the airport.
Bananas are great for a quick snack after you run. It can often be a rush out the door in the morning, so an overnight prepared breakfast that you can take with you can really help fill you up for the day. I have been doing some overnight oats in coconut milk recently and it really gets me through the day when busy in the mornings. I’m not always ready to eat first thing in the morning but once moving the hunger sets in. It’s never a good idea to miss breakfast. A few mandarins, bananas and apples are always easy to travel with and a good cool bag is handy to bring some cooler items like yogurt or the overnight oats for later in the morning.
There are also lots of energy bars out there but it is so easy to make your own, just whizz them up in the food processor on the weekend and you’ll have enough for the week. Nuts and dates are a good base to start with and are easily combined with a little water.
Training tips from Sonia O’Sullivan
- Aim to get in three runs a week, with the weekend run increasing in distance each week.
- Buy yourself some good running shoes and make sure you are comfortable with the fit so you have time to make any necessary changes will in advance of the Great Pink Run.
- Plan your training routes each week and try to change the surface you run on and places where you run. It is so much more inspiring to run in a park or forest away from cars and crossing roads.
- Always drink plenty of water before and after running and fuel up with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Estimate how long it will take you to cross the Great Pink Run finish line. For one of your weekly training sessions, spend this amount of time running and/or walking.
- Arrange to meet friends or a running group at a regular time a few times each week. Even if you run at different paces, just agreeing to meet will ensure you never miss a run.
- A stopwatch is your friend and will provide motivation to increase your training each week and improve your pace.
- No matter how slow you run, it is faster than walking, so pick those feet up and let the energy flow.
- After a run, stretching is good to ease out any aches and pains. If you are new to running , you are bound to feel a bit sore in the days after your first runs. This is normal and eventually you will not feel these aches – you just need to keep on running and let the body adapt to the new regime.
Tips for nutrition pre-and post training, etc
- Eat lots of fruit in the morning and bring some fruit with you if you are not finishing the exercise run at home.
- Drink lots of water.
- I love tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas and avocado which I eat every day.
Sonia O’Sullivan will lead out the Great Pink Run with Avonmore Slimline Milk on September 10th in Kilkenny Castle Park. This is the first time the run will take place at a second location, the day after the Dublin event in the Phoenix Park on Saturday, September 9th and all monies raised will fund Breast Cancer Ireland’s research and awareness programmes . The run in Kilkenny is supported by Aut Even Hospital, Kilkenny. greatpinkrun.ie