running a half marathon


It’s London Marathon Day 2019, so we have decided to celebrate the wonderful world of running. The Marathon is always a Big Deal – a test of human physical endurance and mental strength. The race is a casual 42.2 km in length and leaves runner alone with their minds and bodies for the duration of the run. Despite the thousands of racers alongside and hundreds of spectators waving at the edges of the route, it is truly a solo mission. An individual journey and an individual triumph.

There are different speeds of running (from jogging to sprinting), levels of running (for the bus or in a race) and places to run (on a treadmill or down the street). It is also an incredibly affordable form of exercise, needing just a pair of trainers and the great outdoors to get started. Whether out for a short run or going the distance, running can be a supportive tool for improved physical and mental health.

About a month ago, one of our trainers, completed a half marathon.

We thought it was apt to share her story and training tips as a homage to all runners; past, present and future.

running a marathon

My name is Elina Pavlova (yes, like the dessert) and I have been with The Bridge team for the past 6 months. I started as a volunteer in the gym, where I gave free nutritional consultations to gym members as a newly qualified nutritionist. Now, I am continuing to gain more experience as a fitness instructor. I am a strong believer that nutrition and exercise are closely linked and are crucial for our mental, physical and emotional health (hence why I got qualified in both). After completing my degrees, I have come to the realisation that the most important thing on the path to health is to find a way that works for you as an individual. There is no wrong or right. It just you and your way of being. I like to think that I have found mine.

What else should you know about me then? Well, I have been relatively active all my life from swimming to basketball, hiking, running and gymming. I have always tried to do something new because ‘if you don’t try, you don’t know’.

What I want to share with you in this post is my latest challenge – running a half marathon.

Firstly, I want to set the scene. Experiences of running and training will be different for everyone. Not everyone will start at a place where I did, so I do not want to conjure up unrealistic expectations.

It was early January 2019 when I found out that I had got a place on The Vitality Big Half marathon, which would take place on the second Sunday of March. So, I had about 2 months to get ready, mentally and physically. Panic started there! My head went: ‘Can I even run that far again*?’ and ‘There is not enough time, I should leave it for later’ but a slightly quieter voice said: ‘You Can Do It!’. So I left all that chatter in my head and made a realistic plan of action, there and then.

The plan was as follows:

runs: three to four runs a week, which included long runs (up to 19 km, but mostly around 14 km), short, quicker runs (either 10 km or 45 mins/1 hour runs) and interval running on a treadmill – total of 45 minutes, 5 minutes on (13-14km/h), 5 minutes off (6.5-7.5 km/h). I also made sure to schedule in ‘fun’ runs, which I ran during lunch breaks (yes, I ran with my colleagues. Finding like-minded people to run with is a top tip to making training more fun and was a big motivation for me.

full body work out: twice a week. Running is very important (this is what you will be doing for your race, right?!) but strong core muscles and your upper body are equally important. I personally love full body workouts and lifting weights (not heavy, just something that makes me feel slightly stronger than before I entered the gym). I need to highlight this because it is very important for me, I need to enjoy my workouts because if I don’t, I simply would not do it or would find an excuse. That is another tip, I would recommend: find what you enjoy doing and do it. This way you will find excuses to go and do it, not the other way around!

rest days: one to two a week. I cannot stress this enough. It is incredibly important for your physical and mental wellbeing. Injuries are the last thing you want, and burnout is not what we are aiming for.

nutritional plan: as a qualified nutritionist, I guess I can say I am lucky because this was the least of my worries. I knew I was eating quite a balanced diet already, so I did not need to change much. I ate what my body asked for. Previously, I would have been more rigid but (as I said before) I needed to stick to listening to my body and enjoying what I was eating regardless of ‘the general guidelines’, ‘social norms’ or someone else’s diet plan (I could probably write a separate blog on this!). We all are unique, hence our dietary needs are different. Nevertheless, even if I believe that our bodies are clever enough to tell us what we need, some of us may need additional help realising certain requirements that need to be met especially when you are preparing for a race:

carbs, carbs. Please don’t fear them. They are good for us and you will want to include plenty of them in your diet.

protein. Also important. I am not a big fan of any powder forms, but including them might be helpful if protein is a worry for you. I am a ‘pescatarian’ (although I don’t like the labels) but I include plenty of veggie protein sources like legumes, nuts and eggs. So far ticking the boxes.

fats. Again, there is no need to be afraid. I include lots of them, my favourite forms are nuts, avocados, olive oil and fish.

As you can see, I don’t have any specific percentage or grams that I have to eat or times when I am eating. It is more or less based on hunger levels, which unsurprisingly increases with more exercise. I do appreciate that for some, it might be a bit more complicated and some guidance is needed. You may want to breakdown your meals to ensure you are getting enough nutrition. Why not try: breakfast (carbs+ protein + fat), before run (carbs e.g. banana), after run (carbs + protein), lunch/dinner (same as breakfast.) This may vary depending on your daily schedule, so please be flexible with yourself!

If you are in doubt or would like more support with your daily or training nutrition, please contact a specialist directly, your GP or get in touch with The Bridge and we can ensure you get help from a professional.

mind games: last but not least are mind games. I knew these would come. We all have our inner chat, which sometimes can be helpful and sometimes not. For me the hardest part was not beating myself up for not being as ‘good’ as I used to be. I tried to stay aware of the fact that I had only 2 months to prepare, whereas for my first race I was running a lot more often in the lead up. During my training period, it was quite important for me to not let these thoughts in because running with the ‘You are not as fast or prepared’ mindset will only slow you down. What helped me? Firstly, the fact that I physically could not put in so much training to be at the same level due to time, secondly, I wanted to enjoy the process and even if I could not run as fast, I still have done a very good job of not letting anything stop me. Lastly, my colleagues, I enjoyed the process leading up to the race and hopefully the race itself and of course the “after party” of good food, laughs and few aching muscles.

new trainers: they really can make a difference. So, if you feel like you have been running with your old ones for a while, it might be a good idea to spend a little (or not so little) for a pair of new trainers. I did so and made sure that I do enough runs in them to make them “race ready”.

I hope you enjoyed the read and gained some new (not so new) tips that could help you for your run, swim or just everyday life. Remember, to stay true to yourself and be kind to your body because only working together not against you can reach the goals that you want! Stay positive and enjoy the process.

*I have done a half marathon before in 2015. So mentally I knew I can do it. Obviously, I do remember the finishing time, 1 hour 58 minutes. This sticks in your head no matter what.

If you want to look more into running for your physical and mental health, check out:

Run Talk Run (or The Benefits of Running for you Mental Health, a blog post written for us by the Run Talk Run Founder, Jess.)

Couch to 5k

This Girl Can Run

Drop us a comment or tag us on social media if you would like to share your experiences of running, as a beginner or as an expert. We also have brilliant trainers in our women only gym, so if you are training for a race, we have the facilities and expertise to support you.

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