James Thie’s top tips for the Principality Cardiff Half Marathon
If you’re taking part in the Principality Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday for the first time, here are some top tips to help you cross the finish line.
James Thie has represented Wales and Great Britain in the 1500m many times and has competed at two Commonwealth Games. He coaches athletes who run the 400m right up to those who put themselves through a marathon. He is still a keen runner, competes at Masters level and regularly takes part in the Marathon Eryri.
He’s also a coach with Coopah, the virtual run coaching app that creates adaptable plans for runners of every ability and hosted our Principality Healthy Habits pop-up event earlier this year!
Here are his top tips if you’re getting set for the start line.
1 Firstly, make sure you read all the race day information you’ve been sent – there’s loads of really important information in there which will really help you on the day. If you’re well prepared, you can concentrate on calming the nerves and the race itself.
2. Work out your travel plan in advance. If you’re travelling by car, decide where you are going to park, work out when you need to leave the house and allow yourself plenty of time. You don’t want to be that person who is desperately trying to park and getting flustered. We know that train strikes have been announced so make sure you’re aware of the alternative arrangements. A good option is to use the pre-bookable park and walk option – it’s a bit of a stroll from Cardiff City Stadium but you can use it as a warm up. Ideally, you want to be on site at least 90 minutes before and definitely no less than an hour.
3. Have you got a plan where you’ll stow your bag? Make sure you know where the baggage facility is and what time it opens (08:30am!)
4. Set out your kit and your race number the night before so you’re not rushing around trying to find something on the morning of the event. Get the race number pinned on properly on the FRONT of your top.
5. Allow time to pop to the toilets before the race – they will get busier as we draw nearer to kick off. But also remember that there are plenty of toilets around the course too so don’t panic.
6. In the week leading up to the event, make sure you know what you are going to wear. I tend to wear layers. I pop on an old hoodie and jogging bottoms so that I am nice and warm before the race and I discard them in the pens. You can tie them on the barriers and they get recycled and sent to Play It Again Sport, so just wear something old. You could buy something second-hand? It’s good to stay warm and dry before you start running.
7. On race morning, you must try and have breakfast, even if you don’t feel like it because your body will need it. Carbohydrates are important to fuel your body. Just have something that tried and tested for you – if you eat porridge before your training runs, eat porridge. If scrambled eggs is your go-to fuelling breakfast, stick to that. Now is not the time to experiment – so just because someone else swears by an espresso, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. In terms of when to eat breakfast, the golden rule always used to be to eat three hours before you race. But do what works for you. You just don’t want to feel like you’re too full but you do need fuel on board.
8. Make sure you have your food, nutrition and drinks ready for the actual race. Again, don’t be tempted to change what you take with you at this stage – just do what you’ve practised. But you want to keep energy levels topped up; you don’t want to be running on empty. It’s important to pre-empt the requirements of the body. There are gels on the course too – some people really like these, some people don’t so do what works for you.
9. Hydration is crucial so keep drinking little and often so your body absorbs it – and start the day before so you’re into a routine of being well-hydrated. There are water stations around the course so so take advantage. Even if you don’t feel it, just take it for later.
10. Right, sleep… Expect the worst night’s sleep you’ve ever had and then if it’s anything better than that, it’s a bonus. And remember that sleep is accumulative so take some early nights in the week leading up to the event and then you don’t need to worry too much if you’re lying wide awake the night before. And if you do get an awful night’s sleep, just remember that Kelly Holmes won her second gold medal at the Athens Olympics after just one hour of sleep. But she didn’t overthink it and she was ready to run. Don’t worry about something you can’t control. Of course, you can help yourself by avoiding caffeine and alcohol as well as too much screen time before bedtime.
11. Once you’re in your pen, calm your nerves by chatting to people around you and soaking up the atmosphere. I take a bottle of water with me so I stay well hydrated.
12. Don’t worry too much about warming up because you will need to walk to the startline – that means five to ten mins of walking. And because of the sheer volume of people, you will need to start slowly. That’s your warm up done!
13. If you have any concerns during the race, there are loads of marshals and superb medical support around the course. Look out for yourself and for others especially during the latter stages.
14. Whether you’re an elite runner, someone who has done this a few times before or a first timer, there will be tough miles. Just remember it’s a huge achievement and remember why you’re there. If you’re running for a good cause, that can really help push you over the line. Just keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other. If you need to focus on little goals, concentrate on running from one water station to the next and then have a breather. Or focus on your playlist and what tracks are coming up. Be motivated by the cheering stations when things get tough. And remember, there is absolutely no shame in walking!
15. Finally, relax and enjoy it. The Principality Cardiff Half Marathon is one of the friendliest events. There is such a camaraderie which helps to carry the runners around the course so soak up the atmosphere and the runners dressed as Elvis or in wedding attire. Take the encouragement from other runners and the crowds.