Gearing up for the Great North Run

The Great North Run is just six months away and professional and amateur athletes will be starting their training schedules ready for the big day. But it is important to remember that running a half marathon can have some major effects on your body. Here Spire Washington Hospital’s sports medicine specialist and current England U20 team doctor Glen Rae and specialist physiotherapist in lower limb problems Andrew Appleyard share some valuable tips.

Glen, what preparation should a runner do before attempting the Great North Run? 

Glen Rae

GR: Exercise is a great way to lose weight (or keep it off) as well as helping to prevent chronic health problems in the future. Running a half marathon however is no small feat, especially if you aren’t already particularly active. I would initially suggest an appointment with a doctor for a health check prior to starting training. An appointment with a sports medicine doctor and physiotherapist may be able to provide a more focused assessment and if you are already aware of a specific problem then it is definitely worthwhile getting it checked before starting running. Prevention is often easier than cure!

Many training plans exist and well organised runs may provide such a plan. Steadily building up your mileage will prevent suffering injuries early in your training - perhaps even start out by walking if needs be, before gradually increase your running distance.

One of the good things about running is the lack of equipment you need to start. It is however worthwhile in investing in a good pair of running shoes because they will become invaluable once the miles add up.

What should people look out for when training?

GR: You will feel some shortness of breath and muscular aches, muscle aches being more common up to two days after running. Most will settle themselves and become less common as you become more conditioned to the new exercise but don’t ignore persistent niggles; you don’t want to miss two weeks from training as the big day looms and even worse, you don’t want to miss the actual race itself.

What injuries are most common when preparing for a half marathon?

AA: Running is a fun thing to do and often people (especially amateurs) don’t pay too much attention to potential problems, but anyone can end up with injuries. We see a variety of problems from pelvic pain, ITB syndrome (a common runner’s injury that affects the side of the thigh) to back of the knee pain, shin splints, Achilles tendon problems and plantar fasciitis which affects the fascia that runs under the foot.

GR: A sensible training programme will help keep these types of injuries to a minimum. Ankle and knee tendon problems and a knee problem called “Runner’s Knee” are common but input from a sports injury clinic will be able to provide you with treatment and specific strengthening exercises that can be done in addition to your running to reduce any  injuries effect on your training and enjoyment of the big day.

Andy, is there any advice you can give runners to help prevent future injuries?

AA: If you intend to continue with regular running, we can definitely help by reviewing your training habits and making adjustments to your program.  We would also aim to do a general overview of your conditioning and function of the joints in the lower limb to help identify any factors which may increase your risk of injury.

Our job is to make people aware that we are here if they do need any advice about their training or help to recover from injury. All the advice we give is evidence based and personalised to the individual.

If you’ve had a running injury or want to improve your style for the future, maybe we can help. For more information, please visit or call 0191 418 8687.

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