Bristol Half Marathon | Running Tips

Bristol Half Marathon

I’ve never run the bristol half marathon but lived in Europe for 2 years and know the course is fast and flat.

What does it takes to run a great half marathon?

Do you have to be a Kenyan to succeed at this distance?


People have become well accustomed to seeing Kenyans dominate the middle to long distance races for so long they think the Kenyans have something special.

They do, in a sense.

Work ethic.

Kenyans are not born great.

They work extremely hard and you don’t have to be one to run well at the bristol half marathon or any other road race.

What you need is to follow a few specific training principles to ensure you are set up for success.

The bristol half marathon takes place in Bristol in the United Kingdom.

One of the great aspects of this race is it takes place at sea level.

I spent many years training in colorado and anytime you can come down from high altitude and compete at sea level you have an advantage.

Is altitude training the secret sauce the Kenyans and other top runners use and have to run so fast?

Not necessarily.

Some of the world’s top distance runners train and race at sea level, some can go to altitude from sea level and still compete well.

The Course

The bristol half marathon takes runners from Anchor road just outside At-Bristol over the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

It continues on along the Portway heading toward Sea Mills, around the Cumberland Basin along Spike Island.

The final mile takes runners through the Old City center before athletes cross the finish line back on Anchor Road

What is the best way to prepare for this race?

Regardless if the course is flat or not it is always best to train over rolling terrain, especially if the course is flat and fast.

How much more prepared are you going to be for a flat race if you have trained extensively over hilly terrain?

Remember, the key to running fast is to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the blood stream.

How is this done?

A lot of anaerobic training at heart rates above 85-92% effort.

Speed work at or below 5K pace will also make your goal race pace feel so much easier and sustainable.

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Key Workouts

I have a 1:07:06 half-marathon and 2:19:35 (1:07:09 through the half) marathon best and these workouts are the same workouts I used to run my best times.

Don’t make every long run easy.

The most important and hardest workout that I do is the long run.

The great, former 800m world record holder and Englishman, Sebastian Coe, put it best.

I have always believed that long, slow running produces long, slow runners

I was personally coached for 3 years by the last American female to win the Boston Marathon, Lisa Larsen-Rainsberger.

Lisa has a 2:28:14 marathon best and ran 52:30 for 10 miles (16K).

The majority of my early years competing as a marathoner (debut: 2002) was by way of doing my long runs at much easier paces.

If you have, as your goal, to run the bristol half marathon at 7:00 mile pace you have to spend time at or below that goal race pace.

If you can get your long run extended out to 18-22 miles and spend a large portion of that distance close to goal race pace how much easier will 13.1 miles at the pace feel?

It takes approximately 21 days for the body to adapt to any stress load you place upon it.

It will adapt but you have to maintain the patience in order to see the results.

The half marathon distance is largely an aerobic event but the faster you want to run the more anaerobic it becomes.

Speed and stamina also play a part.

The Kenyans just make racing look easy because they have spent so many months and years training at a much higher heart rate.

Common Mistakes

If you are missing your racing goals it isn’t necessarily that you don’t have the ability.

You simply have to change up the paces at which you train.

If all you can do one week during a long run is a 5 minute effort at your half marathon goal pace let that be enough for the day.

Gradually extend the amount of time you spend at that goal pace and over a 12 to 16 week period you are going to see the difference.

A common mistake I have seen far too many runners make is second guessing their ability because they are not seeing results fast enough.

One of the best pieces advice I have ever been given is to be patient.

Easier said than done I know but it is the truth.

The body doesn’t adapt over night.

Changes in our physiology takes weeks, months and years.

It took me from 2002 to 2007 to break the 2:20:00 marathon barrier.

It was the miles in my legs from 1992 to 2007 that really did it.

I was a 2:00 (800m), 4:25 (1600m) and 9:46 (3200m) high school athlete.

Nothing from those times would have ever suggested I would run a half-marathon at 1:07:06 or marathon at 2:19:35 effort.

Get On The Track

Here are a few of my favorite track workouts you can do to make yourself more prepared for the bristol half marathon

Paces are going to vary from athlete to athlete, of course.

12x400m at 3K pace

5x1K at 5K goal race pace

6x1mile at 10K goal race pace

10x300m at goal mile pace

3x2mile at goal half marathon race pace

These track workouts are conducted at paces that far exceed your goal bristol half marathon race pace.

You want to spend a large portion of your time training at speed at or below your goal half marathon pace.

Do not neglect your recovery either.

Some of the world’s top Kenyan, European and American runners that I have trained with over the years run 7:30-8:00 mile pace on their easy days.

Of course, this may be your hard effort but for athletes that can run 4:45-5:00 mile pace for a marathon it only suggests they take recovery seriously.

If 7:30-8:00 mile pace is your goal pace for the bristol half marathon than running at least a minute to a minute and half slower on easy, recovery days should be your focus.

Everyone is different.

I have known runners who get too competitive and focused on running too fast on their recovery days.

Save the fast running for your hard days.

Try to enjoy the easy, recovery days because the hard sessions will not be pleasant.

Hopefully these bristol half marathon training tips will give you some insights of what not only a sub 2:20 marathoner would do to prepare but what other top distance runners do for their preparation.

You don’t have to be a Kenyan to run a great half-marathon.

Train hard, race easy.

The training should always be harder than the race itself.

Train in such a way that the race will be the easy part and you’ll get in that “flow” state where any pace your competitors throw at you you will be able to react to.

Good luck.

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