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Half Marathon Training – Q&A with Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith has already achieved a high level of fitness. She’s a fully qualified personal trainer and plays with the ACT Strikers in the Australian Hockey League and for ANU in Canberra’s Capital League 1. This year she decided to take her fitness to the next level. Over the past few months, Jess has been training in preparation for the Canberra Running Festival. She completed her first half marathon on Sunday 10th April. I spoke to her about her training regime and asked her about advice for first time runners.

Jessica Smith during her run. Photo: Ebony Hedley
Jessica Smith during her run. Photo: Ebony Hedley

Q: What made you want to train for and run a half marathon?
A: My main motivation was probably self motivation, so just wanting to say to people, “yeah I can do a half marathon”. Also going from the half marathon and hopefully next time doing a full marathon.
Q: You’re pretty fit anyway, you play hockey, you’re naturally fit. What was your routine before you began training and how did you change that in training for the half marathon?
A: Before the marathon I wanted to gain more strength as well as doing cardio because of my hockey training. So I was doing more strength training at the gym, building more muscle, doing more probably one to two sessions of cardio per week, aerobic and anaerobic.
Q: Can you explain to me the difference between those two?
A: Anaerobic is a shorter span of exercise and aerobic is longer distance.
Before the marathon I was doing four sessions in the gym and two running sessions. When I decided I wanted to do the half marathon, so three months prior [to the race], I changed my program to do four cardio sessions and then only stayed with one strength session.
Jess' training program was mainly cardio based. Photo: Ebony Hedley
Jess’ training program was mainly cardio based. Photo: Ebony Hedley

My cardio sessions included one long run of about 14 to 16 kilometres and my other three sessions were anywhere from four to seven kilometres, doing it as fast as I could. Obviously my times improved with all the training that I did. It’s never recommended you run the full 21kms until the day of the running, so I never did 21. The longest I ran was 18kms before [the race].
Q: What sort of exercises did you do when you were doing strength training in the gym?
A: Mainly legs, so I’d do a warm up on the rower and then I’d do leg presses, squats, dead lifts.
Q: So its all about getting power in your legs?
A: Yeah, getting power in your legs, glutes. I would do a bit on my core and my back, but I did chuck a little bit of upper body in there just to keep that going as well.
Q: Did you notice any changes in your body as you modified your program?
A: I mentally felt fitter and physically was fitter. I could run quite easy, I wasn’t getting puffed. I found that in my hockey games I was running more, I could do more on the field just from my marathon training.
Q: How do you stay motivated?
A: I guess my motivation was that I told everyone that I was going to do it [laughs]. So I wanted to prove them all right, that I could do it. My other motivation was I set myself a goal – I wanted to run it in under two hours.
Q: Did you manage to do that?
A: Yep, I ran it in an hour and 45 minutes. And if I couldn’t get it in under the two hours I wanted to run the whole way without stopping which I did also. So I guess it’s those little goals that you set yourself that keeps you motivated to get up every morning.
Q: Lastly, what advice would you give to us mere mortals, who are pretty unfit and lack that bit of motivation, who are beginning a fitness program?
A: I guess my first advice would be start small. Don’t set yourself a goal that you can’t achieve. Just set little goals and once you achieve that move on, set another goal. If you set yourself a massive goal, you’re just going to fail. So set yourself the small goal and aim for that and then keep going upwards from there.

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