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Can you run a half marathon with less than three weeks' training?

CHARLIE BAYLISS used to swim competitively but has never been much of a runner – so why did he accept a challenge to train for his first half-marathon in less than three weeks?

All the gear, no idea

All the gear, no idea

HOW hard can it be? That question, asked 18 days before the IAAF World Half Marathon in Cardiff seems to have landed me in hot water. After very little persuasion, I paid the entry fee and have since been on a mission to show that, with the right attitude, running a half-marathon is achievable for anyone.

My previous running experience? I don’t really have any. Back in school, I’d be coaxed into running the annual cross-country races each year for the “greater good” of my house. Now, at a push, I’d probably run for a bus or train if there were an 80% chance I’d make it. Anything less than that wouldn’t be worth the embarrassment.

Stage 1

Some running kit was probably needed. I was told to invest in running shoes but I wasn’t going to spend £100 on a flash pair. Luckily I had some old gym shoes lying about from my swimming days so I stuck with those. I didn’t have any shorts, so I went into town and bought some cut-price Karrimor shorts leggings. At the very least, I’d look the part going round the course. I’ve got Mike Ashley and Sports Direct to thank for that.

Stage 2

While the excitement of my new purchases was still fresh, I embarked on a 4k run with two housemates. Neither was a keen runner and I think they only joined me out of pity. Still, they ran more than me so I decided to hang back for the first half. Starting was the hardest part. The fact I was doing exercise, let alone exercise on land, was a bit of a shock to my body. My legs started hurting but I wasn’t out of breath.

As we closed in on the home straight I jostled for position. We turned on to the home straight of Miskin Street and I opened up my stride and galloped away, Mo Farah-esque, leaving them for dead. I was exhausted, as were they, and it dawned on me that I had completed less than a fifth of the actual race.

Stage 3

My sore legs were definitely were not used to the impact and let me know the next day. I decided to supplement my running with swimming; something my body was at least used to. This helped me improve my cardio without battering my legs.

Screenshot from one of my longer runs

One of my longer runs

Stage 4

Another run was needed, and this time I upped the ante and ran 8k. This was the furthest I’d gone in my life and I was pretty apprehensive. The pace was slower than my 4k, probably because I was alone. I felt good throughout the run, as if I could have kept going the whole half-marathon at around that pace, which gave me confidence for the task ahead. Maybe this running business wasn’t so bad after all?

Stage 5

After hearing about the trials and tribulations of the 5k Park Run from several classmates, I decided to give it a crack. Naturally, when I told them I would be doing it the next day, they didn’t turn up. I wouldn’t like to speculate if they were scared, I’ll leave you to make that judgement. I think it’s fair to say I got carried away with the occasion. I paid for my fast start in the latter stages but finished in a respectable 22 minutes 50 seconds.

Stage 6

After my Park Run exploits, disaster struck as the next day as my Achilles tendon became very inflamed and very sore. At the time, I thought it might be muscle tightness and decided to try and run it off. Hindsight tells me that wasn’t the best idea.

I was in a lot of pain at this point

I was in a lot of pain at this point

I bought an ankle strap from Boots and decided to avoid any exercise that involved any impact, including running, which meant I was back to the pool last week for a few low-intensity sessions.

Stage 7

On Sunday I bit the bullet to test out my ankle in what would probably be one of my last runs before the big day. I started out thinking 5k would be a decent result considering the ankle but before I knew it, I’d ended up running just shy of 15k. It was difficult but by no means the hardest thing I’d done. Pacing was key. One of my friends said running is like a football season: you can’t win it in the first 10 games, but you can definitely lose it. If I’m able to channel my inner Leicester and avoid an Arsenal season where I fade away at the end, I think I’ll be alright.

Using a foam roller after the run was a bit of an ordeal. It was something I hadn’t used since my swimming days, and anyone who has previously used one knows the weird sensation of pleasure and pain it provides.

Stage 8

I wrote this four days before the half-marathon and realise I could fail spectacularly and end up eating my words about this not being the hardest thing I’ve done. But I hope if I do suffer, it’ll be in a Derek Redmond-style blaze of glory.

  • Charlie is raising money for St Francis Hospice, Romford in memory of his dad John Bayliss. You can donate at Just Giving.
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