James Bray's Training for the Windsor Half Marathon

James Bray

It’s now four weeks away from the Windsor Half Marathon and my triathlon season has finished. Therefore, it’s now time for my training focus to shift toward the half marathon, with the ultimate goal of a PB. Currently my PB over a hilly half marathon course is 1:27 h and I’m hoping to go sub 1:25 h. With that in mind instead of training as a triathlete, where I would typically swim 2-3 times per week, cycle and run 3 times per week, I’m going to cut back on the swimming and cycling and increase my running, which I’m hoping will let me achieve this goal.

running pic

With four weeks until the race my training is now looking like this;

Week 1 (4 weeks to race day)


Monday – Rest day. I was away over the bank holiday and did a bit of mountain biking and walking so decided to rest.

Tuesday – 60 minute hard indoor bike session

The main session was 3 x 10 minutes at my threshold heart rate, separated by 10 minutes easy cycling between efforts. The purpose of this session is to work on your muscular endurance, so you can tolerate lactic acid better. I did this session after work, so to make sure I got the best out of this session I made sure at each meal (breakfast and lunch) I ate some carbohydrates and also had a pre-session snack with some more carbs, just to top me up.

This looked like; Breakfast – porridge with a spoonful of peanut butter stirred in. Lunch – chicken salad with either couscous or quinoa. My pre training snack is a banana, a mini rice pudding and a nut bar. I will have this snack about 1.5 – 2 hours before training. If I feel like I need that extra boost I will also have an Americano (no milk). After a hard session like this I will normally have a recovery shake, however just a normal Yazoo milkshake will do the job. After my post training shake I would just have a well-balanced evening meal with plenty of veggies or salad.

Wednesday – 45 minute track session (excluding 15 minute warm-up and 10 minute cool down)

I belong to City of Hull AC and they run this session every Wednesday evening. Derek the coach always plans the session and he typically aims for ~ 5 km of hard running. The purpose of this session is to predominantly work on your speed, so you should try and complete each rep as fast as possible, making sure you also take the allotted rest. This week I did 12 x 400m with 90 seconds rest between efforts, this is a great session, and it really hurts but after you definitely feel the benefit.

Like Tuesday’s session, my nutrition during the day was very similar.

Thursday – 60 minute easy swim (as recovery)

After two hard days of training, it’s important to try and recover ahead of the weekends training. I like to swim as a form of active recovery. What’s great about this option is that I’m still getting a bit of a cardio workout but there’s no impact on my legs, which is great.

Nutrition wise for this I slightly reduce my carbohydrate intake and increase my fat and protein intake. I would typically have scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast for breakfast, chicken salad for lunch and snack in between meals. Just before I swim (after work) I would eat a banana or a nut bar.

Friday – 45 minute Fartlek run

A Fartlek run is an unstructured interval session. The aim of this session is to vary the speed, length of effort and recovery. It is a form of speed work but far more relaxed than the track session I did earlier in the week. A session like this I would typically do before work, without any breakfast. Doing it like this the aim is to try and increase the use of fat as a fuel, so it needs to be relatively easy and shouldn’t include too many hard efforts. I would then recovery properly with a big bowl of porridge and of course a nice big scoop of nut butter stirred into it! I would then have a chicken or tuna salad for lunch and a well-balanced evening meal.

Saturday – double session day!

In the morning, before breakfast (only eating a banana) I would go for a 60 minute swim. This is a coached session led by a swimming club, so it’s somewhat restricted but it will normally be a mix of strokes and I would typically swim >2300 m. Afterwards it’s time for me to re-fuel properly before my long run. I would go for a big bowl of porridge and of course a nice big scoop of nut butter stirred in.

I would then chill out for a few hours before topping up my carbohydrate stores with a banana and a nut butter bar and of course a nice coffee (~1 hour before heading out for my long run). The premise of a long run is to run at a nice steady pace (known as conversation pace) to build up your endurance. For me a steady long run is anywhere between 10 - 15 miles. However for newbies I would start ~ 3 miles and gradually build up. After my long runs I will normally have a recovery shake, then about an hour later have a carb based lunch, I like a tuna bagel with salad. Then like before go for a balanced evening meal.

Sunday – long bike ride, where I will be out for 3 – 4 hours.

Like the long run, the purpose of this session is to build on your endurance. I will be out for a long time, so I make sure I have a light breakfast first. This will typically be a banana and a mini rice pudding. To keep fuelled for this session I will keep topping up my energy stores by eating every hour, I’ve found that nut butter bars do the job nicely. It’s also important to keep hydrated so I will take a couple of low calorie electrolyte drinks. Once I get home I will again have a recovery shake, then about an hour later have a carb based lunch, I like a tuna bagel with salad.

The best thing about the weekend for me is once all my training is done normally around 1 pm, I like to go out with my girlfriend and we normally enjoy an evening meal out. With it being a Sunday we normally opt for a roast dinner and of course a bit of pudding. It’s a really nice treat and reward to a good week’s training.

Throughout the days I typically snack on apples, carrots, mixed nuts and Meridan nut bars. Apples and carrots are my go to everyday snacks, however I will change the mixed nuts and Meridan nut bars dependant on my training. If it’s an easy day I will typically have mixed nuts, however if it’s a harder session I will have the nut bar, as they contain more protein and carbohydrates, which is important for more strenuous exercise. 

The Windsor Half Marathon website has got some great training plans dependant on your level, which will definitely help get you going. 



Beginner - http://www.runwindsor.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Novice_training_plan.pdf


Intermediate - http://www.runwindsor.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Intermediate_training_plan.pdf