Getting Ready for the City2Surf

I’m always banging on about the benefits of running. There’s a reason too – it’s one of the most effective exercises for weight loss, building stamina and improving cardiovascular fitness. Plus, anyone can do it.

The annual City2Surf is one of those events that tends to head up runner’s hit lists. Something of a Sydney icon, this year the 14km race is being held on Sunday August 12.

Whether you’ve signed up to the City2Surf to raise money for a great cause, complete the race within a set time or just to have fun with Sydneysiders from all walks of life If you want to actually cross the finish line without any injuries, then you’ve gotta make a plan and start training now!

If you are a complete novice or haven’t run for a while but are thinking of tackling the City2Surf or a similar event, first work up to running outdoors for 2km or 15 minutes without stopping. Once you can do this, you are in the perfect place to begin training for longer runs.

I have put together a bit of a training guide to give you a sense of what you should be doing in the lead up to the City2Surf.

Endurance + speed + strength = optimum running fitness

A good training program includes at least three days a week of running. In my 12 Week Body Transformation running programs, I put my Members on a training plan that incorporates tempo runs, sprints/hill intervals and one long run each week.

What is a tempo run?!

A tempo run is the best way to improve your speed and endurance for any distance.

Tempo runs build strength and speed. They are faster than long runs but slower than your sprint sessions. The one real requirement of tempo running is that you stick to a steady, specific, planned pace.

Tempo sessions should be “comfortably hard” – you should be able to comment to your training buddy, but not hold a full conversation. Your breathing and pace should be controlled, but you should have more in the tank if required!

Once a week try the following tempo run session:

  • Start with a 10-15 minute jog to warm up.
  • Run continuously for 20–30 minutes – at tempo pace you should be working hard, but not at full throttle.
  • If you can’t run for 30 minutes straight try two 10-15 minute tempo runs with a 2-3 minute walking recovery in between, and work your way up!
  • Finish with a 10-minute easy cool down jog, then stretch.

With the days getting darker earlier, tempo runs are a great lunch time activity! Grab a work mate and set yourself up for a Vitamin D kick and a productive afternoon courtesy of the endorphin kick!

Interval training = speed and strength

Interval training involves mixing up short bursts of intense activity with less-intense forms of active recovery.

Short bursts of high intensity interval runs, especially uphill, significantly lift your cardiovascular fitness as well as your speed. In a nutshell, incorporate interval training in your sessions and you’ll be able to train harder and longer!

Give these plans for interval training sessions a shot:

  • Jog for 15 minutes to warm up. This is super important when you are running faster to avoid injury.
  • Run hard for 90 seconds – 2 minutes and then walk or jog for 1–2 minutes to recover in between. Repeat this ten times.
  • Run for 1km to 85% of your capacity and then pull it back to a light jog for 90 seconds – 2 minutes to recover. Repeat 4 – 6 times.
  • Jog for 5 – 10 minutes to cool down, then stretch.

I really recommend you get your interval training sessions done and dusted first thing in the morning before the mayhem of the day begins. If you are a stay at home mum, it might be time to pull in some favours and get a friend to watch the kids while you train. Alternatively, take advantage of the gym crèche and train on the treadmill or even think about hiring a treadmill at home.

Though a word of warning about running on treadmills. Outdoor running is more challenging and better for your running training so wherever possible get outdoors instead of on a treadmill. This will offer you the changes in surface and undulation – including downhill training – that a treadmill can’t provide to give you a better all round running workout.

if it’s raining or dangerous to run outside you can run on a treadmill. Make sure you use an elevation of 1.5-2% to equate it to running on the flat outside.

Also read: Choosing The Right Running Shoes

Long runs = endurance

Long runs should be at a nice steady pace and can start off quite small depending on your fitness level. Go for one “long” run each week and build up your distance by 1 – 2km each week. Aim to get up to at least 12km by a fortnight before City2Surf. It’s an added bonus if you can push out to 14 – 16km, things will seem much easier on the day!

The more preparation and long runs under your belt, the stronger and fitter you’ll become, and ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – the halfway point and also the toughest part of the course – won’t seem so huge!

Long runs could look like this:

  • Five minute walking warm up.
  • Map yourself a route and get out there! Unlike a speed session long runs are at a leisurely pace – 60-70% of your maximum capacity.
  • Afterwards have a good stretch, or incorporate some core exercises to balance out any niggles.

Save your long run for the weekend when you don’t have to cut it short and you also have time to refuel and recover and have a lazy afternoon. If you can’t fit it in on the weekend, try running home from work as a good way to unwind at the end of the day.

Rest for best results

You won’t often hear me telling you to take it easy in a training session, but when it comes to distance running it is important not to overdo it! Your long runs should be comfortable, your tempo runs should take more out of you and your sprints should be the hardest session of the week.

In between these running days you should be doing two days of strength and core exercises to keep your body well balanced while you run, as well as giving your body time to rest and recover!

The best strength exercises for runners are lunges, single-leg squats and planks. These simple exercises will make an incredible difference to your running success and have the added benefits of improving your technique, correcting your posture and keeping you safe from injury.

JFDI (Just Frickin’ Do It)!

Remember that practice makes perfect and even if you are a complete beginner, all you need to do is start running and be committed to each running session! Take inspiration from the now successful 12WBTers who’ve started from scratch.

It’s one thing to be super-fit and run, it’s another thing to be overweight, nervous, unfit and self- conscious. They’re proof that just about anyone can learn to run and, more importantly, learn to enjoy it.

Finally take note that this is a fun run – in fact it is the largest fun run in the world! So whether you are running, walking, or pushing the pram – get out there and put your name on it! As I like to say, Just Fricken Do It!


City2Surf Tips

  • Start small. If you’ve never run before, you won’t be running 14km next week! Try a one minute walk, followed by a one minute jog and repeat. Build to a run, increasing the distance by 10 per cent each week.
  • You don’t have to run like a demon every session! Not every session is going to be a great one, but a bad run is better than none at all.
  • Get a training buddy. Recruit someone else who runs or is doing the race and put together a training schedule with them for support and motivation.
  • Running on softer surfaces (grass ovals, dirt tracks or trails, tartan athletics track) in training will minimise your injury risk, however it is important that you run on footpaths or asphalt occasionally as this is the City2Surf race surface.
  • Throughout your training treat yourself to self massage to release all the common tight areas in runners. You’ll learn to love the pain.
  • Remember that this is a hilly course! The only way to get better at running up hills is to practice running up hills, so find somewhere hilly and run up and down it in training.
  • Get a GPS watch or a free running phone app to accurately track your distances.


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One thought on “Getting Ready for the City2Surf

  1. Liked your program thought I might try it I will be running the Canberra fun run 14 in 11 days did city to surf 2 weeks ago in 72 minutes first 7 km in 31 min hit a bit of a wall at heart break final 7 km in 33 minutes trying to break 70 miures any suggestions have a good base including 2 hr Gold Coast half marathon this year also have dropped 8 kg where to from here have been running for years including a dub 4 hr marathon cheers Paul

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