How to race an IRONMAN 70.3 run

Chief Correspondent

Recent years have seen a huge growth in the popularity of Middle Distance races, with the IRONMAN 70.3 brand growing every month, to a total of what is rapidly approaching 100 races worldwide.

One man who knows about IRONMAN 70.3 racing – is Andy Greenleaf. Andy has won 70.3 Exmoor in Wimbleball and was also the first Age-Group athlete overall at 70.3 Staffordshire – where he recorded the fastest run split.

The 70.3 is probably my favourite distance. It’s a tough challenge, but you can can certainly ‘race’ it. Sometimes a full IRONMAN is more about survival! That, and I’m just not quick enough for the Olympic distance…

Here are some of tips that I’ve found have really worked for me in being able to run well at the end of an IRONMAN 70.3 race.

Running starts with… the bike!

It doesn’t matter how fast you are as a ‘runner’ – in a 70.3/Middle Distance event you’ll have already been racing for approaching three or more hours. The run is circa 30% of the race, so you need to keep your reserves in place and keep fuelling correctly on the bike if you want to run well afterwards.

Even experienced athletes get this wrong – I certainly did recently in a race. I cycled far too hard and had to stop at the aid stations on the run to get enough calories in.

Preparation – practice race-pace running off the bike in training

It’s important to try and be consistent on the run and, if you can, speed up a touch at the end. If you get slower and slower during the run because you’ve gone off too fast, you will be in for a very painful day. By contrast, if you hold a consistent pace then the motivation you get will be huge as you will be passing people throughout.

Session practice: I would highly recommend doing a session like two hour bike followed by a 40-60 minute run at your targeted race pace.

This isn’t an easy session and you may find that it takes you three or four goes to properly work out what your run pace should be, but it is a very valuable process.

If you are short of time, like I am with full-time work, then it is a very time efficient session. It simulates race conditions and makes you understand how to approach the race properly so that you can then execute that plan on race day.

This session should be challenging – but by not covering the full distance, the key is that you should not be so fatigued that you can’t train the following day.

Hydration / Nutrition – little and often

I’ve found it is much better to take in water and calories on a ‘little and often’ basis. You really don’t want to be waiting untill you need it – by then, it is too late. Your body can only take in so much/hour, so don’t try and overload it.

I find that it is easiest to hydrate whilst on the bike – you don’t want to start the run dehydrated, so do make sure you keep properly fuelled during the first half of the event.

During the race – keep a constant effort

Don’t be afraid to ease off on the uphills and also try and use the downhills for recover. Don’t be tempted to push hard up the hills, especially at the start of the race.

Fresh socks!

It might seem like a small thing, but I always like to have a fresh pair for the run – it makes it much more pleasant! You don’t know what the weather will be, so at least start the run dry and fresh to try and reduce the chances of blisters. Mentally too, I feel much better in fresh kit.

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