Shannan Ponton’s top 10 tips for running

Sun Run 2023 ambassador Shannan Ponton has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to preparing for race day.

He has taken part in Sun Run at least six times and will be at the start line on Saturday 4 February ready, to race from Dee Why to Manly Beach.

Below, Shannan shares his top 10 tips for being race ready and, importantly, how to enjoy the day.

You can join Shannan at Sun Run here.

1. Good running shoe

Get yourself a correctly fitted running shoe, not a cross trainer.

Not only should your shoe be correctly fitted you must choose the correct type of runner. Do you roll in or roll out?

Correct footwear is one of the most important things to address when commencing a training/running program to avoid ongoing injury.

2. Preparation

Give yourself enough time to build up the volume of your training.

  • Beginner
    • It should take you at least six weeks to gradually increase the number of kilometres you run each week.
    • Week 1: Try running or even walk/run 2-4 kms, two to three times. Each week increase the distance you run by 1-2 km.
    • At the end of your training program, you will be running 8-12 kms and should be just about race ready.
  • Intermediate and advanced runners
    • You will benefit most from a combination of both shorter fast runs, hill sprints and longer distances (close to race distance) at a slightly higher intensity than that of which you usually run.

3. Training specificity

If you want to become a better runner you must run.

Sounds simple I know, but a lot of people make this very mistake. Make the event you are going to compete in the focus of your training schedule.

When preparing, for the Sun Run, make the two to three runs you do per week the most intense and committed sessions, as they will most benefit your performance in the race.

Use cross training as structured recovery e.g., a spin class which is non-impact, will allow your legs and joints to recover and still aid your overall fitness.

Remember it is only a synergist to your actual running.

4. Training partner

The best advice is to have at least a couple sessions with an appropriately qualified personal trainer who specialises in running.

After you have been given some sound training advice from a professional, find yourself a like-minded training partner. Having someone who shares similar goals as you will help you both stay motivated, committed, and get the most from your training.

5. Understand the psychology of the challenge/race

Any challenge/race has three definite stages.

  • The start
    • When the adrenaline is pumping and your mind and body are in a heightened state ready to take on the world.
  • The grind
    • The middle of the race, you hurt, you question yourself ‘what am I doing here’, ‘can I keep this up’, ‘I need a rest’. Don’t listen to that part of your sub-conscience, stay the course, you CAN DO IT! Say it to yourself and believe it. This is the part of any challenge or race when champions are made.
  • The finish
    • You can see the finish line, you still hurt, ‘bring it home strong’. Then the best bit, the utter adulation of realising what you have just achieved. Understand that you will go through a mental journey like this. The defining part of this is getting through the grind.

6. Training intensity

Gradually increase your training intensity. You can do this in three ways:

  • Set a course, say 8 kms, and each time you run that course run a little faster.
  • Gradually increase the distance you run each week.
  • Try using a heart rate monitor. It is the ultimate tool for checking training intensity. You can run either at a pre-set heart rate say 120-140 (depending on age, fitness and health) bpm for 30 minutes and each week increase your heart rate, up to say 140-160 bpm for 30 minutes.

7. Stretching and recovery

Stretching at the end of all training sessions is essential to aid recovery and help avoid injury.

Try a yoga, Pilates or body balance class for variety and ideas.

8. Nutrition

One or two days before the event slightly increase the amount of low GI complex carbohydrates you consume. These include fruit, oats, pasta, whole grain bread and long grain rice.

The morning of the race have a small nutritious breakfast like, 1/3 cup of oats, skim milk and ½ a banana or one to two pieces of toast with jam or peanut butter.

A word of advice, experiment with combinations before training leading up to the event to see which breakfast feels the best for you.

9. Hydration

Drink plenty of water the night before your race. Don’t leave it to the last minute to hydrate, as you will feel heavy.

During the event you will need about 200 ml of water every 25 minutes. For an event lasting longer than one hour your performance may be boosted by consuming 200ml of a ‘sports drink’ every 25 minutes, alternated between the water.

10. Enjoy all aspects

Most of all, take time to enjoy every aspect of what you have done.

The health benefits, weight loss, increased energy, overall, well-being and increase in fitness you will gain from training coming up to the event. The day of the race enjoy the build-up, anticipation, and nerves just before the gun goes off.

During the race take time to look around you, enjoy the challenge, embrace the emotional roller coaster you will go on, believe in yourself, don’t quit, push through the different psychological and physical barriers you encounter.

You will learn a lot about just how strong you are mentally. This, for me, is the best most exciting part of fitness.

Finally, the finish. Enjoy running across the line, check the clock, you made it.

Hold onto the feeling of completing something, good, no, something great for yourself.

Then gear up to beat your time next run!