Hellen Obiri of Kenya claimed her second consecutive win at the Great North Run on Sunday. The On athlete crossed the line in a rapid 67.05, after a tight battle with compatriot and reigning Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir and Almaz Ayana of Ethopia – the three crossing the line with only five seconds between them.
The 32-year-old told us after the event that she hadn’t run particularly fast race but was pleased with the win, given she was still recovering from a bout of food poisoning which had struck her just days before the race.
Obiri is a two-time world champion over 5000m – taking the title in Rio in 2016 and at Tokyo 2020 – but a move from the track to the road is clearly suiting her. She won the Great Manchester Run in May this year and, in November, will make her marathon debut at the New York Marathon.
So, what can we learn from Obiri – the only woman in history to win world titles in indoor track, outdoor track and cross country – about how to run a quick half marathon?
Here, Obiri talks us through Sunday’s race and shares her top half marathon training tips for those looking to nab a fast time…
RW: How did it feel to win the Great North Run for a second time on Sunday and what had your preparations been like?
HO: ‘I was happy to win for the second time. The field was strong with two Olympic champions. We didn’t run a very fast time but to win was the most important goal for me for the race.
‘I had trained well and was in similar shape to when I ran my PB earlier this year. Unfortunately, I came down with food poisoning on Tuesday and considered withdrawing from the race. Luckily, I recovered enough to travel to Newcastle and considering this I was happy to get the win.’
How did you hold off Peres Jepchirchir and Almaz Ayana to retain your title?
'I was confident that I probably had the best finishing speed of all of them but you never know how your body will respond at the end of 21km, especially considering being sick leading into the race. I put in a few surges to test them. I planned to kick hard with 400m to go but took no chances and left it a bit later.’
What are you training tips for anyone looking to run a fast half marathon?
‘I think it is important to be consistent in the training preparation. You need to get in a lot of mileage but still have speed. I always advise people to get a good coach and training partners. On race day, it is important to know what pace you can run at and hold for 21km. You can’t go off too fast or you can suffer at the end. Equally you can’t go off too slow or you won’t run a fast time.’
What are your favourite half-marathon training sessions?
'I come from a track background and still do track sessions once per week. In the build-up to the Great North Run, I did sessions like: 15 x 1km and 9 x 1 mile. My longest run in preparation for the race was 25km.’
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