The Program and Principles That Helped Me to 6 Sub-60min City2Surfs (and a 1hr 26min Half Marathon in 2016)

The Basic Program:

I start with the premise of 3 running sessions per week and (on occasion) add in a 4th running day. I am always mindful of the risk of running 2 days in a row so I ensure that if I do that one of them is a very light running session. Here is an outline of a standard starting week:

Session 1: 5min warm-up. 15min stretch. Submax treadmill test. For those that know my training system well will recognise that this is the BEST possible way to initially assess your fitness level and set a great baseline for the future. It is also moderated so that it is not excessively taxing on the body or difficult to recover from as you only “go lactic” once in the session. For more information on this session contact

Session 2: Strength training day (bodyweight circuit): high reps, light weight full body training. 45mins training, 15mins stretching.

Session 3: 5min warm-up. 15min stretch. Threshold session: (12min Run or 5km/10km time trial. If your baseline fitness level is low than this may be even shorter).

Session 4: Strength training day: 3×15 reps with a 45sec recovery. Full body. 45mins training, 15mins stretching.

Session 5: Intervals (6x1km, 6x400m, 10x200m, 12x30secs). There are lots of options here. If you are fit enough my preference is for 6x1km with a 1min recovery but everyone has to start somewhere appropriate to their own fitness level. I built this up to 10x1km intervals for the half marathon but 6 is plenty for the 14km City2Surf. For beginners, I recommend 12x30secs of jogging with a 2min recovery may be enough for you. This is why setting a baseline level in your first session is critical. It allows you to plan all other sessions appropriately.

Session 6: Rest day or hypertrophy/strength training: 3-4 sets of 12reps with a 1-2min recovery. Compound lifts are best for this session: bench press, suit, lunge, step ups, seated row, chin ups. 45mins training, 15mins stretch.

Session 7: Rest day or Long EASY Run. This is the session to build up your base fitness. I almost always start with just a 30min easy jog and each week I increase it by 10% on a flat, soft surface. Remember, it is SLOW and should also act as an active recovery day if you have had a big week of training. This session can very quickly increase to well over an hour with just a 10% increase per week. It’s important that you start this session early enough in your preparation to give you time to build it out beyond the length of time you expect to be racing for. E.g. for the half marathon, I built this out past 90mins in 8 weeks and started with 45mins. For the City2Surf I would build it out past at least 60mins but you need to cater this to your needs.

Principles and Golden Rules:

  1. NEVER increase training load by more than 10% for any variable each week. E.g. Don’t increase your total volume by more than 10%, don’t increase your speed by more than 10%, don’t decrease your rest by more than 10%. Following this rule will tell you how early you need to start and also how much you can expect to improve in the time that you have.
  2. Recovery is just as important as training. There is no point in training hard and then not recovering well. Spend just as much time planning your nutrition, sleep, rest, hydration and supportive treatments (e.g. massage, stretching sessions) as you spend on your training. You don’t want to train hard and only receive 75% of the potential gains and benefits by not recovering well. For all that work, you want 100% of the pay-off.
  3. Spend Time Analysing Your Strengths and Weaknesses. Once you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you can then plan sessions to strategically become a better runner. Consider: energy systems, strength, endurance, speed, biomechanics, injury risks, imbalances, previous history, recovery, sports psychology and mental preparation, pacing, nutrition etc. As with all things, some time and money well spent with an expert can put you years ahead of the crowd once you have this knowledge.
  4. Develop your weaknesses, maintain your strengths. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is one thing but working on them strategically is another. Most people have an instinct to continue to improve their strengths and neglect their weaknesses. I advocate for the opposite. Your strengths will adapt quickly to training but working on your weakness is where you can generally make the biggest difference to performance. Consider if you have excellent muscular endurance and you continue to improve this. You may improve by 5% across 4 weeks of training. Now consider if your cardiovascular endurance is weak and below average. This will have a higher potential for improvement. i.e. you may be able to improve this by over 25%. So, it’s now an easy answer as to where you should spend most of your time and energy, isn’t it??
  5. A good Taper is worth more than extra training. Start doing the hard work now! Your preparation should be complete 1 week out from the event and your training load drastically decreased. By mid-week you should start increasing carbohydrates and water intake and continue decreasing training load. A good taper will provide minutes of improvement WITHOUT any extra load or stress on your body. Pay attention to this but remember you can’t taper from a low base. You need to start building up your training now.
  6. One day off or an adjusted session can save your preparation. A good plan will get you so far but knowing when to adjust your training up and down on a daily basis is critical. This could be as simple as adding in a rest day. It might be cutting a session short because of a slight muscle strain. It might mean adding in an extra hills session to work on one of your weaknesses. Whatever it may be, your ability to iterate on a daily basis is a tremendous skill and one of the reasons a great coach, mentor or trainer are so valuable as they can help make those difficult decisions with an outside perspective.

Quote: “The broader the base, the higher the peak” – Emil Zatopek (winner of the 5000m, 10000m and the marathon at the 1952 Olympics).

Good luck everyone and make sure you are contacting us for any questions or assistance with your City2Surf Preparation:

Jarrat Wood.

Accredited Athletics Coach

Cert IV Personal Trainer

B Sc (Health and Sport Science). 

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