Skip to main content


North West running coach issues taper guidance to runners as Strabane Lifford Half Marathon approach

8 May 2024

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Everybody Active Coach has given runners preparing for next week’s Strabane Lifford Half Marathon some nuggets of advice as they enter the home straight in their preparations.

Mark Connolly is a former World Masters Cross Country Champion and over the last 12 weeks he has been coaching over 50 runners at the Melvin Sports Complex for the relay element of the event.

The last two weeks of half marathon training are known as the taper phase for runners when they reduce their mileage to give them the rest they need for optimum performance on race day.

“With the main phase of training done, runners should now start to wind down the volume of training and the length of runs,” said the Aghyaran man.

“The body needs freshness and recovery now to re-energise so you can complete the half marathon in a way that will maximise the reward for your training.

“At this point trying to squeeze in 2 or 3 more long runs will not be of any benefit, you have to trust that what you have done up to now is adequate.

“Pushing training at this point will heighten the risk of injury and add stress to the body that will have a negative effect on race day performance.”

Having identified what not to do, Mark had some clear advice and behaviours to follow as Sunday May 19th approaches.

“Sleep, hydration, stretching, mobility and a carefully planned food intake plan will prepare you well for the task ahead,” he added.

“Tough training needs to be followed by rest and recovery, some extra sleep each night and a gentle stretching program will benefit a lot.

“Hydration is also vital if my muscles are to perform to the level my training deserves and a good well balanced food plan will again reward you with a better performance.

“You should also know the foods that work well and the foods that annoy our system.

“If I was to eat spicy food or sauces before running they cause me problems so I avoid them.”

Many runners are tempted to experiment with gels, sports massage and new equipment ahead of race day.

Mark had some clear advice for anyone tempted to change their routine and encouraged runners to stick to the tried and tested.

“If you been using a certain type of gel successfully over your training period and you feel it has been of benefit then absolutely use it on race day.

“However, if you haven’t used them so far do not start on them now as they sure can have a negative physical effect on you the first time you use them.

“Go with the gel you took during your training or risk a sick feeling on race day and a flat performance.

“My advice on sports massage is that unless absolutely necessary avoid them, the risk is that you will lose some of the running strength you have built in your muscles and end up with a tired performance on race day, many have made this mistake and paid the price.                                

“After your race is over is the time to have your massage, not before.

“I wouldn’t recommend new running shoes either, when we buy new trainers we need to walk in them, we can get blisters when we are breaking in new shoes so it’s vital we avoid such issues at this late stage.

“We have done our runs in trainers that our feet are used to, so for now stick with them.”

The Strabane Lifford Half Marathon is hosted by Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Events team.

A small number of entries for the relay, wheelchair and full Half Marathon are open now at, registration will close at the end of this week or when the event reaches capacity.

Want to know more about what is happening in the council area?

Enter your email address and get them direct to your inbox