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Get running like a superhero

Not only is running a sure-fire method of fitting into your spandex superhero tights, it’s a great way to raise money. Inspired by our favourite crusaders, we’re running you through our top tips.

Get running like a superhero

Photo: Great Superhero Run

Last Summer, friends John Figiel, Paul Greensides and Lee Jones donned their capes and running shoes to take on a gargantuan challenge: the Great Superhero Run.

They devised the challenge themselves, plotting a 400-mile route from Norfolk to Newcastle which saw them averaging a marathon every day for 18 consecutive days, before finishing with the Great North Run. Why, you ask? To raise money for the RNLI.

Batman running in the Great Superhero Run

Photo: Adrian Don

Batman cape: optional

Inspired by our volunteer lifeboat crew, who are prepared to drop everything at a moment’s notice to save lives at sea, our budding heroes put their years of training and marathon runs to good use and set themselves a fundraising target of £10,000.

John says: ‘As frequent swimmers in the North Sea, we are all great supporters of the work that RNLI volunteers do and are keen to do our bit to help the cause. We also live within a few hundred yards of the local station and have friends who volunteer.’

It was certainly not a challenge for the faint-hearted – in fact, it sounded like something only a superhero could do. So John, Paul and Lee transformed into their alter-egos: Iron Man, Spider-Man and Batman. They were even joined by their loyal ally Green Lantern for part of the journey.

Our superheroes’ hard work, determination and commitment paid off - they passed the finish line of the Great North Run having smashed their fundraising target, raising over £14,000.

You can be a superhero too

Not all heroes wear capes or yellow wellies. You don’t have to run 400 miles or take to sea in gale-force winds to be one.

You can be a hero just by supporting the RNLI. By fundraising or donating, you’re helping to provide our brave crew and lifeguards with the training, equipment and support they need to keep saving lives.

Feeling inspired? Sign up and secure yourself a charity place with us for the Great North Run or take a look at our other events.

Super advice

We’ve conferred with the Avengers and consulted the Justice League to bring you some superhero-approved tips to help you get started.

Find your motivation

As any self-respecting hero will tell you, you need motivation to embark on a great challenge. Usually it’s fighting injustice or keeping the world safe from the chaos a crazed supervillain is threatening to inflict. In your case, it might be running for a cause.

When you hit a running slump, knowing that every step you take is making a difference can be a great motivator to get going again. Remembering that for every pound you raise, you’re helping to make a difference inspires you to reach the finish line. It’s thanks to our fundraisers like the Great Superhero Runners that our lifeboat crews can rescue 22 people a day.

On a more personal level, regular running can reduce your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And if that wasn’t motivation enough, it’s a great way to boost your mood and stay fit!

Pace yourself

You can’t expect to cover Green Lantern’s interstellar distances immediately. To avoid injuring yourself, take it easy and slowly increase the distance you run.

Illustration of the Distance Hero

For beginners, the NHS recommends their Couch to 5K challenge to ease you into exercise at a steady pace. Follow their running and fitness plans for a safe way to train, and download a podcast or two to keep you inspired along the way. You’ll be tackling long distances in no time.

Focus on pacing yourself during each run. One of the most common running mistakes is going too fast, too quickly. Most marathon runners run at ‘negative split’ pace, running the second half of the race faster than the first. This gives your muscles time to warm up and avoids increasing your body temperature and sweat rate too rapidly.

Get into a routine

Get yourself into a routine of regular running and try to stick to it as much as you can. Beginner runners are advised to run between two and four times a week for 20–30 minutes before slowly increasing their running distance.

Not sure when to run? Generally, you’re at your physical best in mid- to late-afternoon. This is when your body temperature has peaked, your muscles are at their most supple and running will feel much easier. So swap your early morning jogs for a post-work workout.

Find a buddy

Batman has Robin, Iron Man has James Rhodes – all good heroes need a sidekick. Finding a running partner can make your training more fun, makes time go much faster, keeps you safer and helps you stay motivated. It could also help you stick to your routine - you wouldn’t want to avoid your Wednesday run if it would mean letting your friend down, would you?

Hero friends illustration

Power up!

Sadly for us mere mortals, powering up means getting plenty of sleep, fuelling ourselves with the right foods and staying hydrated. It’s not quite as simple as slipping on a Green Lantern Power Ring and instantly being granted untold powers.

There are a few tips to bear in mind when it comes to becoming an all-powerful superhero yourself. Firstly, don’t fall into the trap of supplementing your energy intake with sugary sports drinks. Your body can only take in so much energy in the form of sugar and once you pass that level, you start feeling unwell. Instead, drink plenty of water, particularly after you run, to make sure you stay well hydrated.

energy hero

Secondly, wait a couple of hours after eating a meal before hitting the tarmac to give your food time to digest. For small snacks, half an hour should be fine. Small carbohydrates, which give you a much needed boost of energy, are the best pre-run snack. Try flapjacks, a banana or peanut butter on toast.

And finally, remember to get plenty of sleep! You might find yourself nodding off slightly earlier once you start training, and that’s fine. One rule of thumb is to sleep one extra minute per night for each mile per week you run – so if you do 20 miles a week, you get an extra 20 minutes in bed.

Perfect your costume

No superhero is complete without their costume. Spider-Man would just be Peter Parker without his web-shooting suit, and Iron Man needs his armour for that superhuman strength and ability to fly. If you want to master running, you need the correct costume too.

A good pair of running shoes will help you to avoid injury further down the line. Take the time to find a pair that feel comfortable, or visit a specialist retailer who can assess your feet and find the right shoes for you.

Running in the UK and Ireland means there’s a strong chance you’ll be up against the elements and facing the cold at some point. When Winter running, it’s important to wear layers. Choose a lightweight top in a technical running fabric – avoid cotton, as it holds onto sweat – and layer a lightweight jacket over the top. You can always tie it around your waist if you get too warm. And don’t forget your gloves and a hat if it’s very chilly!

If you get stuck, Runner’s World has a helpful ‘what to wear’ tool. Just enter in a few details and get expert advice.

And, most importantly, stay safe by making sure you’re visible. If you’re running in the evening, wear something bright, preferably with reflective patches or strips. You could even invest in a lightweight reflective vest – your safety is a priority.

Believe in yourself

Highs hero illustration

It’s natural to have highs and lows during your training, so accept them and don’t be hard on yourself. Work through the rough patches, get your head down and remember you’re still making progress.

Even superheroes struggle with this: the effectiveness of Green Lantern’s Power Ring is dependent on his self-belief and willpower. Without that, he’s just a man in Lycra tights. And it’s exactly the same with running. You’ll perform much better when you believe in yourself, and running regularly will give you the boost in self-confidence you need.

Remember that almost everyone can run long distance — and think how good it will feel to achieve your goal!

Just get started

You don’t need Iron Man’s Arc Reactor to be a hero, just a pair of running shoes. And as it’s never too early to begin training, why not get started now?

It takes time, commitment and determination to hit your goal, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, but you can do it. We believe in you.

What are you waiting for? Stop reading and start running! Check out our events for runs you can take part in, and get inspired by our fundraising tips and ideas. You too can be an RNLI hero.