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Challenge events: 9 essentials for training success

Whether you’re running your first 5k or slogging it out around the 26.2-miles of a marathon race, the following essentials will help prevent you from bailing out of your training – and will inevitably set you up for success.


This tip may seem like a no-brainer, but too many times I have trained in freezing cold weather only to experience dehydration, cutting my runs short because of a headache or, worse still, having to stop in a shop for a thirst quencher, disturbing my stamina.
On a recent visit to a sports shop I discovered THE solution to suit me – a water bottle with a hole in it so it fits around my wrist comfortably. When I have it with me, I instantly feel prepared – like I could conquer the world – and end up running more than my intended training miles. (But don’t forget, don’t force down water during a run. Drink only when you’re thirsty as overdrinking makes you more prone to getting a stitch.)

Arm band

I can’t run without my smartphone with me. I enjoy clocking up the miles on the Map My Run app and I have all my favourite music playlists. To keep it all in place I invested in a £5 armband for my iPhone. In this I can also carry my keys, not to mention my debit card in case I injure myself or need to use contactless technology for the London Underground. The band is nifty, but if my arms aren’t covered, I can experience some chafing so if you are to go for it, ensure you talc up the area before wrapping it around your arm.

Energy gels

Good nutrition is the key to marathon success. You may have enjoyed a carbalicious meal the night before a long run, a hearty balanced nutritious breakfast on the day and drunk enough water to keep you hydrated, but long-distance running can severely deplete energy stores, tiring your muscles out and hindering performance. When you feel yourself beginning to get tired, opt for some isotonic energy gels to keep you ticking over until the finish line. Everything you need to know about energy gels can be found here.


I have been on many runs where I was optimistic and thought I would have the stamina and motivation to run home. Oh, how I was wrong! Make sure you take some small change with you for emergency transport, food and drink. You’ll feel much better about your run, too, in case it goes badly.

Phone or GPS device

You’ll need your phone in case of an emergency. No long-distance run is quite complete, or safe, without it. It’s your miniature motivator, pocket sat nav, SOS device, digital jukebox, calorie-burn counter and, most importantly, a sleek piece of kit that clocks up mileage and tracks training progress over time. Explore some of the best training apps on the market.

An ‘I’ll smash it’ attitude 

I spotted a powerful motivational quote the other day on Instagram: “A marathon is hundreds of miles. The finish is the last 26.22.” Long-distance running is just as much about inner strength as outer strength. Focus on the job at hand, especially if you are raising money for a charity. Keep in mind why you are raising money for your cause. I think about the vulnerable people who The Salvation Army helps and my experiences meeting service users and communities face to face. Also, there are many apps and websites which give you motivational running quotes. Keep a positive mind. Check in every morning to The Salvation Army’s Facebook page for inspirational thoughts for the day and remember, even after a bad run, any training is training.

Epsom salts

My sister, who is a beauty therapist, said these bath salts are the holy grail for soothing aching muscles after long runs. There are lots of health benefits of the salts, from relieving pains and cramps to helping muscles and nerves to function properly. To experience the numerous health benefits of Epsom salts take a stress-relieving bath three times a week, adding two cups of Epsom salts and soaking for at least 12 minutes. This holy grail won’t break the bank – I picked up a 1kg bag for £4.99 from my local pharmacy.

House door key

The amount of times I have left the house without it and ended up sitting in my local coffee shop desperately hankering for a post-run shower are too many to mention! You’ll need your key for when you want to collapse on the sofa after a long training run. Plus, you don’t want to be left lingering outside the flat or house with sweaty kit on.

Foam roller

Like the Epsom salt bath, this is another low investment for high return to release tension and tightness in sore muscles. It might feel painful at first, but the pain is only short term to ensure happier and healthier muscles in the long term, leading to faster recovery and prevention of injury. Watch here to learn the art of self-massage for better running.