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How to run 1200 miles in a year - your key to finishing your challenge healthy

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

I use this analogy a lot when it comes to training runners to complete their first half marathon, marathon or other long distance event.

When you decide to take on an event that is so much bigger than anything you've ever achieved, it can be very easy to have a wee panic and think that you aren't capable of completing it.

It can also have the opposite effect and have you training so hard in the start that you set yourself up for a fall.

Don't look at the challenge as a whole.

In this blog I'm going to show how it is possible for any recreational runner to achieve the annual Virtual Racing UK challenges.

Let's start with the 500 challenge.

If you chose to run 500km, that is only 310 miles. That's less than a mile a day.

If you already run parkrun then all you need to do is add on another 5km during the week and you're there.

This level challenge is something even a beginner starting Couch to 5km can achieve.

Break up the required distance between 50 weeks (we'll give you two weeks holiday if you want), and that's 10km a week. You could do 2 x 3km midweek and parkrun and you've got your 500km.

Let's say you want to turn it imperial and run 500 miles. This is a slight step up from metric (800km).

Again we do some maths.

Your weekly mileage should be 10 miles, give or take a few depending on whether you want a holiday or need an injury or illness break.

Those 10 miles can include parkrun (3.1m) and two other runs slightly longer than parkrun. If you are training for a 10km or further race then your weekly mileage will soon add up and 500 miles will seem a breeze.

Let's step it up a notch even more and talk about running 1200 miles in 2018.

For me and my current running fitness it would seem like a woolly mammoth of a challenge, but it would still be possible even if you weren't planning on running a marathon or two.

And like the saying goes, you eat at it one bite at a time.

To complete this challenge you will be wanting to run an average 100 miles (or 160km) a month.

That equates to around 25 miles or 40km a week. If you already run four times a week then you will need to make sure you average 10km each run.

 I'd suggest you add in a fifth running session, so you can make one of your runs longer and have some shorter sessions.

For example: Monday rest, Tuesday 6 miles, Wednesday 3 miles, Thursday 4 miles, Friday rest, Saturday 3 miles, Sunday 10 miles.

The main thing to consider is taking it slowly.

 I know that at the start of a new year we get all excited and enthusiastic about achieving our goals. We want to do everything we can to finish the challenge.

But at the same time we forget we are in it for the long haul.

We run the risk of over training, running when we are ill and getter iller, running when we are injured, because we fear that we will fail the challenge - even though it's still only January or February.

Take it slow.

Plan your runs, know what you need to achieve to complete the challenge.

And if that means bumping up your average weekly mileage by one or two miles or kilometres next month because you feel a bit too unwell to run straight away, well that's not giving in.

It's being calm and measured.

So get out your 2018 and write in your training sessions. Once they are in there then they are more likely to happen.

Use this month to scope out any other events you might want to run, map out the training required and see how that affects your weekly mileage.

It could be that you can afford to have a reduced week or more once you have crossed that finish line.

Above all else, run for fun.

If you aren't enjoying it then your challenge will become something you resent. Take a break, run with a friend, don't look at your watch or phone while running, run a new route.

There are so many ways to run, but we can lose focus on the reasons why we do it and get stuck on the end result.

Alison King is a running coach who loves parkrun and marathons equally all while enjoying ice cream, chocolate and cake. She is a believer in balance and making running enjoyable.