Train like a pro
First you’ll need to make sure you can cover the distance. If you’re new to running, increase your training volume gradually, and don’t increase it every week because your joints and tissues need time to adapt to the new stresses they’re under. Aim to do one long effort, building up in distance each week, alongside one faster-paced but shorter session and one “brick” effort (see the box opposite). Start the speed sessions by doing fartlek – just speeding up and slowing down according to your own internal sense of pace – before you start playing with intervals.
“The best way to improve speed is to go to a running track and do efforts ranging from 400m up to 1,200m,” says Rooke. “Use a similar method as with the swim – say, aiming for a 90-second 400m with 30 seconds of rest, then going again. Alternatively just give yourself the same rest each time no matter how fast your effort.” For a triathlon-pace race, a 2:1 or 3:1 work-to-rest ratio can be one of the most beneficial. Keep the total distance of each session relatively consistent so you aren’t overtraining.
Visualisation can work, but make sure you’re not picturing too easy a race. In multiple studies, psychological research indicates that the more time people spend fantasising about desired outcomes - everything from passing school exams to losing weight - the less effort they put into actually achieving them. If you’re picturing a perfect, hassle-free race you’re more likely to fall apart, or at least slow down, when adversity strikes. Instead, use an effect known as “bracing”. Expect your race to be hard, and mentally rehearse how you’ll feel and what you’ll do if things go wrong. Prepare for the worst and take responsibility for your race.