FOR those who have applied for a place in the world’s greatest half marathon, it’s a familiar feeling.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Still no email. Everybody else who applied for a place in the Simplyhealth Great North Run is getting their emails. Someone says on a Facebook group to check the bank account to see if the entry fee had gone out. Another person has the Great Run website up to check their entry status.

Everyone has the same idea.

When I went through the ballot process, rather than waiting it out, I went for a run.

And, as was checking out my splits on my running app, there it was. One unread email in the inbox. “You’re in,” it read in big block letters.

I felt like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, clutching the golden ticket.

“Yeah, that’s great, but you’re going to have to run the thing now,” was the less-than-enthusiastic reaction from my non-running friends.

So, what to do now? I’d already done the Great North Run the year previously, but I was a relatively late sign-up, agreeing to take part around 10 weeks before the big day.

I loved it that much I signed up for the reminder service and then entered the ballot. This was February and the event was in September. That’s loads of time to get a personal best.

So how do you go about that? It’s easy.

Prepare

It being my first half marathon, my first attempt at the Great North Run was merely about getting around.

But with eight months to go until the event, the next year was about preparing, and preparing right.

The best thing is to pick a training plan based on what you want to get from the event. So you can choose a free 12-week plan which takes you nicely to the big day. What you do before that is up to you. But it’s a perfect opportunity to get a good base of training under your belt.

I knocked half an hour off my previous year’s time simply by getting the preparation spot on.

Click here to choose your free half marathon training plan

Core blimey

Whether you’re an elite runner or just an everyday runner like the majority of us, you will run better if you work on your core – that’s the middle bit of your body below the chest and above the limbs. Any exercise you do needs this part of you to work right. And many injuries come down to a weakness here.

Strength and conditioning helps you run faster and prevents injuries. It’s not difficult either. It’s all about breaking it down week by week. Working one or two strength sessions around your normal runs will help you in the long run.

Select a warm-up event

If this is your first Simplyhealth Great North Run, you will feel the benefit of taking part in a warm-up event.

With 57,000 people out on the course, it feels like a big deal. It is a big deal. It’s the biggest and best show in town.

Rather than going there unprepared and perhaps feeling a bit daunted by the sights, sounds – and smells – of a half marathon, taking part in an event in the run-up to the big day will help you.

The Great North 10K, on Sunday, July 8, is a perfect event in your training for the Great North Run. As well as the physical side, it will prepare you mentally for your biggest challenge a couple of months later.

If you’re not from the North-East, take a look at our events and see if you can find one that works for you!

Don’t go it alone

Join a running group, be it physical or virtual, and surround yourself with like-minded people who are chasing the same goal.

Plan weekly meet-ups and share your training tips, arranging to meet up after the event as you toast your success.

Keep following Great Run’s social media accounts. We provide weekly motivational tips and there’s always plenty of advice available from our team of dedicated staff.

Take part in a Great Run Local - a great way to get running with a range of 2k and 5k timed weekly runs on offer - for free.

Kit up

Find the right kit that works for you. You have enough time to experiment with different combinations, but the key advice is not to go into the event with gear that you haven’t worn before. Use this time to prepare correctly and find what is comfortable for you!

Didn’t get in?

Fear not, there are hundreds of charities who all have places in the Simplyhealth Great North Run. Get in touch with them and start your journey. Don’t wait until late on as well – you need as much time to prepare as possible! If all else fails, there’s always next year.