News - 11th September 2018

parkrun Pacers: Luke Gunn


Amongst the parkrun family there are numerous international athletes, Olympians and experienced coaches. 


Each week we invite one of them to share their top tips and advice on training and improving your running, whether you’re looking to complete the course without stopping, break 45 minutes, go sub-20 for the first time, or just bag that new PB.


This week it’s the turn of Luke Gunn!


Luke is a four time British Steeplechase champion and middle distance athlete. Luke represented England at the Commonwealth Games in 2006, 2010 and 2014, and also competed in the World Cross Country Championships.


Having recently retired from international athletics, Luke now coaches a number of athletes and is Head of Athletics at the University of Birmingham, and his home parkrun is Cannon Hill.


Hi Luke! First up, what is your general advice to those people new to running?

Running is probably the cheapest sport to do, but I would implore all you to make the investment in appropriate running shoes for you.


Be brave enough to go to your local running shop ask them to help you pick the right shoe for you – it may cost a bit more than online but they could well save you from injury and last longer.


What is your top tip to new parkrunners on how to improve their training?

Establish a sustainable weekly routine, don’t overreach with what is possible regularly for you as consistency always trumps training in fits and starts.


This is individual to you, but picking times in your week that fit well with training, for example:

  • Before work
  • During lunch breaks 2-3 times a week
  • Running with friends, a group or running clubs 1-2 evenings a week.

Try to get a routine that works best for you and then protect that as best you can from work and family commitments – this is not only great for fitness gains but also for your mental wellbeing.


What would be your advice to parkrunners who are thinking about going beyond parkrun and training for 10ks and half marathons?

If you have a local running club near you, I would strongly encourage you go down and see what they have to offer you. There is often coaches or at least similar minded people who are already running longer distance races, that would be able to guide you appropriately.


Running longer races can often be daunting (and a lonely pursuit) so gaining some companions around you can often be a great way to broaden your running horizons. Fortune favours the brave!


Many parkrunners find that after weeks and months of PBs and improvements, their running can start plateau. What would you suggest to mix things up? 

To continue to improve the body needs new training stimulus or progression, so avoid doing the same distance runs and same sessions every week. With steady progression and mixing up your training you will see continued improvement.


If you are regularly doing a 4 mile run before work, try increasing this to 5 to 6 miles or if time is constrained try a route with some hills in it and challenge yourself to work hard up the hills.


Alternatively, adding in some shorter intervals once a week is a good way to push on your race potential. Try something simple like: 10 x 30 seconds at 5k pace (or faster) with 60 second jog recoveries within your normal run.


For those people who want an insight into the training of an elite athlete, what’s your favourite training session and why?

I am a huge advocate for making sure your training week routine dips into all the training zones – aerobic development, steady state, threshold runs and V02 max intervals.


However, I have found that threshold running is often the area that many neglect to run in often enough. Roughly this area can be described as one’s half marathon pace, therefore sub-maximal effort but certainly not easy running.


Sessions or runs in this zone help to push the point at which lactic overruns the system as well as hugely improving one’s running economy and capability to withstand a good fast pace during 5k/10k’s and beyond.


A good way to do this is starting with:

  • 4 x 1 mile
  • 2 minute recoveries

The progress this after a few weeks to:

  • 2 x 2 miles
  • 3 minute recoveries

Then eventually to:

  • 4- 6mile continuous, all roughly at half marathon pace


You can follow Luke on Twitter

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