Spark runners prepare for Sunderland City Runs

Female runner selfie outside.

With one month to go until 4,000 runners take on the streets of Sunderland on Sunday 12th May, many runners are beginning to amp up their training with only one thought in mind – that sweet feeling of crossing the finish line at Keel Square. For some, it will be their first race, for others, their favourite, or at least a familiar run around the city’s landmarks. A group of runners from Spark, a local community radio station predominantly serving 15- to 30-year-olds in the Sunderland area, are gearing up to take on Sunderland City Runs next month.

The group have been providing updates on their progress during their training, giving an insight into the successes and setbacks that are all too familiar for any runner.

For Tom, it will not be the first time he races around the city, having completed the Sunderland City 10k two years ago. “It’s great, if a little bit daunting, to be doing the Sunderland City Runs 10k again. My running has been a bit on-and-off since then, so I’ve been doing Couch to 5k recently in order to build my stamina back up. I’ve nearly completed that now, so i know I’ve got a fairly comfortable 4/5k in me and it’s just about increasing the distances towards the 10k mark. Most of my training runs at the moment are in the gym, so I’ll also need to build a few runs outside again to get back used to that. That’ll be nice when the weather starts to warm up a bit!

My ultimate goal is to try and beat my time from two years ago – 1hr 7mins. I would say I’m currently probably not as fit overall as I was then, so that’s still going to be quite a big challenge, but why not? I’m quite competitive with myself and motivated by the timings, so it gives me something to aim for.”

A few weeks later, Tom’s training was going well. “This week, I’ve been seeing family over the Easter period, so it’s been nice to have a change or scenery for my running. That’s also mainly because I’ve started doing more running on roads rather than in the gym. I’ve definitely found this more challenging, but I’ve been coping with it well enough, and it’s all part of the process of getting where I need to be for the event itself.”

“I also completed 30 mins running at a good pace without stopping for the first time in a while during the last few days, so I’m really pleased to see that improvement, even from a few weeks ago. It gives me confidence that I can gradually keep upping that over the next month and complete the 10k feeling ok and with a time I would be happy with. I’m not focusing too much on the time though, as I’ll feel proud of myself just to complete it. With just a month to go now, it’s come round quite quickly. I know that I’m going to find some of it challenging, but the fact I completed it two years ago means that I know I can do it, as well as my noticeable improvement in my training runs. I’m looking forward to it!”

However, as many runners are painfully aware, injury can be part of the journey to a race. Mitch is coming to terms with adjusting his training plan to accomodate an unfortunately-timed hamstring injury. “I’m slowly getting back into it and should be back up and running in a couple of weeks!”

In a more recent update, Mitch was happy to report that he is “Slowly recovering from hamstring injury and now thankfully up and running on the treadmill. I’m looking to get a 5k in pretty soon.”

Physical injury isn’t the only obstacle in training, as many runners can struggle with mental motivation in the many weeks and months leading up to a race. Bobbi’s first update revealed how it can be hard getting back into the swing of training, and comparing your own efforts over time. “I have just finished my first run as part of my training for the Sunderland City Run 10k. My only motivation for that run was the fast that I had a mini Colin the Caterpillar waiting for me. I’ve not run since October, when I did a recovery run after the Great North Run. How I ran 13 miles only a mere 5 months ago I do not know! I ran 5k for my first run, I stopped at 3.1k and again at some traffic lights.”

A few weeks later, Bobbi reported “I’m struggling to get motivated for this run and haven’t done a run since my last update! Which is strange because I’m usually such a keen runner! There’s still a few weeks to go through so I ‘ve got time (Or so I keep telling myself!)”

Varying up a training schedule and incorporating different types of runs can help keep things interesting, as Sofia has been practicing. “I did a speed interval session last week, which was very sweaty and tiring. I also went to the gym a couple of times. This week so far I’ve only done an easy 7k.”

Training can look drastically different for each runner depending on distance, goals, experience and ability. As race day approaches, each sets their targets and aspirations for the day, whether this is a personal best, a first attempt at a distance, or just to enjoy the run and have fun! It’s not too late to sign up to the 10k or half marathon, and join thousands of others embarking on their running challenge. Enter via this link: