Tips from the Top

Kirstin Bull, 35, and Julian Spence, 30, have both run (and won!) multiple Great Ocean Road Running Festival events, including last year’s marathon. Here’s their winning advice.


Hilly races

KB: Hilly races need hills and more hills – run regular hill sessions, especially the long runs. Start with small hills – don’t try anything too challenging and just run at an easy relaxed pace until you feel okay with the change in elevation. You may then be able to progress to steeper hills and run repetitions at speed to improve strength and fitness.

JS: Here in Ballarat, we incorporate hills in all our runs, even on easy runs. On Saturdays, the workout is either a hilly tempo run, a XC loop on hills or a hard run up Mt Buninyong. Sunday long runs are through the hilly forests surrounding the town. I don’t think that you necessarily need hill rep workouts if you’re including hills at other points of the week.



KB: When training for GOR marathon last year, I made sure that I always had an ice bath or a cold dip in the ocean after long runs and tough workouts. This freshened my legs up for the next session. Yes, I did have to mentally prepare myself for some of these! I also had weekly massages and sometimes spent time on the foam roller.

JS: I like to be active in my recovery sessions. So I’ll go for a jog at a very slow pace to get the blood flowing and shake out the stiffness. Some people refer to this as junk mileage but I always feel better after this jog than if I sit at home with the legs up.


KB: If my motivation drops, I will often ask myself why. It may be that I need a rest day and this is ok. However, I do find that once I have a race goal in mind, my motivation to train is higher than ever.

JS: I think everybody’s motivation drops at certain times. Whether you’re tired from training, had a big day at work or have had a bad patch of injuries it’s inevitable that sometimes you won’t feel like running. Robert De Castella always said if he thought about going for a run, it’s too late. Just get out and run. It must be automatic.



KB: I spent 2013 injured on and off and learnt a lot about myself and my body during this time. Thankfully, I have hardly been injured since. I would advise those that are injured to try other sports to keep their fitness and their sanity.
The balance of running load, massage, strength work, rest, sleep and nutrition are all extremely important. Listening to my body and differentiating between ‘expected’ fatigue and overtraining is something I am getting better at understanding.

JS: Running injuries are the absolute worst! I make sure I see a practitioner (e.g. physio, etc.) who knows running injuries well as soon as possible. The earlier the injury is diagnosed, the earlier you can work on your rehab.



KB: I train twice a day most days, and that means some sacrifices are made, especially as I have to fit in my job in the middle. The biggest sacrifice is TV and it doesn’t bother me at all. I would much rather be socialising with my friends during training than home on the couch. Getting this balance right is challenging at times, but worthwhile.

JS: Balancing home and work life is tough, especially as my partner is also a runner. We try and schedule our workouts around each other as much as possible.



KB: There are two things I wish I’d known before I started running – the importance of strength work and working with a qualified strength and conditioning coach for professional advice and to correct any weaknesses; and also the importance of listening to my body and getting my feet/gait looked at by a qualified practitioner before injuries arise.

JS: Be patient! True distance running fitness is achieved by years of consistent training, not by stringing eight weeks of hard work followed by six months of injury.


Lessons from the Great Ocean Road

KB: Last year I learnt that race conditions, such as the head wind we had for the second half of the race, can play a major role with early fatigue. How you choose to manage that fatigue physically and mentally that makes the difference to your race.

JS: Don’t underestimate how far the final 15km actually is! Although not as hilly as the first 29, you’re more tired and your legs are pretty beat up by then.

Run alongside Kristin and Julian at this year’s Great Ocean Road Running Festival on 20–21 May. Sign up at greatoceanroadrunfest.com.au

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