Training for the City2Surf

The famous Sun Herald City2Surf is fast approaching — taking place in NSW’s capital on the 12th of August. Whether you’ve already got your training schedule down to an art or are wondering where to start — or even if you haven’t signed up yet — this guide from personal trainer Jonny Cainer will have you ripped and ready for the big day.

Where do I get started?

Your marathon journey starts with the correct pair of running shoes. I recommend getting your feet and shoes checked professionally at a store with treadmill video screening to make sure you find the right fit for your feet. This can make the world of difference when it comes to comfort and running ability, and will keep you free of injury.

Practice makes perfect

Never has this statement applied more than when preparing for a run. Whether you haven’t run in years, you’re a casual jogger or if the treadmill is your favourite machine in the gym, you get better with every run you do. Just how you never forget how to ride a bike, it’s even more true with running.

It’s recommended to run 3 times a week to improve and condition. Many people ask if they need to run 4, 5 or 6 days a week, and this depends on both your ability to recover between runs and how serious you want to take it. If you just want to get to the finish line, running 3 times a week is perfectly fine. Add in your favourite classes throughout the week or some low impact work on the elliptical to aid in your training.

What if I want to beat my record?  

The key is to train harder, more efficiently and with a better nutrition and recovery process. If you’re running 4-6 days a week, recovery becomes extremely important. I would suggest a maximum of 5 days a week running, and really focus on active recovery, stretching and foam rolling.

Add in resistance training to build up strength — especially in the lower body, core and posterior back muscles — and you’ll be in peak condition.

Getting an adequate amount of essential amino acids and quality carbohydrates and drinking electrolyte drinks, will also go a long way to improving performance and aiding recovery.

Intervals and Heartbreak Hill

A very important component of preparation is interval training. This style of training has been proven to significantly improve your VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake) and get you more fit faster, instead of just long duration/distance running. It’s also easier on your limbs and joints.

The big, overwhelming highlight of the City2Surf is the infamous Heartbreak Hill — 2km of breathtaking harbour bridge views from Rose Bay to Vaucluse, all uphill. Because of this hurdle I strongly recommend including plenty of hills in your training, with interval hill sprints being your main focus.

A typical running week for a casual runner may consist of 1 hill sprint, 1 short run and 1 long run. For the more serious runners, 2 hill sprints, 1 short and fast run aiming to improve speed and 1-2 longer runs.

Without a doubt, the best way to mentally prepare yourself for Heartbreak Hill is to train on the hill itself. This eliminates the fear factor and will get you racing up it a million times faster and easier than the other runners.

Do the distance, and a trial run

When it comes to excelling in any race, my number one piece of advice is to always do the distance in training. Running is psychological. Most people don’t come anywhere near doing the full distance in training, and that’s why they “hit the wall” during the race.

Increasing your running distance by up to 2-3km a week to the 14km before you taper down will guarantee a more physically enjoyable and mentally successful run.

Going to the starting line by Hyde Park and doing a trial run on the course itself will also give you lots of confidence, and the proof your mind needs that you can do it successfully.

Will I ever be able to run the whole 14km?

Absolutely. Anybody can run 14km, especially with the correct know how. Get the help of a personal trainer that specialises in training runners, or download one of the training programs from the City2Surf website.

Taper down

Too many people try to do heavy or intense last minute training the week before the event. The best training you can do at this time includes easy jogs, light elliptical work and focus on trigger point therapy/foam rolling, massage and lots of stretching. Getting to that starting line as fresh as you can and with a full tank will significantly improve your performance.

Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to the race and on the morning before your run to keep you well hydrated. This could be the difference between feeling great or fatigued during the race.

Prepare the night before

There will be road closures on the day of the race, so avoid stressing out and prepare everything the night before. This includes transport to the race and having your clothes, shoes and race bib ready.

Know what time you need to be at the race and where and when you’ll be starting. Each coloured section has a different start time and area.

Being pre-prepared will ensure you get a restful night’s sleep (an early night helps too) and will be ready to rock in the morning.

Pre-race breakfast

Many experts say that the best food you can have on the morning of the race is what you’re most used to having, and what you know you can easily digest. The easy way to find what works for you is trial and error — test out a few different breakfasts when you’re training.

Some good examples for energy include cereal high in fibre and protein, jam on wholemeal toast or a banana. Just make sure whatever you eat is fully digested before the start of the race.

Start slow and steady

There are plenty of hills in the City2Surf — it even starts with you going uphill towards the Kings Cross Coke sign. Some people will pounce across the starting line and tire out way too early. Keep the handbrakes on and ease into the race, you’ll enjoy it so much more if you feel great and keep your energy up. And don’t forget to warm up.

Enjoy the atmosphere

The City2Surf is the biggest road race in the world, with 85,000 people expected to take part this year. And let’s not forget all the supporters along the route, clapping and cheering you on. It’s a phenomenal day with an atmosphere that will push everyone to the finish — Bondi Beach, where thousands of people will help you celebrate that glorious finisher’s medal you will have very much earned.


Jonny Cainer is a senior personal trainer at Bondi Spring Street Platinum Fitness First. He’s been in the industry for 19 years, wearing many different hats as a PT, mentor PT, running coach, advanced physique coach, nutritional specialist, group fitness instructor and personal trainer manager.

Jonny is a sports and fitness enthusiast specialising in strength, conditioning and running, helping clients from absolute beginners to experienced marathon runners achieve their goals. 

Website: peakhealthandfitness.com.au
Instagram: @peak.health.fit
Email: cainerpt@gmail.com