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Casualty star George Rainsford’s 5 tips for training for your next big run

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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24 Sep 2018

As he prepares to run the Great South Run in October, George Rainsford, who plays Ethan Hardy in Casualty and has starred in Call the Midwife, shares his advice for training for your next big run while managing your busy life

George Rainsford running for Bloodwise, formerly the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research Trust
George Rainsford running for Bloodwise

I have been running with Bloodwise since 2011. When I was growing up I never got to know my grandfather, who died from lymphoma at the age of just 56. I therefore felt personally connected to Bloodwise and wanted to support all the tireless work that they do, as well as raise their profile as much as possible. I would encourage anyone to run, cycle or swim with them. And if you do, you’ll be met by the most lovely, helpful, organised and fun bunch of people.

There have been so many wonderful memories from the last 7 years that it’s hard to pick out a highlight. But perhaps running both the Great Manchester Half Marathon and 10K in one day in 2017 was the most significant and resonating. It was just a week after the awful Arena bombing but Manchester is a proud city and the wonderful people who reside there had a very defiant reaction to what happened. They felt it vital that the runs still took place. The streets were absolutely packed and after a two minute silence, Oasis’s Don’t Look Back in Anger was played on the start line. It was incredibly moving and we all felt honoured to be a part of it.

I tend to run 4 to 6 events a year with the TV Times Celebrity Running Team but try and keep my training up all year round, so as not to embarrass myself! This is, however, becoming far from easy these days!

George Rainsford with the TV Times running team

I currently play the regular role of Ethan in BBC’s Casualty. We busily film in the studio from 7am to 7pm, with no natural light, so as you can imagine I do crave a bit of fresh air. We film down in Cardiff Bay so, when I get the chance, I’ll run around the waterfront or up the Taff Trail towards the town centre and the hills beyond. I like to run without music or anything and just let my mind wander. I find running such a successful way to destress. It’s very good for the soul.

However, add to my schedule my two brilliant (but boisterous!) young children, who demand a lot of my attention at the weekend, and it’s increasingly hard trying to juggle it all.

I’m sure plenty of you can relate, so these are my top tips for the busy runner:

1. Sign up to an event

There are so many well-organised and varied running events out there. From mass participation city centre half marathon and 10ks, to trail runs in woods, obstacle courses, fancy dress fun runs etc.

When you have a date-specific goal in mind, it’ll motivate you to get out and train, even when it feels like time won’t allow it! There’s always a great atmosphere and things going on if you want to make a family day of it. Plus you get a medal. Who doesn’t like a medal?! For me, it’s the tangible evidence of all the training you’ve done and putting in some effort. I keep all of mine in a special wooden box!

George Rainsford with his Great Manchester Run half marathon and 10k medals

2. Find a slot that works for you

It’s the classic “are you a lark or an owl?” debate. I find running in the morning far easier. I get going before I’m even awake enough to talk myself out of it and genuinely feel energised (and quietly smug!) throughout the working day.

You can overthink what fuel you need. I just take a bottle of water and have a good breakfast when I’m back. Also it’s better to get out and run for a short amount of time than not at all!

3. Keep it interesting

If it’s cold and you prefer the gym treadmill, that’s totally fine, but vary your workout. Try some speed work or interval tempo runs with breaks, rather than just running at one pace for an hour, say. It stops the monotony but will also improve your fitness. There are tons of ideas online.

If you run outside, vary the distance so you get used to running faster for shorter distances and even-paced for longer distances. And find new routes. I’ve recently purchased some trail running shoes so can now go a bit more off-piste through the Chiltern Hills near where I live. It’s stunning. You stop worrying about time and how your legs are and just enjoy the view!

4. Parkrun

This is a nationwide weekly timed 5K and it’s brilliant. You simply find your local one(s) based on postcode, turn up each Saturday at 9am with a bar code and run.

It caters to all abilities and there is a real sense of community with it all, which I love, with the cheery warmth of the volunteers and the shout-outs to tourists and milestone runners. And there’s plenty of like-minded runners to chat to and, if you like, have a bit of a race with.

Your times are logged on their website and efficiently pinged over to your phone a few hours later, so you can track your progress too. Which leads me finally to…

5. Track your progress

Again lots of options here, but Strava and Garmin are the market leaders. I have a Garmin watch and find it so helpful to upload my runs to the Garmin app. If I’m feeling particular geeky, I can pore over various aspects of the run, such as ascents/descents, pacing at different stages or heart rate. But also, quite simply, if I see I haven’t run for a few days on my calendar, I do my best to rectify that. Works for me! And you can interact with other running friends on there, to motivate each other.

Hope that helps! Do try and enjoy it. But rest assured it’s a very rewarding feeling getting through any hard training and feeling like you’ve achieved something afterwards. Oh and Vaseline your nipples! Good luck!

George is running the Great South Run for Bloodwise on Sunday 21 October as part of the TV Times Celebrity Running Team. Show your support for George and the team and help them smash their £5k target by making a donation.