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How to run a 10k race and actually enjoy it

7 July 2014

10k is my nemesis distance. Too long to be short, too short to be long; it’s running kryptonite.

This is one reason why I haven’t attempted a 10k race since September 2011, the others being 2) pregnancy, c) wine.

On Sunday our friend Brian was staying for the weekend and we decided to run one of the Regent’s Park Summer 10k series  – you can just turn up 15 minutes before the start, pay your £16, tie on your timing chip and off you go. Spontaneity is not usually my middle name, but in this case I think not booking in advance gave me some psychological advantages: I didn’t obsess about it beforehand, I didn’t really* train for it, and I didn’t have a pace in mind. There were no hopes to be dashed – I was just going to turn up, give it a go and see what happened.

What happened? Some flippin’ excellent things! I paced it sensibly, ran a negative split, and got a new pb of 43:04. Best of all, I didn’t even feel like death at the end so there is room for improvement.

Now that the race is over and I no longer need them, I have come up with some useful tips on how to run a 10k.

1. START SLOWLY

The Regent’s Park 10k is a 3 lap course, which I have previously found to be soul destroying, but this time I used it to my advantage. Rather than starting at maximum pace and trying in vain to get faster each lap, I started at a pace that felt way too slow and really did get faster each lap. Aiming for a 45 minute finish, I actually came in a lot quicker as I felt so good in the second and third laps.

2. STRUGGLING? SLOW DOWN

I wasn’t aiming for a pb so I tried a crazy thing: actually enjoying the race. Every time I started to feel uncomfortable in the lungs, legs or stomach, I slowed down a bit because I didn’t want to feel like that. Then, once I felt better, I found I sped back up to pace without really trying.

3. GET TACTICAL

The Regent’s Park course is billed as “flat”, but really it has a couple of slight inclines and declines which shouldn’t be ignored. If you try to run them all at the same pace, your perception of how hard you’re working gets skewed and you end up ruining yourself. Slow down a bit on every incline, and you will reap the rewards on the downhills.

4. SAVE IT FOR THE END

This is a version of 1. Pick a point at which you are willing to give it everything and save your heroics for then. I picked 8k, but it ended up being 9k, then really just the final straight. Things do even out in the end, though. I used to peg it for one lap, die in the second and end up jogging it in. How much better to end on a sprint finish in front of your husband and child?

Like any tips, these seem really obvious. But, given that I’ve managed 20 years of running without following them, I hope they’re worth sharing.

* Ok, I have done some training, but nothing specifically 10k focused other than two interval sessions during which I nearly threw up. (6 x 800m with 1.5 minute recoveries, pain fans)

photo 3

Me, daughter and 38 minute 10k-er Brian post-race. Plus plastic cup.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. kathleen permalink
    7 July 2014 2:20 pm

    I love an 800 session. Definitely help with speed endurance. I think that’s how I got my 42 minute 10k PB. Few more interval throwing up sessions and you’ll be closer to 40!

    • 7 July 2014 3:18 pm

      I think I can get a BIT faster, but 40 is definitely out of the question! Haven’t felt like I’ve done well at an 800 session yet – always struggle, but maybe that’s the deal.

      • kathleen permalink
        7 July 2014 3:37 pm

        Oregon circuits are always a good one but a toughy. I like 400 sessions and pyramid sessions too. But that’s all from my young, care free middle distance days when it all felt SOOO easy.

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