The Journey to 10k

I remember during one of our C25K runs, about halfway through the programme, two women were running behind me chatting about distance. One said to the other ‘if you can run 5k, you can run 7…and if you can run 7k you can run 10…’. At the time, I thought ‘really?’. Now I have two 10k’s under my belt, I can say that, actually, physically, they were right.

Two 10k’s done, with my 2nd one knocking over 3 mins off my time for the first, and those women were right. 5..7..10…the legs and lungs can carry you along. What I was not prepared for was the difference mentally when going from 5k to 10k. That’s running for an hour. How do you keep mentally focused for the hour?

I have found that up to 7k I am fine, likewise the last kilometre, when I seem to get my mojo back for a strong finish. But between 7k and 9k, something switches…I feel the aches, the legs get heavy, the monkey appears on my back telling me it’s okay to stop. Where does that come from? I don’t know the answer, but here’s a couple of things that have helped me…

1) pop the headphones on…okay, I know, official, affiliated road races do not allow it, and to be honest I sometimes find it distracting as I end up running to the songs, knowing what’s coming next…so my way is to start the app, which starts the playlist, but save it till I need it. On the recent Staines 10k, it was about 7.5k in, when I popped those headphones in to get a blast of Prince Lets Go Crazy, followed by You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray. Two songs did the trick, then headphones out.

2) Avoid the water stops. Either take a bottle so it’s slow, steady and constant or skip it all together. Obviously, depends on the temperature, I am not a doctor, take medical advice before embarking on exercise etc etc… but I find personally that slowing down, trying to drink whilst running, chucking the rest over my head just leads to putting me off my pace and giving me a stitch. Note to self: get into the habit of taking on water when running. Or just take gin (nod to my friends in Runnymede Runners…you know who you are!)

3) “Countin’ whilst I’m bouncin'”…I find counting my steps, and repeating ‘bounce’ helps keep my mind focused, my back straight, and my breathing controlled. So find a mantra, something which keeps your mind clear.

I have another 10k planned for July, and am tempted by a 10 miler in October. The aim at each one is to just improve on the last. The tips above are helping me, so maybe they will help you. If that fails, just remember: if you can run 5k, you can run 7…and if you can run 7….#justsaying…

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My running journey…

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I started running in 2012 – well,  I should say I re-started running, after all we all have a go at it at school. The dreaded cross-country run was always a killer for me, enough to put me off for life! But having completed a 330 mile cycling challenge, and so never wanting to see my road bike again, I decided to put my trainers on and run.

I started off slow and steady, kind of like a C25K, but more my own version of it, which consisted of running till I was knackered, and two days later trying again but adding 200k to it, and so on…it did the trick, and soon I was running 5k regularly, and even managed to complete an organised 10k run. With hills. Get me!

I moved into a job which saw me staying in hotels for 3 week stints with no opportunity to run outside (welcome to Luanda). I became best friends with the hotel treadmill, I was getting fit for my wedding in 2014, and everything was rosy. But post wedding, the goal was missing…I started to ease off running, then go full pelt as I felt guilty. I never saw the value of stretching. I started getting back niggles, one laying me off work for two weeks…and the running was pushed further and further to the back of mind.

Cue January 2016…a stone heavier than at the wedding, feeling totally unfit, and I came across our local running club, Runnymede Runners doing a C25K programme. Structured. Local. 8 weeks. It popped up in my FB feed…it was fate.

We started on a cold, snowy Sunday morning, and immediately I thought if I can come out on a morning like this, I can see this programme through. Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, how hard could it be? 39 showed up on that first morning, and although the mid week ‘homework’ runs saw less of us, Sunday’s were usually a full gang, and the camaraderie soon grew. I began doing my own homework on the side, and would even see others on the Egham by-pass, giving each other the nod and smile of encouragement.

On the final run before graduation, I managed 5k – off my own back. The 30 min run took us to 4.7km and I wasn’t going to stop there, oh no. It felt great, so I knew I was ready. Saturday morning, 12th March was our graduation Park Run, and although it was more of a bog than a park, the run was awesome. The nervous energy at the beginning, the shout-out from the Park Run team during the briefing, the feeling of crossing the line, my team couches cheering everyone on, the solidarity of us all completing and achieving the goal was truly emotional. The cake at the end was an added bonus…

I am now a runner. I’m thinking of PB’s. I’m thinking ‘helium balloon’. I’m stretching afterwards. I’ve signed up for more challenges, including 2 10kms and a 6km trail run. I’m committed.

For anyone thinking about doing it, I say go for it. Join a club. Use the motivation of the group to carry you through. What will you gain? For me, mental clarity, greater energy, a sense of achievement and a whole new gang of friends. What will you lose? Pounds off your waistline…it’s a no brainer  (although best to go easy on the cake at the end…)