The 10k is a tricky beast

Getting the pace right in a 10k  – so that you’re not blowing up after 6k OR finishing with such a sprint that you feel there was more to give – is hard to do.

I had my name down for my local 10k in Thame last weekend, but given that it was only 2 weeks after my 100 miles I wasn’t sure how to approach it.

My legs were feeling pretty good all things considered so it seemed a waste not to give it my best shot, even though I wasn’t expecting too much.

It was an interesting situation to be in, and I learned a few things that could help you in your next race.

We all know that we shouldn’t go out too fast but it’s SOOOOO hard not to sometimes.

You get to a kilometre in and realise that you just nailed it 30 seconds quicker than your target.

The sensible part of your brain says ‘whoa there tiger, hold up or you’re going to pay for that later on’.

But the other part says ‘blimey, I’m on for a stonking great big PB here!’ and that’s usually the part that wins.

But this time, because I was playing it safe and anticipating a slower-than-usual race I was able to reign it in and ignore everybody else zooming off around me. 

I usually come in around the 37 or 38 minute mark for this race, but given the events of 2 weeks ago I set out with an ‘anything under 40 minutes’ goal firmly in my mind.

I stood there on the start line looking down the first 100m of the course and just focused on one single goal: run the first km nice and easy.

I didn’t think about the whole 10k, just that first kilometer. 

Once we were off I filled my mind with relaxation and patience.

It’s something I began during the 10 in 10 last year and it’s been working for me ever since.  I simply touch my forefinger and thumb together and repeat in my head:

  “Relax, be patient.  Relax, be patient. Relax, be patient…”

Staying relaxed is surprisingly hard to remember to do, but easier when you remind yourself.

And recognising that the first two thirds of any race are just about patiently putting in the groundwork, helps to create a sense of space and freedom to enjoy the running.  

Worry about the end game when the time comes.

“Relax, be patient”.

The additional benefit of having some kind of mantra like this is that it fills your head with positive thoughts.  

It’s very hard to worry or have doubt when you’re focused on something positive.

I didn’t know what kind of time I’d be looking at on Sunday.  I’ve never felt so far from 10k shape in my life so it was up in the air.

I went through the first 5k in 18:50 and the 2nd in 18:51, giving a finish time of 37:41 which turned out to be my fastest in about 4 years!

There is the risk of going out too conservatively and not doing your best, but I think that this is far outweighed by the risk of blowing up after an adrenaline-fuelled first few miles.

Tune into your body, find a simple mantra that works for you when you run, have a solid pacing plan and then stick to it.

It’s not the distance that’ll get us, it’s the pace.