Under 50 Minutes

Over the past few weeks I have run ten kilometres many times, either in formal races or training runs, but only once come close to the 50 minute barrier – 50 minutes 29 seconds for the Bushy Park 10k on 12 February. Today I was taking part in the next round of the Bushy Park 10k series, organised by Capital Runners, and really wanted to break 50 minutes.

I have learned a lot about race preparation. I have learned to have one day training followed by one day rest. I have learned to concentrate on speed rather than distance in training. I have learned to eat well the night before. I have learned to warm up properly and do a one kilometre shakedown before the race. I wanted to put all this to good use.

I deliberately started the race near the front as I didn’t want to waste time overtaking slower people and I also wanted to be surrounded by people of my own pace. I also concentrated on technique and focussed on an as efficient leg movement as possible – at one point the person next to me was doing two steps for every one of mine.

The first few kilometres flew past and I felt like I was going really well. I deliberately didn’t look at my timer as I wanted to purely focus on reading my pace myself and do the analysis afterwards. I overtook about three people in 5 kilometres and just about kept up with a particular group of people, although they were naturally slightly faster than me.

As I crossed the line at the end of the first of two laps I started to struggle. I had the amount of energy I would normally have at the three-quarter point, but I just decided to continue – I had set my goal. The sixth kilometre felt like two whole kilometres, the seven kilometre felt like three whole kilometres. I had no energy left.

I decided to drop back slightly and follow someone else as I could feel the pack behind me using me as a marker and consequently sapping my energy. This really helped as I was fading quite badly and I was just about able to keep one particular person in sight and use them as a marker for a kilometre. This trick kept me in the race.

At the eight kilometre mark I upped a gear and started to close on the person in front of me. I soon passed her and set my sights on the two runners in the distance and caught them too. The ninth kilometre soon approached, and I had noticed I was one of the quicker runners on the damp grass sections, so upped the pace even more and took the advantage.

I could see the finish line in the distance for the final kilometre and this really helped spur me on as there was nothing left – I was just putting one leg in front of the other and pushing with whatever there just happened to be. The finish line got closer and closer, there were people cheering, and I turned the final corner.

As I crossed the line I glanced at my phone and saw the time was 10:50am. I had started the race at 10:01am so knew I was probably just under my target time. After an agonising wait for the official time I saw that I had completed the course in 48 minutes 45 seconds and was absolutely stunned – this was one minute faster than I had expected.

I had used all my energy to set that time and also used a lot of experience. I deliberately ran in a straight line, and took racing lines around corners, in order to avoid weaving around and taking inefficient lines (which can easily add 200 metres to your overall distance). I didn’t bother with a drink at the halfway point in order to stay focussed.

I was really surprised at my split times – my first kilometre was 4m 48s, six of my kilometres were each under 4m 45s, and my final kilometre was 4m 32s. I had barely run under 5m 45s per kilometre in my final training run. I lost time in the seventh and eight kilometres, as expected, but also had a slow third kilometre which could have saved me more time.

It took several hours to recover from this race and I had a real low energy point in the afternoon, but I was so pleased to not only achieve my target but comprehensively beat it. I am taking part in another 10k race next weekend and expect, at minimum, to get the same time. Part of me now wants to aim for 45 minutes, but we’ll see how the training goes.