How to get (back) into running
My 10km story and top ten tips
Back in November one of my clients challenged me to join them in a 10km.
I was very resistant.
Even though I have a history of competitive track and field, this distance feels like a marathon to me.
I come from a shorter, middle distance track background - 400 and 800 on the track plus 1500 or 3km now and then. In winter I would do cross country training which was absolutely not my favourite but essential to get my base for the summer competition season.
I haven’t competed in track and field at all since 2012.
Last year I did a 5km without training for it. It sucked but I managed a reasonable time. And it sucked because doing a race without preparation is the worst thing you can do!
This 10km felt like a whole other thing. Twice the distance! Yikes!
I set myself a challenge to break 50 minutes and maybe even close to 45min...
It doesn't matter if you're a former track athlete or have never run before, whether you're going for 45mins or just trying to finish, the build up to a race looks pretty similar.
One of the biggest challenges of running is mental. Distances and individual kms feel like enemies, your body and brain is telling you crazy things, "the wall" is a real thing and it can feel so different from one day to the next.
No matter who you are, you will go into battle with yourself.
Take it slow and steady
In terms of my training, since November last year, I have been doing two runs per week which was realistic considering my schedule with all the other training I’m doing (minus 3 weeks over Christmas!).
Like anyone starting out with running, I had to build it up. I was careful not to increase the distance and time too quickly.
You hear of people talking about getting off the couch and doing a marathon... that might work out ok for a handful of people, but doctors will tell you about the many people they see where this did not work out.
It’s important to work up to distances and speeds and not just try to do the whole lot right away.
We want to make sure the body is fortified against injury. It doesn’t matter what level you are at, even with my history of running, I needed to increase my training steadily over time.
A lot of pressure goes through your joints when you run, especially on hard surfaces. While running itself is fantastic for a prepared body, jumping straight into a full run puts you at risk.
So, how did I go in the race?
Better than expected as my time was 44 minutes 6 seconds! Under my goal AND my stretch goal.
It was horrible but great and bloody freezing.
The event - London Winter Series 10km - was fantastic with 16,500 competing and raising funds and awareness for cancer research.
I was lucky to be in the first batch of runners near the front, but the first km was really tough.
I got dragged along with the crowd where everyone was trying to find a bit of space and clear air in a group of very competitive runners.
I didn't expect to do a 4min 10s first km, I was aiming for 4min 30s.
For the first 5km I was aiming for 22min 3s but did it in 21m 38s. I thought I was going to die!
By 4-6km I was getting into my stride. But at 6.1km I was starting to struggle and slow. And the negative self-talk began: My knee hurts. This isn't fun anymore. I'm not going to make my time. This sucks. I suck. I'm a disappointment.
But I'd been talking this up for so long.... that just wasn't going to be good enough.
At 7km I was at just over 30mins. I rationalised that with 3km to go I had a comfortable 5mins for each km - so I went for it. I kept my focus and form and picked it up just the tiniest amount, and it was enough.
Between 6 and 8km I realised that all my training hadn't been enough. There was so much more I could have done and will do for next time.
But in the end, I smashed my time and while I felt like my body was falling apart for the rest of the day, I felt great.
While I'm glad that it's over, it has motivated me to focus on breaking the 20min mark for 5km. It will also tie in nicely with my training for rugby.
Thank you, Courtney, I'm very grateful that you forced this on me! Stand by for more races!
Top tips for getting back into running
Invest in a good supportive, cushioned pair of trainers
- Build up slowly with distance and time - if you have never run before, don’t expect to knock out a 20min fast run. Even if you feel like you’re ok, don’t push it. Be patient.
- Run off-road where possible as concrete is very hard on your body and offroad will help you build up mobility and stability
- If you’re unsure where to start, get professional advice
- Work on your mobility when you are in the gym - hips, ankles etc
- Focus on your breathing to get as much oxygen in so you’re efficient
- Knock out some interval training in preparation
- Make your goals realistic and achievable and give yourself time to build up to it
- Add strength training to your weekly routine for injury prevention and to help your endurance
- Stay hydrated, recover properly, eat well