At the beginning of the year, I signed up to a couple of mid-year races with a click of a mouse and little thought to training.
The races crept nearer, as I was trying to get to sleep, I kept having flashes of coming last in a race… or being pecked to death on the race course by a giant bird of prey in a pacemaker bib.
These hallucinations generally signal it’s time to start training! I’d left myself 5 weeks to prep for the first race at the end of May, and started half-heartedly googling training plans. “Ease myself in with a 3k this week”, I thought. “Take it easy”, I thought.
Fast forward to the next day- and the following question was posed by my other half: “Would you like to take my brother’s place at the Manchester 10k this weekend? He’s injured”. That would give me.. hmmm, let’s see… 6 days to train.
I obviously agreed instantly, thinking that the fastest way to get 10k ready was… well was to do a 10k. Is this the stupidest training plan in history? Yes, probably.
I found myself behind the starting line in Manchester the following Sunday with an 8km and a 3km under my belt from the previous week. I had just decided to enjoy it and take as long as I needed.
I hid as close to the edge of the starting area as possible, cranked up the tunes and tried to ignore the butterflies in my belly while the group in front of ours set off.
I dared to have a peek around- there were lots of people I’d class as Real Runners around me. You know the type- tall, lean, and in tiny, weeny shorts. My heart palpatations started.
Off went the starter gun, and everyone around me bolted at a terrifying speed. Me- the frightened and confused donkey in a pack of gazelles, trying to avoid being dragged along at a pace that I knew I wouldn’t sustain for more than 30 seconds. I mentally had to slow myself right down and avoid starting too fast.
I was in the elite men’s category and there was NO WAY I was about to hit this race at an elite men’s starting pace. I concentrated hard on easing into a 6km/minute pace that I knew was a challenge, but a comfortable one.
The butterflies and palpitations disappeared almost instantly. “Enjoy this. Enjoy every second of it” I told myself. “Just try to keep going, no matter how slowly that is”.
And so I did. I high-fived kiddies, slapped people on the back when they were flagging and told them to keep going. I played up to the cameras with waves and a cheeky grin, and I sang out loud to Missy Elliott. I made sure every time it hurt or I felt a wave of tiredness, I smiled to keep feeling positive.
I even stopped for a one-fingered saulte outside Old Trafford on behalf of my beloved Chelsea (this did not make me popular with the locals).
I smiled and waved back to people yelling encouragement, and eventually found myself slipping in behind a man with a washing machine on his back. He was going about the same pace as me (pah!), and I decided to appoint him my easy-to-spot, slow-as-f*ck pacemaker.
It was exhilarating running through such a strong crowd of people- and one which made me feel confident and happy. I kept going, kept smiling, and kept slapping one foot in front of the other.
For the first race in my life, I hit the last few hundred metres with enough determination to sprint to the finish line- it felt ace! I honestly think I felt this good because of my mental rather than physical state. A mental state which, until this race, had been a broken record of no-confidence and lack of belief in myself. I’m not the sort of girl who enters races or deserves medals. Well, on this race, I decided to take a different attitude, and cut myself a little slack.
And guess what- I finished in 59 min 43 sec– smashing the magic hour barrier, and about 15 minutes faster than I expected to! Yessssssss! But with no training- how?!
I guess as we grow into Proper Grown Up People, it’s natural to harbour some deep-rooted (and probably out-dated) expectations of what we can achieve, based on what we were like as little kids. As a little kid, I was shy, chubby, asthamatic and perpetually worried. I often feel like the “real” me- that kid- is living deep in my brain and knocking my confidence most days.
At the start line of the Manchester 10k, I was that kid; wringing my hands in my racing vest, staring at the floor, and asking myself in a whisper why I was here. Don’t get me wrong, I love that kid- she’s made me who I am- but this was not the place for her today.
I’d promised myself to have fun, enjoy it, and shed that lack of confidence for at least an hour that day. And it looks like this new attitude managed to snap me up a brand new PB!
Thanks to Bella Kinesis for the super supportive No Jiggity and tank that remained wonderfully comfy and functional for the whole race… and thank you to these three lovely people for a fun race weekend! Here’s Stephen, Carly and Jonny on our way to the race that morning. Was great to do my first race with S- although he was a bit quicker than me (like, 28 minutes quicker!)
Some advice about the 1 week 10k training plan:
I am very serious about this. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS STYLE OF “TRAINING” TO ANYONE STARTING OUT. If you’re as stupid as me and find yourself in a similar situation, you need to be certain that at least one of the following applies….
1) You have a base level of fitness where you can complete between 5-8km at a comfortable pace, without too much of an issue.
2) You have done a 10km previously, and know what to expect, and how to pace yourself.
3) You can run 5km, fancy a challenge, and promise yourself not to worry about times, instead concentrating on taking it super easy, soaking up the atmosphere, and having fun.