After I posted my “Help me internet” post last week, the wonderful Sarah from Goldilocks Running sent me the most fantastic, thorough guide to getting fast – FAST. She’s been kind enough to let me share her hard-fought knowledge with you guys, too. If you haven’t read her blog yet, head straight over there (once you’ve finished this post) – she just NAILED her first Ultra and will totally show you how it’s done.
If you have any questions or comments, you can also find Sarah on Twitter here, which is also a good place to hear about her epic adventures while you’re at it!
From going the distance to racing 10K- quickly!
You might not think it, but the time after you’ve run a longer race, such as a marathon or half marathon, is the perfect time to nail one of those shorter races too, and net yourself a new 10K PB. As my coach is fond of saying ‘the hay is already in the barn with regards to endurance’; all it takes is some sharpening up! Last year, after running my first marathon in York, a few weeks later I lopped nearly four minutes off my 10K PB- here’s some of the things that helped me.
Drop the volume
With your long race behind you, your endurance is already built, so you can safely drop your weekly mileage right down, and really put the focus on quality sessions and recovering between them. Once you’ve recovered from your longer race, I’d suggest rarely running the full 10K in training, let alone any further. Instead, focus on adding speed.
Up the tempo and make some progression
Fast intervals are all very well, but I believe nothing gives you more confidence on race day than being familiar with the pace you’re planning to race at. For a 10K, if you’re aiming to beat 50 minutes, your race pace needs to be 8:00min/mile, so get out and run that pace! Before a 10K, I try and manage between 5K and 4 miles of race pace running a couple of times, so I know what the pace feels like, and can ‘lock into it’ on race day and tick along at that pace.
Progression runs are also really useful, as they teach you how to pace a run so you get progressively faster, even when it’s beginning to hurt; exactly what you want to be able to do to nail that negative split in a race (where you run the second half faster than the first- the way most elite athletes pace their races). For a 10K, my favourite session is to run 5 miles, starting out at an easy pace, for example 9:00min/mile, and getting 15 seconds quicker per mile, so my last two miles are 8:00min/mile and 7:45min/mile- just quicker than target race pace. These are really good for learning pace control too!
Push the pace with some intervals
Whilst I believe hills have their place, chances are, you’ve picked a flat course to nail your 10K PB attempt, so we can put hills to one side for a while. The best thing you can do intervals-wise in the period of converting from a longer race is to shorten your reps right down, to 400m or 2 minutes for example. If you have access to a track, great, but if not, you can just as easily do intervals with a watch and run them on time, not distance.
The purpose of interval training in this period is to do some higher intensity work at quicker than your 10K race pace, to ‘sharpen up’ for race day- you’ve got endurance, but you need to polish the speed! For example, one of my coach’s favourite sharpening sessions, done on the Tuesday before a Sunday race, as the last hard session, is a set of 6-8 x 90 second reps at faster than 5K pace, with 60 second jog recoveries.
Stride it out
Before race day, at the end of every steady run (even right up to a couple of days before!), do some ‘strides’. Very few runners incorporate these into their training routine, which is a shame because they’re awesome. This video [insert link to http://strengthrunning.com/2012/10/what-are-strides/] explains them far better than I can, but they’re a great tool to get your legs turning over quickly, without inducing the sort of fatigue and soreness you get from all-out speedwork. They’re also really good for loosening your legs off before the race, which brings me to…
Warm up- and I don’t mean aerobics
I’m not knocking the mass aerobics warm ups at the start of races; I’m a fan of anything that gets your heart rate up and your body warm before you go. However, if you want to race a strong 10K, your warm-up routine needs to be specific. A good warm up will make you much more comfortable setting off bang on target pace, and stop that thing where you set off feeling awful and only start feeling good halfway through- you can’t afford to do that during a 10K- there just ain’t time!
For mine, I usually go for a 10-15 minute super easy jog- my favourite 10K PB course happens to be this distance from my house, so I jog to the start area. Then, I do some ‘dynamic mobility’ exercises; sounds fancy, but it’s just some stretches that are moving instead of static ones, to loosen up your body ready for some speedy running action- these are a good place to start:
Finally, as close as possible to the gun going off, I do 5-6 of the ‘strides’ mentioned above, to get my heart rate back up, before I get in the start pen. Sounds bizarre but it really helps to have done some of your warm up at race intensity- it stops your body going from a nice slow heart rate to crazily high really quickly, leaving you feeling all breathless and rubbish!
We all know pacing a race properly is important, but in a 10K it really does make all the difference. Whilst I’m a big advocate of not setting off too quickly, a slow start will also delay you. A 10K race will normally have kilometre markers, so your maths is super easy to run a sub-50 10K; just run each kilometre in 5 minutes or less- but I’ll place a caveat on that- not too much quicker!
Wearing a watch and ensuring your first 5 kilometres are between 4:50-5:00 minutes will see you right to reach halfway working hard, but not disastrously so, and ready to race the second half. Then, I’m going to be a little unconventional, and suggest you stop looking at your watch. Seriously.
At this point, start playing the vest game; pick a vest in front of you, and focus on passing them, then pick another one. And so on. It turns the second half of the race into a childish game, and distracts you from the pain in your legs, with the added bonus of being quite likely to net you that negative split. When you see the 9km sign, it’s time to give it all you’ve got- no sprint quite yet, but remember those progression runs? Now is the time to put them into play and push on- the finish will be there before you know it!