I’ve been helping a friend prep for his first ever 10k run these last few weeks and it got me thinking about the advice I was giving him and how much I could have done with it for my first time.
1. Start Slowly and Build Up
When you start your training don’t try and run the distance or speed you want straight away. Run what you can comfortably and build up kilometre by kilometre. If you try and rush it, you could end up hurting yourself. Building up correctly helps your body to adapt to running further and makes the aftermath of the run a lot more enjoyable! When you have the distance locked down, then it’s time to start speeding yourself up slowly.
2. Train to more than the distance needed
This is a tip that is purely from experience. When I was training, all the plans I saw told me to run to 7 or 8 km then run the full distance on the day. This is all good advice but I find that running the distance – or further – really helps me during that race. When you are tired and thinking you are close to giving up, knowing that you CAN run that distance can be that encouragement that you need when you have no motivation left. The mind plays funny games when you are pushing yourself and just knowing that you can, can go a long way.
3. Speed Training
Once you have the distance down and you are confident you can run the race, now is the time to pick up your speed. Incorporate a day of shorter distances at a faster pace into your normal weekly training. These can be interval sprints or an extended run, depending on what works best for you. I like a continuous 2 miler around a minute a mile faster than I normally do. This helps me with my sprint at the end of the race too.
4. Research your race
Look into the course you will be running. The route, the type of surface you will be running on, maybe even look on google maps street view to see what it looks like. If you know where you are on the course, you’ll know how much is left before you are done. You’ll recognise areas and as above, that can give you the push you need if you are running low on motivation. You can also try and incorporate some of the harder aspects of the course into your training if you live nearby.
5. Adjust your diet
With an increase in your running, you may find you need a little more food to fuel you for the day. Don’t go hungry because it ‘doesn’t fit in with your plan’ – If you are hungry, eat. Just try to pick foods that give you the right boost at the right time. If it is before a run, I go for peanut butter on toast or a banana so that it fuels my coming run. If it is after a run, I will go for something with a little more protein in it to help with muscle repair. In the week running up, slowly increasing your carbohydrate intake can help with energy. What about Spaghetti CARB-onara?
6. Train in the same conditions
This is one thing I think is absolutely essential. Make sure you train as much as possible in the same conditions you will be racing in. If the race will be on a road, where possible don’t train on a grass or gravel surface as this could mean injury to your knees or ankles. They won’t be used to the hard surface of the concrete.
7. Check your shoes
At least a few weeks before, check your shoes will be ok to run in at the time of the race. You don’t want to get to a week before the race and find all your training has worn your shoes down. Train in shoes that are suitable for your running style and that have been worn in. Running in new shoes can cause cramps, blisters and chaffing so you really don’t want this on your race day.
8. Don’t change anything!
Use the same fuel and clothes you will use on the day of the race. One wrongly placed t-shirt or short can give you some chaffing like you have never seen (Trust me >.<). If you are using water on race day, use water to train etc. If you are using starburst or Jelly Babies in your race to fuel you, use them in training. Your body is going to be in a stressed state, if you introduce something new to your digestive system at this time, it can cause cramps in your stomach or you may find you don’t like the consistency of the sweet and you can’t fuel yourself.
9. Have a buddy
Running with a buddy makes it so much more enjoyable. Even if you lose each other, it’s always good to have someone to meet at the end and compare experiences. I have done a few races alone but the ones I enjoy are those that I ran with my dad or my friends. They can also be that little bit of encouragement to get you over the line too.
10. Have fun!
The whole point in this isn’t run it as fast as you can, it’s to have fun and finish. No matter what happens, make sure this is your number one priority. If you fall over, get back up, carry on and enjoy yourself (unless you are injured, then please stop!). Remember, it’s all about the experience and you’ll want to look back and remember that race with a smile.