Completing my first 10K

I’ve never been a runner. I remember dreading cross-country at school, or in fact anything longer than a hundred metre sprint, and not understanding why anyone would choose to do it for fun. I’ve kept and nurtured that misunderstanding of running over the years, unable to understand why a housemate took up running while going through a stressful period, or why another friend had decided to start running marathons. I didn’t like it, I couldn’t do it, and yet somehow I managed to complete the Great Bristol 10K at the start of the month. How did I get there and will I do it again?

Why did I sign up for Bristol 10k?

I first started running last summer. James wanted to start running and was planning on completing the popular Couch to 5K training programme over the course of several months. Initially I wasn’t keen but I decided that this was my chance to learn to run in stages, and with someone to accompany me. We both agreed that it would be easier together so that we could motivate each other through the process. I’ll be honest, I was expecting us to lose interest or motivation part way through the training. We weren’t training for any reason other than to be able to run 5k (or half an hour as the app actually trains you to). However, we stuck to it and although it felt like I was really struggling, we managed to run the 5k we’d aimed for.

However, we soon lost interest. We moved house, suddenly had a very full calendar and running dropped off our priority list towards the end of the year. We were still running occasionally,, but it wasn’t the same. I was missing the regular exercise and the sense of achievement when we managed to run further or for longer than before. Independently we decided it would be a good idea to sign up for Bristol 10K. It would be a challenge for the year ahead, an opportunity to do something neither of us had done before and motivation to keep up with the running. We signed up, and then we had a very real challenge ahead of us.

Training for a 10k

There were multiple different training plans that we could have followed, running groups that we could have joined and advice that we could have taken, but instead we did our own thing and tried to keep things simple. I’m not suggesting that anyone should do what we did, but it worked for us and it felt like it had more flexibility than a training programme.

We started by setting off for a run in the first week of January and just seeing how we did. We stopped when we started to find it, a struggle and looked at how far we’d gone for. It worked out at about 2.5 kilometres, so on the bright side we were already a quarter of the way there, but in reality we needed to do quite a bit of work. However it did confirm that we weren’t starting completely from scratch in the way we had been the previous summer. Looking at our calendar we worked out that if we could run an additional 500 metres each week to the previous week then we would reach the 10k mark by the time we needed to.

We planned to run three times each week, working our way up to a new distance each week. In reality, it was a little different. There were some weeks where we didn’t go as often as we’d planned,there were a couple of times, particularly earlier on, where we ended up running further than we’d planned, effectively skipping a few weeks. Somehow it all worked out in the end and we actually managed to run 10k the week before the run was planned. A lot of advice suggests that you shouldn’t and actually don’t need to do this, but I knew that it was going to help me. I was nervous enough about taking part in the run, if I already knew I could run the distance then it would help me mentally prepare for it a bit more.

The closer we got to the run we also adapted our training pattern. We’d done most of our training on an evening after work but the run itself would be in the morning. The first time we did a morning run I really struggled with it, so we made sure that the last few runs in the lead up to the big day were all in the morning (and sure enough it got easier). We also soon realised that we couldn’t consistently run the longer distances multiple times a week, so it was better to mix up a longer run with a couple of shorter ones.

Another thing we did which I would recommend was taking part in a 5k run part way through our training. We were already running further than 5k so the distance didn’t bother me at all,but it was just helpful to get some idea of what to expect having never been in that environment before. I’m rubbish at pace setting, so didn’t know how I’d cope being surrounded by people running at different speeds. As it turns out, James is very good at pace setting so we stuck together and the runners around me didn’t bother me as much as I thought.

Completing the Great Bristol 10K

As I’d expected, I was very nervous the morning of the run. I knew I could run the distance, but what if I got a stitch, or my knee or ankle started hurting… I wasn’t bothered at all about my time, I just wanted to complete it without having to either stop or walk part of it. It didn’t help that we needed to be at our starting assembly point about an hour before we were due to start. What would I do if I needed the toilet?! Surely that was just an hour to get more worried. I was even bothered by the bright blue skies, convincing myself that despite the cool temperature outside I was now going to find it too hot to run.

But it was all fine. We joined the lengthy toilet queue, dropped our bags off and shedded some of the layers we’d arrived in. We made a last minute decision to wear our sunglasses given how bright it was outside, and set off to our starting point with plenty of time. It was then I realised just how many people were there (approximately 13000) and started to feel a sense of anticipation rather than dread. We saw and spoke to a few people we knew, participated in the mass warm-up and slowly made our way towards the starting line as the waves ahead of us set off. Time seemed to go very quickly and suddenly we’d started!

The Bristol 10K is thankfully a rather flat course, taking us around the harbour side and along part of Avon gorge. As it was bright and sunny, it was quite a picturesque route, allowing us to take in the SS Great Britain, Clifton Suspension Bridge and part of the city centre. Once we’d started, I soon relaxed into it, finding our pace and taking it in our stride. It was a little off-putting seeing all the speedy first waves returning back the other way whilst we were only just starting out, however I only had to turn around to rid myself of the notion that we were going to come last.

The best thing about taking part in the 10K was the atmosphere. Aside from the sheer number of people taking part, and feeling like we were part of something huge, there were a considerable number of people who had turned out to watch. As you have your name pinned to the front of your top along with your race number, you’ll have people you don’t know cheering you on by name which gives you a surprising boost in stamina. There are also children who’ll line the course to give you a high-five which will make you feel great, and make their day that you bothered to do so.

When I finished the 10K I was overwhelmed by the sense of achievement, and the fact that something we’d been working towards for so long was now complete. Running a race has never appeared in any of my bucket lists or life plans, but I’m so pleased that I did it, if only for that sense of pride and achievement. I also surprised myself with one of my first thoughts being that I could have run further. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to stop when I did, but my body did feel as if it might have been able to keep on going.

What did I learn from doing the 10K?

  • That if you dedicate time to something you will see the reward
  • Just because you’ve never considered doing something doesn’t mean it won’t be a bad idea, or that you won’t enjoy it
  • Running takes up a lot of time!
  • Exercise is addictive – I can now tell from my mood changes when I need to go for a run, because it’s something my body has gotten used to
  • You need to run your own race. Whether training, or on the day itself, you’ll have a much more enjoyable and less stressful experience if you concentrate on yourself, your own pace, and what a success is to you.

What’s next?

Having completed the Bristol 10K the question everyone has been asking me is what’s next? Will I sign up for a half marathon? Am I going to keep running? To be honest, I’m still working it out. I’m still not a fan of running – in fact the day of the 10K might be the first and only day I’ve actually enjoyed a run. I don’t particularly want to train to run further. Yes, it would be an achievement, but I’m not sure I want to give the level of commitment required when I could be doing other things. I think I will keep running, and I’m quite keen to run the Bristol 10K next year and aim for an improved time. However, I am on the lookout for a new challenge or goal to work towards. Maybe something to do with a distance walk…

Have you ever completed a 10K run? How did you find it?

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