Well it's been a while since I put pen to paper for one of these blogs. It's fair to say I'm well overdue to enlighten and empower the TRIAX community with some physical performance knowledge (or something like that).
Whilst my lengthy absence from publishing blog posts could be attributed to laziness, it could also be because I was toiling away in the gym and on the running track, trying to get better (could being the key word). Specifically, I'd been trying to build towards a marathon in 2021 and whilst I didn't quite make it to the start line of the 42.2 km event, I did manage to recently complete a 10km road race at the 2021 Melbourne Marathon Festival. My first official road race.
Generally, I would place myself as an above average general population runner who has a lot of room for improvement (in terms of time and training status). My current personal best for a 5km run is 19:38, but that's as far as these legs have run in an official capacity.
The 10km event seemed like a good starting point for my marathon quest. I could comfortably complete a 5km circuit, so the 10km was the gradually progression. But the 10km event is also a lot trickier than I expected. But not necessarily harder.
I never questioned finishing the event as I had more than a sufficient fitness base, but my goal time was hard to predict. I finished my race in ~46:30 which wasn’t quite in my goal range of 40 to 45-minutes. I soon realized however, that my goal time of between 40 to 45-minutes was going to be harder to achieve than I originally planned. For a first-time road-racer, I now know there’s a few handy pointers I could have used on race day and 12 weeks ago, when I first started training. Had I known the following points beforehand, I’m certain I would have gotten a lot closer to my 40 to 45-minute goal interval.
Here are my top 5 lessons you need to know to improve your 10km race time.
#1 Start as close to the front as possible.
This might sound obvious, but trust me, it is vital you start as close to the elite starters as possible. I’m not sure what the starting procedure is at other events domestically and internationally, but the system at the Melbourne Marathon festival was basically one massive queue with a block of 20 runners starting in a staggered, interval fashion every 20-30 seconds. This sounds good in theory and for the first 400m it works fine. But what happens is that if you’re a faster runner you eventually hit continuous traffic jams that stretch for kilometres.
Yes, I said kilometres. Generally, what happens is that people come back to the pack and people charge through it. So what you’re left with over the first 3-5km is constant zigging and zagging, accelerations and decelerations to weave through people. - Goodbye running rhythm!
It honestly took me at least 3.5km to find open air and by that stage, a third of the race is gone and you’ve spent some early petrol tickets trying to position yourself. The bottom line is, get as close to the front as you can before the race to reduce the amount of people you must run through.
#2 Implement some fartlek/speed change work in your runs regularly
This ties into the above point.
Definitely incorporate some speed change work in your training. As I found during the first 3km of the race, I was constantly accelerating and deceleration to weave through the crowds. This isn’t ideal when the bulk of your training has been completed at a consistent intensity. Fartlek is a training type where you incorporate different speeds at sporadic and unplanned intervals. A fartlek session or something similar sprinkled across your training program might help for your next race.
#3 Manage the intensity of your TRAINING RUNS
10km is a short distance, but it doesn’t matter how fast you run if you’re body is still knackered from training.
I made the mistake of planning too many intense training sessions that were scheduled too close together, with not enough recovery in between. I won’t go into too much detail in this post, but for me, initially within the training program, the high intensity runs were working, so I kept doing them. But eventually over time I was just running myself into the ground and my taper and peak phase of training basically turned into a forced recovery block. Obviously, your current running status and training program impacts this point, but assess your own training and identify whether your intensity and volume are appropriate for your target race.
#4 Race-Specific Run Tips
1) Water Stations
When running towards a drink station, don’t follow the crowd and get sucked into the first water table. It’s an unwelcome traffic jam that will disrupt your rhythm and will force you to change your running pace again, which particularly at the end of the race, isn’t something you want to do. Instead, aim for the last table or second last table and streamline your run to encounter minimal traffic. Also, try practicing running whilst drinking water. It’s a lot more difficult than you think and if you want to move up to the bigger distances then it’s something you need to practice.
2) Herd Mentality
Don’t get carried away at the start. Pace discipline is everything to improve or manage your race time. You’ll feel great in the first kilometre, as we all do, but don’t get sucked in to using too much pace early. Map out a race plan and try and identify what are the ideal splits for different segments of the race.
#5 SCOUT the course in YOUR TRAINING SESSIONS
This is so simple yet so effective. Study the terrain of your course.
Is it on the road, is it on the footpath/sidewalk?
How much running room is there?
Is it a flat course?
How many hills are there?
The above might seem like obvious questions (which they are), but they can improve the effectiveness of your training. I for one didn’t realize how congested the 10km track would be at the Melbourne 10km run and as a result I was darting up and around the grass next to the pavement to get a clear passage. I also didn’t account for the hills and felt I had left my training short for tackling hills.
If you can study the course, then your training program will be a lot more specific and will give you a greater chance at improving your race time.
To be honest, I really loved competing in the 10km event at the 2021 Melbourne Marathon festival. I’ve discovered that there’s something inspiring and addicting in competing in road running events. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I knew there was more to come and couldn’t wait to get started.
Well, maybe I could wait to get started at that point!?
I knew however, that the tips outlined above could help me in future runs, and I really hope they help you. If you are embarking upon a training program for a goal race, then I wish you luck – be sure to tag our social accounts so we can see your progress!
Until my next blog (which is hopefully this year), catch you soon.