It’s been two days since I participated in my first 10k race. I’m not one for competitions or anything, I don’t know why I just don’t.
So why did I sign up for it then? A number of reasons: 1) to mix up my exercise (previously I was just running short distances of 5k or less and doing strength work in the gym) 2) I was reaching a weight plateau and wanted to break out of it somehow and 3) I never do races. I even roped in my hubby to do it with me so that I’d have no excuses and he’s not one for running either, he’s more of a cyclist.
Feelings of doubt and nerves
I knew it would involve training, being diligent with what I eat and not to overtrain in order to minimise injury. In the weeks leading up to the race, I was starting to dread it a bit and even wondered if the starting group in which I’d placed myself was a bit too ambitious? I had injured my foot and calf slightly from a fartlek training run earlier in the week and was in two minds whether it was going to heal in time. However, I took a steady paced 20-minute run three days prior to Saturday and rested for the rest of the week. I was trying to eat properly and devised a menu to ensure I was getting enough nutrients. It was sort of hard work trying to be good and we were a bit naughty and had Prosecco and doughnuts the day before and on the day of the race; to say we weren’t totally strict with our diet was an understatement!
The day of the race I was actually a bit nervous. Why was I nervous? I wanted to at least finish the race if anything, that was my priority. My next worry was whether I’d finish it in the group I was in. I was memorising the map and it was very hilly. I hate hills!! I was thinking about my pace strategy; I wanted to run the first 1k at a slow and steady pace to warm-up my muscles and not to overdo it, then the next few kilometres to around 5k at a faster pace and then keep it steady until 8k and then give it as much as I had between 8k to the finish. That was the plan anyway…
To top it off the race was a night time run: Midnattsloppet the largest race in Europe with over 32,000 participants, it’s a fun, annual event and takes in the best sights in Södermalm, the hippest part of town with a plethora of historic buildings, interesting streets and a finale down the main thoroughfare of Hornsgatan. Our starting group began at 22:40 and by the time the evening rolled around, we were contemplating sacking it off; staying in, drink wine and watch telly.
Enough whining, overthinking it and being nervous! We made our way to Runners Corner near the starting line which was filled with people of all shapes, sizes, ages, abilities and nationalities. There was a buzzy atmosphere and out on the streets there were supporters: friends and family by the sidelines waiting for their loved ones to start and even those who had already finished it, having been in the elite or faster groups.
The build-up was fun, a bit of a warm-up with staff from Run Academy giving us a pep talk and a sing-along to get us started and excited. That was fun! As the starting fire canons set off I was still suffering from pre-race nerves but as we started the first 1k I thought that this wasn’t so bad and up to 3k it passed by in a flash. The first of the hills were coming up and some runners were starting to flag slightly but I managed to plough on up thinking if I stop to walk I won’t want to start running again. From 3k to 5k we made our way through the streets of Södermalm with kids on the sidelines holding out their hands for a high-five. I truly appreciated the support and gave some high-fives back. I was feeling pretty good and was doing a bit of overtaking as my legs were still working so why not? I made a point not to look at my time on my Fitbit but just my pace and I was going great guns, maybe a bit too fast for my running strategy (which pretty much went out of the window) but I just sort of went along with it and adrenalin was kicking in here.
Mentally beating the hills
From 6k to 7k I was starting to wonder how far I still had to go and managed to find a marker for 7k. Only 7k? Where was the finish?! A succession of inclines was testing my legs and I was glad that the training had paid off as I’d incorporated hills to get my quads used to it. It was starting to become a bit of a blur as I was manoeuvring my way past other runners and the streets were pretty dark. I was taking in a number of supporters who were propped up outside the busy bars and pubs with a glass of wine or beer in their hands, drinking, being merry and shouting for us to run faster. I’m trying but my legs were starting to wane.
As I turned the corner to the final 8k to 9k, what could I see before me? Another hill! my heart sank slightly but I knew I didn’t have far to go, the map ingrained in my memory told me that this was the last hill and then it’d be home and dry from there. I pushed it up the hill and passed other weary runners who were walking up. Up to the final kilometre, I felt a flapping around my right foot, my shoe lace had become untied and I contemplated leaving it but thought better of it and had to stop to the side to tie it up. I think the warden nearby thought I was going to throw up and was looking a bit concerned but I got up and knew I only had another 5 minutes or so of running and it would be over.
Giving it one last push
As I passed Hotel Rival and Mariatorget I knew this was the final stretch. Turning onto Hornsgatan I could see a myriad of supporters shouting and cheering for us to run faster and clapping to spur us on. I found a little more energy and started on pretty much a steady sprint to the finish line, I knew that fartlek training was worth it! I was peaking a bit but as I was running through the dry ice towards the finish line like a scene in a sports underdog movie I thought to myself: “I’ve done it and it’s OVER!”. Relief.
My post-race analysis
Passing the finish line was a great feeling! I had done it and weirdly I didn’t actually feel too bad. I thought I’d be more shattered but I felt like I could run some more (I know…). I eventually looked at my time: 60 mins 30 secs! Wow, I was really pleased! I had finished it well ahead of my anticipated group time which was 65 to 70 minutes but I swore softly to myself as I could’ve pushed for sub 60 minutes. I was immediately thinking I wanted to do it again to beat it. Is this what happens when people run competitively? Do they always push for more? Is this the running bug I keep hearing about?
It’s an adrenaline buzz
Now that I’ve done it, I’m very pleased that I did. It goes without saying that the training takes dedication and being restrictive with what you eat to ensure you are prepared requires discipline. I am thinking about another 10k race; yup, it’s true, I’m really am thinking about doing another one when previously I was not interested. At all. I’ve been researching the races coming up but in the meantime, I’ll have a break and recover first!
If you are ever thinking about entering a race I’d definitely recommend it but don’t overthink it like I did; it’s to be enjoyed and not a chore. Try it, the sense of achievement and the adrenaline buzz is second to none.
Happy running 🙂