10K Tips
April 17, 2015 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Doing my first 10K this Sunday. Feeling nervous. Main goal is to finish the race and enjoy it as much as I can. What are your fail-proof tips for completing this kind of event and what kinds of things can I do mentally to stay strong and keep pushing myself to the bitter end? I'm planning to run as much as I can but I'm not worried about walking sections of the race if I need to (Which I will!) I've been training as best I can - this question is more about the Actual Race than the things I could have done to prepare - obviously!!
posted by JenThePro to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't run a ton of races but I have run a "first 10k" so...

If you've done training runs/walks longer than 10k you should be just fine! One tip is not to rush at the start -- keep to your usual pace for the first half and see how it goes.

For me, being in the race with people cheering and handing out drinks and everything made it way easier than a training run. It was way more fun too. Go you!
posted by warriorqueen at 11:56 AM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I run, I run for 5 minutes and walk for 1 minute. I have been running that way for almost a decade. It makes it easier for me to recover from a race and I like going in with a plan. It's the Jeff Galloway technique - you can learn more about it here if you're interested.

That said, the first walk break can be really hard because you're excited and you feel great and there are lots of other people and you think, maybe you don't need to take walk breaks at all. So I'd plan to take a walk break early. Pull over to the side of the course so you aren't in the way if someone is trying to go all out. Have fun!
posted by kat518 at 12:01 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have run in a lot of 5k, 10k, and longer races over the years. Running for me has always been like 90% mental, 10% actual physical ability. If you've been training for this then you can do it! Remember during the race to not allow negative thoughts creep in - nip those in the butt when you find yourself thinking along those lines. Use the crowd cheering to keep you going and pick a reasonable pace and try to stick to it. Obviously pay attention to your body - you don't want significant injury but if it's the "normal" level of soreness just keep telling yourself that you can and will push through. For my longer races it always helped me to have someone I loved at the finish line waiting to congratulate me and give me food or a beer or whatever - can you wrangle any family or friends to come cheer you on? It was always enormously helpful for me to have them there. Lastly - use the other racers to keep you going. Find someone of similar pacing during the race and stick to them if you can and use them as motivation to not slow down. Or let someone do the same with you and cheer them on to stay with you. These methods have also helped me stick it out and fosters a feeling of shared suffering/togetherness. Good luck and you will do amazing!!
posted by FireFountain at 12:22 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you done any racing before? If not, you're in for such a pleasant surprise—race day adrenaline is real and powerful. Running with and in front of people is so motivating and, cheesy as it sounds, inspiring—for a 5 or 10k it's practically enough to get you through the whole race by itself.

Don't go out too fast; pick it up in the second half if you feel like it. Stop and walk through every water break; drink the water but skip the gels (unless you relied on them in training—but for a 10k you don't need them at all). If it helps you, break the race up into smaller ones to give yourself a plan—maybe it's two 5ks, the first one of which you're running just to finish and the second one you're racing by pushing moderately for the first two miles and then all out the last. Or it's just six one-mile runs you want to finish. Whatever works for you.

Logistics: Don't worry too much about going to sleep super early to get 8 hours before you leave at 4 in the morning or whatever; instead focus on getting great sleep tonight. Ditto for fueling up; don't stress about eating in some special way tomorrow night and instead get consistent good (for you) nutrition over the next two days. Go and bike the course tomorrow if you think it will give you a confidence boost to know it. Leave yourself plenty of time on Sunday to get there in the morning and figure things out. Like plan to arrive at least an hour before start time, more if it's a big race, to park and walk to the start and figure out the bag check situation if you don't have a spectator with you. Try to make yourself go to the bathroom in the morning before you leave; the portables at the course will be busy and horrible.

The most important thing—absolutely nothing new on race day. Not new shoes, new food, new anything. If you're not used to drinking coffee before a run, don't do it to wake yourself up Sunday morning. Etc.

You will have so much fun, you got this!
posted by peachfuzz at 12:23 PM on April 17, 2015 [14 favorites]

We might be running the same 10K this weekend :)

If it is the same one (and even if it's not), some major tips:
- Really, really be careful not to run too fast in the first 1K. If it's a big race and everyone's excited and you have the adrenaline going at the start, it's really easy underestimate your speed. Which doesn't feel bad at the time but really hurts later (ask me how I know).
- If you like to run with music, make yourself a bad-ass playlist with a few all time favourite pump-you-up tracks. Sometimes I make timed ones where the best songs come on near the end, so I have something to run toward.
- Figure out your gear ahead of time. Don't forget sunglasses (and a hat, if you wear one). I generally like thin tights and a technical t-shirt, but I run hot so you might want a long sleeve.
- Check out your feet before you suit up. If you have any blisters or points that sometimes get sore from rubbing, band-aid those puppies. You'll thank yourself later.
- Watch the people cheering! Smile at the volunteers!

On preview:

Try to make yourself go to the bathroom in the morning before you leave; the portables at the course will be busy and horrible.

Oh, God, yes. If you're like me and you sometimes get a nervous belly, try to address that before leaving the house. I usually get up a bit earlier to eat a small breakfast and let things take their course.
posted by Paper rabies at 12:26 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

As you're new, you'll have a lot of adrenaline when you start. If you aim for your average pace, you'll go out faster than that. Then you'll be dead for the end of the race because you went out too fast. Aim to go a bit slower than your average pace. Finishing a race when you went out too fast kind of sucks.

Starting line. As you're hoping to finish (with walking breaks), I'll assume you won't be finishing in the top 50% - so make sure that you're not starting in the front 50% of the pack. People should be lining up according to expected finish place (I.E. the people at the front should be the leader pack, and the people only planning to walk should be at the back. Do you have an expected finish time? If it's an hour or over, you should be starting in the back 25% of the pack.

If you plan to walk at the aid stations, remember that there might be runners behind you. If you're already running, grab water, keep running for ~10 steps as you make your way to a side, then slow to a walk. I feel really bad about the person who bumped into me when I (somewhat unexpectedly to even me) stopped abruptly upon grabbing water once), and I imagine that s/he felt worse.

Preparedness: lay out your clothes the day before. If you already have your bib, pin it to your clothes the day before. Don't wear anything you haven't used before.

Music; having an energizing (to you) playlist setup can help your body tune out the tiredness. Consider doing just one ear so you're not totally shut off from people around you. Also consider saving the music for the 2nd half of the race.

Candy. Studies have shown that something as simple a swishing a swishing a sports drink in your mouth (even if you spit it out) will improve muscle endurance. On longer runs I like bringing candy instead of gu's for the carbs, but one can easily take a minute or two to chew them up. Because of dry mouth, I find sour gummies to be perfect for coaxing your mouth to water. I assume that the minute or so it takes to me to chewup a sour gummy while running (and the flavour bliss) will be the equivalent of a carbohydrate rinse. But practice eating while running first; your stomach's mileage might varry.

Bathroom. Go before you leave for the event. Go again, 5-10 minutes before the start even if you don't think that you need to. If you're like me, you'll keep running past the end of the race to hit the bathroom before you wet yourself. I don't understand how I can run 20+ km on a training run without issues, but a 10k race does something horrible to my bladder.

Smile. My first 10k almost broke me. I said, "This sucks." at around the 7km mark. A few months later, I look at the race pictures (and wow were my pictures horrible) and people I remember passing me towards the end (I.e. they paced themselves better and didn't die at the end) are all smiling as they run. It's fun, your limbs are alive, you're doing great; so smile.
posted by nobeagle at 12:46 PM on April 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, a trick to get spectators to cheer for you is to have a (large) "my name is..." sign on the front of your shirt. Or just make a bib-size sign with your name on the front. Or write your name. People waiting to cheer on their personal runner will still shout generic "Looking good!" things to other runners, but now they can say, "Jen! You rock!"
posted by nobeagle at 12:58 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get there early. Go to the bathroom a lot beforehand.
posted by gaspode at 1:02 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Since it sounds like you expect to need to take walk breaks, plan to take them at regular intervals rather than pushing yourself absolutely to the limit before you let yourself slow down.
posted by drlith at 1:42 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: but now they can say, "Jen! You rock!"

I was about to say "WOW!!! How did you know my name is Jen?"

And THEN I realized........ :)

Thanks guys, so much great advice. Feeling better about it already.
posted by JenThePro at 1:48 PM on April 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: The other thing I found that *really* helped towards the end of the race is to pick some random person ahead of me (that guy in the pink shirt) and tell myself "I can catch him." Usually, I could. Then pick someone else, etc.
Only do this for the last .5 K (or less - even the last 50 meters is fun), or you'll bonk before you're done, but it makes it feel more like "racing", and can really boost your standings, and help you finish fast!
posted by dbmcd at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

Nthing starting slow. Really slow. Aim to be right at the back and chant "slow down, slow down" to yourself for at least the first 1km.

It can be useful to give yourself a target pace to counter the race day adrenaline and make sure you've got juice in the tank for the end. One way to do this is to take your best 5km time, multiply by two, and add 10% (so if your best 5km time is 32 minutes, your target pace is 7:02). Do not go any faster than this for the first 5km.

And picking off people to pass in your last km is helps a lot.
posted by girlgenius at 3:08 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Remember to use the bathroom several times before the race. Even if you don't have to go. You have to go.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:22 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh boy I totally nth the picking people off thing in the last mile!

A lot of racing is mental tricks. Something I've found super useful at all distances is in the first long boring part where you're just cruising, pick someone a little ahead of you but running at about the same pace--20 yards, say--and picture that you're attached to them by a long rope. You're barely running, they're just towing you along, so you can save your energy for when you kick it at the end (and I think even if your goal is to finish, if ur doin it rite you'll want to and feel totally up for a last-leg pickup). Pick someone new If they or you fall out of sync. I think this was a Galloway thing? Regardless, It totally works for me.

Also--never never say to yourself that it's just x many miles more. People who hold a sign like that drive me crazy. Who wants to run another mile?Instead, tell yourself how far you've run already, and damn, how awesome are you?! Much more motivating, whether you're in it to win your age division or to finish smiling.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:26 PM on April 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Peachfuzz is spot on, especially with the advice to do nothing new the day of the race—except, of course, for racing!

If you can pick up your race bib on Saturday, do so. If the pickup is not where the race begins, ask how the start will be handled—will there be corrals for runners with different paces? Signs? Will everyone start together, or will there be waves? Is there a bag drop, and if so, how does it work?

Plan to run slowly after the start. In my race last Saturday, a guy dropped his cell phone as we crossed the timing pad at the start, and I was nearly knocked over by someone trying to get out of the way when he bent to pick it up. My pace for the first half-mile was thirty seconds over my average pace for the race.

Pin your bib to your shirt as soon as possible. These days many (if not most) bibs also have the timing chip on them, so they have to be attached to your shirt (not your leg or whatever) and not bent or folded, or your time won't be recorded.

If you drive to the start, put any valuables you're not taking with you in the trunk, so they're out of sight. Take your car key off of your ring, put your other keys in the trunk, and then just bring the car key. If you don't have a secure key pocket, you can run a shoelace through the key's hole and tuck the end under another lace so that it doesn't flop around. However, if there is post-race beer and you plan to partake, you might want to bring your ID, unless the parking is close to the finish line!

If there are aid stations on the 10K, ask yourself whether you need them. I don't eat or drink on a run unless it's over 12 miles or very hot. Aid stations are chaotic and can slow you down. If you need just a bit of food, consider carrying a Gu packet.

Most of all, have fun! If you need to take a walk break, move to the right and throw a glance over your shoulder before you slow down. Smile at the spectators and the race marshals. For your first race, don't knock yourself out. Your goal is to finish, and to set a PR that you can try to break on your next race!
posted by brianogilvie at 4:48 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

You'll probably be able to pace off someone after the first 2k. Just pick someone that you're not really going much slower than and keep up. Easy way to conserve mental energy and keep up the pace. I also recommend trying to negative split (do the second half faster than the first) but that may be too much to concentrate on. The way to finish the race is to simply keep running.
posted by kcm at 4:55 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'll be out there tmr too! Have fun!
posted by stray at 8:50 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hope it went well!
posted by gaspode at 9:44 AM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: 1 hr 12 mins..... I'm exhausted!!

But it was a beautiful day here in Vancouver and I'm really pleased with my time. I ran pretty much the whole way except for three hilly parts!

I was NOT prepared for the pins and needles in my feet around the 7k mark!
My feet belonged to someone else at that point.

Also amazing energy from the crowd, the bands were awesome too and I cannot thank everyone enough for the tips and tricks - you guys helped me a lot!!!

Not going too fast at the beginning was key. As well as the trick towards the end with focusing on someone in front and catching them, and then focusing on someone else.... you guys are awesome!

(my legs hurt today!!!!!)
posted by JenThePro at 7:19 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

posted by brianogilvie at 1:44 PM on April 24, 2015

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