If you told me at the start of the year that I would be able to run 10K, I'd have probably laughed. But a few weeks back I ran the Nike Women's 10K in Victoria Park (and bloomin' loved it).
So whether you're considering signing up for your first 10K race, or you've already committed to doing one (eek!) here's everything you need to know in 10 easy points.
1. Get the right kit
Learn from my mistake and make sure you've got trainers that are up to the job before you even begin training.
I could run 5K in my old trainers, so thought they would be fine for 10K, but ended up getting pins and needles in my feet and suffering from blisters as I upped my distance. Go to a specialist running shop or a store that offers gait analysis to find the right ones for you - and give yourself enough time to wear them in.
2. Training will be time consuming
You can train for your first 10K in eight weeks, but I'd recommend giving yourself 12 weeks to be on the safe side if you're feeling nervous - it worked for me!
In the first four weeks I did one aerobics or dance class per week, plus one run each week to maintain my basic fitness. I kept the running very chilled at this stage - some days I ran 2K, other days I ran 5K, depending on my mood and what time I got in from work.
With eight weeks to go before the race, I downloaded the eight week beginner 10K plan on the Nike+ running app and started to take training seriously.
The plan begins with a mixture of running and walking, but soon ups the anti. To begin, you'll be running twice a week with one cross training session advised (something like yoga or swimming). But by week seven, expect to have four running sessions, plus one cross training session per week.
3. Training with a friend will help
There were plenty of times when I didn't fancy training - when I'd had a busy day at work, when I was hungover, the list is endless really - but if I'd committed to going running or to dance with a friend, I knew I couldn't back out.
4. Listen to your body
Training plans are (generally) created by experts, so obviously it's a good idea to try and stick to them. But saying that, if you train when you're injured or ill you're only going to set yourself back further.
Two weeks before the race I had an infected wisdom tooth and sinus infection. My face was swollen, I was dosed up on antibiotics and I was tired from the lack of sleep. As I tried to plod my way through a dance class (because it was a cross training day on my plan), the instructor said: "Rachel, please go home, take a break and listen to your body" - it was the best thing she could have said.
Taking a few days off from training isn't going to make a huge difference if you've already put the hours in.
5. There's an easy way to treat blisters
Due to the aforementioned bad trainers, I was plagued by blisters at the half way point in training. But after reading a LOT of running blogs, I found a blister treatment that worked.
If you've already got blisters, do not pop them. Buy some Compeed blister plasters and you will barely feel the blister when running.
To prevent any further blisters, smooth Vaseline or lots of body lotion over your feet before you put your socks on for a run. This trick stops friction between your sock and your foot and helped me remain blister-free right up until race day.
6. Beyoncé is the best personal trainer you'll ever have
Music will keep you running when you're at your most tired, so get a playlist sorted that suits your running pace. Alternatively, try a podcast if you're board of music and need a little distraction.
And if worse come to worse, push through with Beyoncé belting "bow down bitches" in your ear.
7. Know you probably won't be the last one to finish the race
If you're anything like me, as race day approaches you'll start worrying about your time and imagining how embarrassing it may be to be the last person to cross the line.
A lot of running blogs are vague about times, saying things like "everyone's different", but I wanted hard figures to ease my nerves.
So here's the deal: I finished in 63 minutes and there were PLENTY of other women around me as I crossed the finishing line. My colleague finished in 70 minutes and she was nowhere near the back either.
BUT even if you are the last person over the line, don't stress. The crowd at the Nike Women's 10K were so supportive and cheered everyone to the last. Remember, even if you take two hours, you've still beat the person sat at home on the sofa.
8. The right food makes a difference
One time, I ate a bowl of cereal half hour before a run, then vommed on the pavement in front of a group of children. Gross, but true.
Eating the right food at the right time will make a lot of difference. I found I had to wait around two hours after eating before running to feel comfortable.
I'd often go running in the morning without eating anything, but on race day I made sure I got up early and ate a banana and porridge. I felt full of beans and wished I'd done the same throughout training.
9. Get to the race early
Over-estimate the time it will take you to get from home to the race, then add on 45 minutes.
Bag drop and toilets were available at the Nike Women's event, but the queues for each were enormous.
Being late to the starting line is one stress you don't need. Plus why wouldn't you want to soak up the atmosphere?
10. Race day will make every minute of training worth it
Remember that time you were in a bad mood because you went for a run while your mates were at the pub? You'll be willing to do it 10 times over after race day.
Running in a huge group is so much different to running by yourself or with one friend.
The cheers from the crowds will keep you going and with so much to look at (other runners, banners, friends and family) you'll be too distracted to focus on your running anyway.
The 10K I ran on race day was easier than any 10K I'd run in practice. I probably could have done it a bit faster, but I was too busy smiling.
Enjoy race day, it's what all the hard work was for.Suggest a correction