Since I’ve been talking about training for a 10k a lot of people have assured me that, with the right training, I’ll be able to run the distance.

This well meaning encouragement, based on the assumption that my main goal was to simply complete the 10-kilometre run, probably shouldn’t have surprised me really.

Maybe I’ve started to forget the mindset I myself had when I did a lot of endurance running. I wanted to get decent times, sure, but mostly it was about distance. Running a marathon at any speed seemed a much loftier achievement than running a faster 10k.

Going Long, and Longer…

My running bling collection. Almost all from 2008-2010

After running my first 10k I was incredibly proud of myself. But I didn’t for a second consider sticking with the 10k distance for a while and reducing my time. (As a result, by the way, I never came close to completing a marathon in under four hours.)

I barely even tried  reducing my marathon time before moving on to ultra-running. (If you want to know how that worked out for me read this.) Suffice to say, eventually my body decided enough was enough, too much in fact, and I had no choice but to change how I exercised.

Today, I’m very grateful for this experience. As unpleasant as it was at the time, it lead me to my current exercise regime, which has got me in the best shape of my life.

Stronger, Leaner, Faster

Running has remained part of my training, but mostly as sprint intervals, hill reps or trail runs – and there have been plenty of weeks where I’ve done no running at all. But because the workouts I do are very athletic I’ve maintained the ability to jog 10k fairly comfortably.

That said, a few weeks ago, when I first decided to try a 10k race, I realised years have passed since I ran 10k as a steady run on flat roads. So, to find out my current pace I hit the road for a 10k run – it took me just under 60 minutes.

Not an elite time by any means, but back when I was running almost daily my best 10k race time was around that mark, so to be able to just rock out and do it was a great feeling – not least because it felt comfortable.

I can’t over-emphasise what an eye-opener it was when I started training differently and then discovered how much better running felt. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t end up running beyond marathon distance if you don’t enjoy running, I totally did enjoy it previously. But even so, a lot of the time I felt I was kind of dragging my body around the route, my legs often felt heavy, sometimes bits of me would actually hurt and I’d usually be sore almost immediately after stopping.

No Pain, No Strain

It’s different now. I might not float along like a gazelle-legged elite runner, but I feel stronger, the movement feels more flowing, my breathing is easier and my body never hurts… If it did hurt, I would stop, right away. Because that would be the smart thing to do.

Unlike before, when I was caught up in the bravado that often surrounds distance running, I am aware that pain is not “weakness leaving the body”, but a signal that what’s happening is harming my body. I heed my body’s signals now, I give it the challenges it needs to be strong and fit, but I don’t flog it to prove any doubters wrong, or to prove to myself that “I’m a runner”, or flagellate it over ridiculous numbers of miles just “because I can”.

Pain is not “weakness leaving the body”, but a signal that what’s happening is harming the body Click To Tweet

By the way, please don’t misunderstand, I’m not in any way suggesting anyone else does this. I’m only talking about the place I personally once was at. However, I know for sure that many other people have been there too. They’ve told me. Although far from universal, my experience definitely wasn’t unique.

A Road Less Travelled

So, my purpose in training for a 10k race now is to find out what sort of time I can cover 10k in after training for speed, rather than only caring about finishing the distance.

I’m pretty casual about it though. It’s a sort of side-project alongside my other fitness goals. I’m only running a couple of times per week. If, say, it’s too hot, or a storm is blowing outside, or I really don’t feel like running, I’ll do some other type of exercise instead.

I’ve become a fair-weather runner who has no intention of pushing through pain – and I’m very proud of that! ?

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. If I don’t get faster it’s no biggie. But I have a feeling I’ll see at least a small improvement. In fact, the training I’ve been doing over the last few weeks since I started this already seems to be shaving off some time…

I’ll talk about my training plan and how it’s going so far in another post soon.