I may have already mentioned but, at the beginning of October, I am beginning a postgraduate MSc course in Design Engineering at Loughborough University, part time. I am under no illusions as to how much free time that I will lose whilst studying, not that I have a great deal at the minute anyway. This is obviously going to affect my training, although to what extent I don’t yet know, so I wanted a solid block of training before commencing my studies, culminating in one final ‘A race’ while I still have time. I debated another half marathon, but one thing I’ve wanted for some time is to bring down my 5k time. Currently just over 21 minutes, ultimately, I want to get below 20. I can do 5k’s every week though, so I decided on a 10k. After all, training for 5k and 10k are not too dissimilar.

I went in search of a 10k race that was taking place in late September. One thing I found is that there are a lot of websites now offering databases of a variety of races. There’s Find a Race, Racecheck, Running Diary, Run Britain and Runners World to name but a few. The listed races aren’t always consistent either, with some races shown on one site but not another. Anyway, it came down to Stratford’s Big 10k or the Milton Keynes Autumn 10k. I decided on the latter due it taking place on a Saturday and being later on into September than Stratford, 28th vs 8th.

Next up was to sort a training plan, but I already had one in mind. the5krunner is a site that I’ve spoken about before and is one of the best running blogs around. They (anonymous posting, so could be he, could be she) offer varying levels of training plans from generic 5/10k to full on 1:1 coaching. I opted for a 12 week, 10k training plan that is tailored to your current ability and training volume. Link here. You submit some personal details, along with weekly training time and a recent 5k PB and you are sent a personalised training plan leading up to a 5k test in week 6. Following the result of that, the second 6 weeks are provided, based on the improvements made during the first training block. The price? £7.49, which seems ridiculously low for what you get in return.

At the time of writing, I am just about to enter week 6, meaning the first block of training has now finished, and all that is left is a taper week, followed by a 5k effort on Saturday. Without giving too much away regarding what the plan includes (you’ll have to purchase for that!), it’s obviously included a mixture of threshold and interval runs, along with a lot of easy running. This has been good to reinforce my own beliefs surrounding easy running, in the sense that you need it to improve, and lots of it. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Strava and how it’s used. I’ve thought about coming off the platform on several occasions, but I do like to use it to keep in touch with old work and university colleagues. But I see several of my connections doing “easy runs” at paces that are most definitely not easy. It’s something that I’ve said several times before, but if your half marathon PB is 1:40, easy pace is not 7:30/mile. It’s not even 8:30/mile. Similarly, 8:30/mile is not slow, or a “plod” if your recent HM best effort is 1:55. I also see people going out trying to better their times with each run. It’s not going to happen, and it’s not going to help you grow as a runner. I think the platform is brimming with a lot of bravado, and people trying to convey a message that isn’t true.

I digress…

The training plan gives you specific paces for each session, and it suggests my easy runs should be done at 9:18/mile. Again, a bit of a confidence boost that I’ve been doing the right thing even before the plan, as I tend to run my easy sessions at around 9:20 – 9:30. There’s even been some truly easy runs in there at 10:01/mile pace.

One session though that I have found to be very good is the double parkrun, or more specifically 2 x 5k, with a period of rest in between. I hadn’t thought of this before, but what better way to prepare you for a 10k than to do 2 x 5k’s? Sure, there’s sessions such as 5 x 2k, 6 x 1 mile, but 2 x 5k is far more race specific.

I completed the first of these last week, at Rugby parkrun. I arrived early, completed a warm up and then ran the course at a pace slightly slower than that suggested. I finished this at around 8:45, giving me 15 – 20 minutes rest before taking part in the actual parkrun at 9:00. I completed the first one in 22:36. This certainly wasn’t ‘all out’ but it was hard, and I did wonder how I would fare in the second. I finished the second one in 22:23 and actually found it easier. I guess this was due to both being properly warmed up from the first and also running amongst others running at the same pace. I find it much easier when you’re with someone as opposed to running solo, you almost get pulled along with the group.

This week saw my second attempt at this session. This time I opted for Coventry as the venue. Mainly since I was in Coventry in the morning anyway, but also because doing Rugby’s hill four times the week previous was quite an effort. Again, I got to the War Memorial Park early and completed a slightly longer warm up before setting off for my first 5k effort. The idea with these is not to go out at PB pace, but to try and do both 5k’s at a consistently fast pace.

Like Rugby, Coventry is a two-lap course and one lap into my first 5k I decided that Coventry is actually a harder course than Rugby. Sure, Rugby has a tough hill, but it’s relatively flat other than that, and there’s a nice, long downhill section before a u-turn and the ascent. Coventry, on the other hand, has three lesser hills (per lap), but accumulatively I believe they disrupt your pace more than the one (done twice) at Rugby.

I finished the first 5k in 22:20, slightly faster than at Rugby, and wondered just how I was going to carry that pace for another 5k, never mind trying to go slightly faster. As with previously though, I found the second attempt easier than the first, finishing in 21:59. It’s certainly promising going forwards, I guess we’ll see exactly what gains have been made during the first six weeks next week at parkrun. I’m currently thinking of Stratford for the venue…

The photo below was taken this week at Coventry parkrun. I’m not sure what the facial expression was all about, but just bear in mind that this was close to the end of my second 5k, on my fourth lap of the day.

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