Getting to 10km

The long slow run (LSR) is the foundation of most training plans. My evolving plan for Lucy seeks to be guided by the multitude of marathon training plans out there, but adapted to fit around what I think will work for Lucy, and what is sensible for a slow runner.

One of the early successes has been in getting Lucy to run slowly enough (something I’m not always very good at myself), so that she can gradually build endurance, run by run, week by week. Most runners, including Lucy, would like to be able to run more quickly. When you’re already a slow runner, being told to slow down further is perhaps even harder in some ways than it is for mid-pack runners like myself. But while slowing down doesn’t necessarily make running easy, it does make it easier and crucially allows for extending the distances.

I know from personal experience that heading out for long runs can be a major mental challenge, and particularly when you get to the stage where you are heading out, time and again, for the longest run you’ve ever done (or the longest for a considerable time), it requires the right mental approach – and achieving that is much easier with the right experience of the previous longest-ever run, which hopefully should have been positive – long slow runs might leave you tired, but if you get to the end unable to go further, you’ve been going too fast.

The complementary problem with this is that it can become a mental challenge then to run more quickly – if the training is composed of mostly slow running, and some short quicker running, then convincing yourself that you can run the longer distances at a faster pace may be difficult. And as a coach, judging what that right faster pace is, and pushing my runner to run at that pace when it comes to a race, is fraught with the danger that she might fall short of where I’d asked her to aim for, and thus confidence, sometimes in fairly short supply, may be tried.

But the races (or pseudo-races in training) should be on well rested legs, with good nutrition in the day before, good fuelling and water intake before and during, the adrenaline of the occasion, perhaps some crowd support (lots at London!) and determination to work hard and push one’s body coupled with the acceptance that this time, unlike most training, it’s good to be knackered at the end.

Several years ago, Lucy ran a quarter-marathon (10.55km) as an extended ordinary training run, but since then 5km has been her staple and her normal limit, so ramping up the distances started with a series of steps to the first objective, 10km.

The Lucy 29-week programme has reached week 5, with which Lucy’s final task was a 10km slow run, prior to next week’s 10km race. We’ve built some volume with four runs every week, and built distance, and Lucy’s familiar 5km (at parkruns, and sometimes mid-week at track sessions or around the village) has been extended a bit each week – but a build from 5km to 10km in 5 weeks is a moderately big and fast extension. The pace of the longer runs has been kept low, and Lucy has been pleased with how relatively comfortably she’s been able to do these longer runs, and how the impact on her body after them has been pretty modest. I think she’s starting to be more comfortable with the idea that her fitness and endurance is improving, as many small improvements start to add up.

Many of the long runs will be on Saturdays as extensions of parkrun, in part because there is often the time available that there isn’t mid-week, but we’re doing some advance planning for occasional mid-week long runs where weekend commitments make that a better option.

Today was a third visit for Lucy to Clacton Seafront parkrun, and we planned a 5km run beforehand to make 10km in all.

As we drove from home, we chatted about running and some of the longer runs ahead, and how we can make them varied and interesting. One on Lucy’s wish list is to run from home to our local parkrun, Chilton Fields, which is about 9km away, and I described the running route there to her – and she though it sounded really fun. That Lucy should think a 14km run sounds fun (or even just the route of such a run) shows just how far she has come already.

The weather forecast for this morning was poor, with strong winds and rain, and we decided that as the winds were southerly, dropping Lucy off at Seawick to the SW of the parkrun course would be better than the earlier plan of starting in the Holland direction, as the wind would be behind her, or at least broad on her starboard quarter. Lucy’s commitment remained firm in the face of the poor weather, and I drove us to Seawick and got her underway at 8.10 for her planned 5km at a smidgen under 10 minutes per kilometre.

The first few metres of the run from Sandwick along the coastal paths and roads through Jaywick to Clacton

I managed to see her go by from the car three times, but by the time I’d extricated myself from the holiday camp and its private roads, and got thoroughly tangled in putting on waterproof trousers, my plans for cheering her on got rather curtailed and I decided I really ought to go and reassure the Run Director at parkrun by showing my face, as one of today’s barcode scanners. That done, and my pink hi-viz top donned, I braved the fearsome winds on the prom and walked towards the Martello Tower to await Lucy’s arrival at just over 4km, standing with my back to the sea, braced against the gale.

Passing the Martello Tower

She arrived on schedule and we jogged along the prom and up the slope, after which I left her to mill about doing her last few hundred metres near the start, while I resumed my volunteer role.

And they’re off – Clacton Seafront parkrun is underway

The parkrun went well: Lucy finished 92nd of 97, and managed to run her 10th kilometre faster than the previous nine, which is always a good sign. She was drenched and sand-blasted, but not exhausted and in good spirits – more good signs.

Approaching Trinovante

Afterwards we joined friends Su and John on Schooner Trinovante, with a surprise gathering of a few previous companions on board, for a late breakfast and a great catch-up. A fair bit of the discussion was around Lucy and her running and marathon training. Lucy started this whole London Marathon programme with perhaps a mix of emotions and lacking some confidence, and thus the early stages have been characterised by a degree of reluctance to talk about it and in particular to talk herself up. After a successful early morning in unsupportive weather, the later part of the morning hopefully contributed a bit more to the recognition and acceptance that what she is doing is remarkable, and praiseworthy, and inspiring. She’s not entered “for a laugh” and then forgotten about it until near the event: she’s entered and has committed and is working at it. With 24 weeks to go, there’s an exciting journey ahead.

The twin challenges for me as coach for the week ahead: make sure Lucy is properly rested for Sunday (my ruling that she can’t parkrun on the Saturday before Sunday’s race, even walking it, has eventually been accepted, though not with enthusiasm), and to get her to push the pace hard enough to test herself and show herself that she is stronger than she realises (without pushing it too hard and having a mental setback).

4 thoughts on “Getting to 10km

  1. Would like to see the video of the pouring rain and howling gale that you ran in on Saturday.

  2. Lucy …it really doesn’t matter how fast you are the fact you are out pounding the streets in all weathers sayes a lot for you …I wish you well & look forward to following your progress …

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