The pain of the 10k

I did a few 10k races during my time living in Peterborough. It seemed the obvious thing to do in a place so painfully flat. I stopped to concentrate on marathons. I now remember why. I’ve run four 10k races since September: Middlesex 10k, RunThrough Brixton 10k, Serpentine New Year’s Day 10k and, on Sunday, the 26.2 Valentine’s 10k. They have all been awful, with Sunday the pinnacle of dreadfulness. I detonated. Blew up. Fell apart. Imploded. All it took was the meekest breath of wind this winter and an inconvenient succession of inclines that were paltry yet masqueraded as Alps, (and – the deciding factor – five previous miles at 34-minute pace). I’d run miles of 5.30, 5.45, 5.29, 5.27 and 5.54 to arrive at mile six. The 5.54 indicated the direction of events. I could, however, still claw it back. I clawed, I really clawed, but the heaviness in my legs was sudden and simple: you will go no faster, they said. A mile from salvation. A mile. A mere mile. But then I thought of each of those individual 1600 metres and the equivalent four laps around a track, and balked at the prospect. Legs gone, mind gone. There are all sorts of pain in running. I’ve felt many: marathon pain, running-up-hills pain, 20th hour of Bob Graham Round pain. This was 10k pain. It isn’t easy to run fast; it certainly isn’t easy to run fast and at your limit for 6.2 miles. Too much speed – even a tiny bit too much – too early leads to capitulation and a mind tormented by slipping seconds. Mile six lasted six minutes and 15 seconds – about 35 seconds longer than it should have done. I finished in 35.31 after a 17.11 first half that was predominately uphill. But that’s racing and running, isn’t it? Some 36 hours on my mind is no longer tormented. I will beat the 10k.



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