First competitive run – lessons learned

Last Sunday, I ran in my first official running event – well, at least in the last decade or so. And I learned a lot about preparation, nutrition and myself.

certificate5099I recently set myself a series of running goals. They were pretty simple but they provide me with a way of tracking my progress, staying motivated in the long-term and ensuring that I think about my running and don’t just go out and run without a plan.

Last Sunday was the first item in the plan – a 10km “race”. I put “race” in inverted commas as there was no chance I’d be challenging the competitive runners at the event. It was the annual Run Melbourne event. My aim was to run the 10km event in 55 minutes or less. As you can see from my finisher’s certificate – I didn’t hit that goal.

So – what did I learn?

Speed Matters

In order to run faster I’m going to need to add more speed sessions into my training. In the last couple of weeks of my preparation I started adding some speed sessions to my training but I suspect it was too little and too late. ¬†I’m going to modify one of my weekly sessions so that I focus on running some faster kilometres and 500m stretches.

I might even find a local track and do some 100m and 200m repeats.

The Night Before

The scheduled race time was 9:15AM. In order to ensure we were there on time we decided to book a room at a hotel near the start line. That was a good idea as it meant we didn’t need to deal with the stress of getting to the race (lots of roads were closed near the course so traffic and parking were difficult). It also meant we could sleep in a little longer.

The downside was sleeping in a strange environment. There were probably some pre-race nerves involved but I slept poorly. The room and bed were too hot and the unfamiliar surroundings didn’t help.


As we were staying in the city the night before the race, we took the opportunity to eat out. Dinner was reasonably light with a decent serve of carbs but I may have gone a little overboard with dessert. Perhaps I should have shared my waffle and ice cream.

Breakfast at the hotel was fine as they had the same cereal I eat at home so I ate the same breakfast I normally have.

During the Race

The start of the race was very congested. As all the runners had shoe tags for timing, there was little point pushing through the crowd. However, there were still a lot of people taking off in each wave. When I crossed the start line, I took off and zig-zagged my way through the crowd into some clear space.

That worked well except that in my eagerness to get clear I over-extended myself early in the race.

In order to run a 55:00 10km race, you need to run at an average pace of 5:30 per km. My first four¬†kilometres were 5:26, 5:21, 5:46, 5:28. In other words, allowing for hills and congestion I was right on the pace I needed to be. But the last 6km I didn’t get under 5:30 once. In fact, my fastest kilometre over the last six was a 5:37 and the second fastest was the last km at 5:38.

Ideally I should have run a negative split, completing the second five kilometres faster than the first five.

Drinking from a paper cup while running is not easy. I suspect that I was not fully hydrated before I started – I’m pretty sure of that as there was no pre-run bolt to the portaloos – and my inability to stay properly hydrated during the run contributed to my fade out in the second half of the race.

I also planned to suck down an energy gel at about the 4km mark but I forgot to grab it from my bag before I took off.

What Will I Do Next Time?

The next goal on my list is a half marathon, possibly in 12 weeks depending on some other stuff that’s happening in my life. I’ll follow a more measured program for that so that I can increase my mileage each week without getting injured.

On the day of that race:

  • I’ll have a checklist so i don’t forget anything on the day.
  • I’ll have my splits written on my arm so I don’t over exert myself too early and can keep track. I noticed while I was running on Sunday that my mathematical ability wavered as I became more fatigued.
  • I’ll make are I have something to carry my gels in while I run – I’ll definitely need them for a longer race.
  • I’ll eat a more race-friendly meal the night before.
  • I’ll be properly hydrated.

What’s your advice? Any suggestions? I’d love to hear.

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