London 10000 (Vitality) – Joining the sub40 club

On Monday I took part in the London/Vitality 10000 for the 3rd year in a row. In 2016 this was my first ever race in London and I think that’s why I keep coming back. I got a solid 4 minute PB at the time (42:05) and loved running the streets of central London. 2017 was meant  to be another PB attempt but it was disgustingly humid and I started way back in the pen which meant a lot of weaving and even some walking. So this year I really wanted to go for it. Since the marathons I have focused on my shorter distances, achieving 2 parkrun PBs along the way.

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2017 race

The plan was to start near the front, this race gets very cramped very early so I pushed probably a little too far ahead. The goal, of which I had told no one was sub 40, gulp. Realistically I didn’t think it was achievable so I didn’t tell anyone as that would have raised expectation. The previous week I ran 18:40 at Fulham parkrun and this is what gave me the incentive to really go for it. Otherwise I would have been really pleased with a PB or sub41 at best.

When I first started running, like most do, I used to start every single race too fast and burn out. However, I do still find that tactic to work on shorter distances (to a certain extent). It’s much easier to start quickly rather than having to pick up the pace after 7/8km when you’re beginning to tire anyway. I knew this race would seriously hurt but if I got to half way sub 20 I knew I’d have a chance of holding on. I’m a better runner than 2017 and although I do struggle with the mental battle, I was willing to give it a real go, probably meaning I’d hate the race but risk = reward right?!

Pre race

As mentioned, I had a fairly successful build up to the race. I felt I neglected speed training before Brighton and London but have been at the track a lot more regularly in April/May. Alongside that I went back to Parkrun and secured a new 15 second PB at Hackney Marshes (19:10). The week after that and the day before Hackney Half I got another Parkrun PB, this time at Fulham and an elusive (for me) sub 19 – 18:40

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With Hackney Half on the Sunday before I did REP on the Tuesday (7.5 miles – 7:30 min/mile pace) then track on Wednesday (3.2 miles total). After that I unintentionally didn’t run again until the race, which probably did some good. I had a fairly quiet weekend and got an early night on Sunday too.

Race day started relatively late in comparatively. I left the house just after 8 and then strolled to the HQ from Victoria station, coffee in hand. It was already very warm and muggy which did concern me, as did the fact I noticed the last water stop was at 6.5km. That last section would be very tough and I know I’d be dying for water at that point.

This race seems to get bigger and bigger each year taking over more of Green park for the weekend. Ran by London marathon events, you do see the similarity with the Marathon and it is very well organised (for the most part). There’s plenty to do/eat & drink for non runners as well as lots of drinks and space for runners. The toilet situation seemed better this year too. However, getting to the start pen was a huge bottleneck. As stated, I wanted to get near the front this year so I did get to my pen early but I know many struggled getting to their correct pens because it was too busy.

Race

Bang on 10am we were off to the sound of Avicii and it felt like everyone was sprinting down The Mall. Crazy quick pace I actually let many people pass me until the sharp turn at Trafalgar square where everyone has to slow. We hit 1km in 3:49 – a tad quick but that is to be expected. I had tried to aim for about 3:55 per km for as long as possible and see if I could hold out for 40mins. If that failed it would be 4:05’s to get that sub 41.

Km’s 2 & 3 flew by and I honestly can’t tell you too much about what happened as I was so focused. It was really hot and I grabbed 2 cups of water just after 3km as I passed my old stomping ground – Hi Sainsbury’s 👋🏽 . The water cooled me for all of 5 seconds before I again felt the heat. I knew I slowed down up to halfway but was pleasantly surprised when I checked my watch. I crossed halfway in 19:40.

There’s a few twist and turns after St Paul’s around the Bank area but the second half is relatively straight forward back along Fetter st and the length of the Strand. Numerous times I told myself to quit or that it wasn’t going to happen so I might as well slow down. I VERY nearly did but somehow managed to keep going. I’m not sure how and didn’t really use any technique but kept my head down and didn’t get distracted by the crowd or even the fantastic en route entertainment unfortunately.

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The field really thinned out here and it was actually quite nice to not be passing or being passed by hundreds of others. I kept my head down and tried to keep the legs ticking over. Although I didn’t feel it, my next 2 km’s were quicker and as I hit 8km my watch said 31:36. I knew 9km had a slight downhill from Charing Cross down Whitehall to Westminster and I tried to relax. Just 2 more 4:10’s and I would have done it. This was the first moment I actually believed in myself and seeing some familiar faces here did actually help.

1km to go and you have the long stretch of St James’ Park. I walked a large part of this during the marathon but refused to slow this time. The 800m to go sign seemed to be getting further away and I actually just kept shutting my eyes and running – not listening to any of the crowds cheers or calls. I managed to put on a sprint finish (I think) and with a 3:52 last KM I stopped the watch at 39:26!!

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Post race

I wanted to be sick, to lay down, to pour water over my head but you have to keep moving before you can do any of that. I think I checked my watch again and again just to make sure. This was by far the hardest race I have done – but 100% worth it. You walk back round Buckingham palace to collect your medals and goody bags before heading to the baggage area and back into Green Park.

I’ve always liked the medals and tops from this race but even more so now it’s through New Balance. I was completely exhausted post race so I didn’t really stick around and got myself home!

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Thoughts

I do love this race and so so pleased it went well. It’s great to be involved in a race with the likes of Mo, Callum Hawkins etc and there’s always a great atmosphere too. I think I’d get serious FOMO if I didn’t sign up or at least come cheer.

I think it is the best of the big 10K races that are around and highly recommend to those that haven’t done it before. It is far better than the Winter Run and less twisty compared to the British 10k – the route is also amazing if you haven’t had the chance to run the marathon too.

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Splits

The sub40

I really think that the start of the year hindered my running. As much as I loved running Brighton and London marathons back to back it did mean my training suffered. I wasn’t aiming for a time at either of those and therefore just focused on distance rather than getting quicker. Seeing everyone else smash their own times demotivated me a little but fortunately gave me some incentive to start putting more effort in.

I know I’m better at short distances. Before I started “running” I had ran the 200m, 4x100m and 400m regularly in school (a long, long time ago). Where I do struggle is maintaining that pace for any considerable distance though. I’m terrible for giving up too easily or slowing down too soon. This race and the 2 Parkruns hopefully show that I am improving and finding some mental strength somewhere!

Time to now focus on the half marathon and full marathon goals I’ve set myself for the remainder of the year. Roll on Amsterdam!

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