Friday, September 18, 2015

How I ran 10 km in less than 50 minutes

In June I set myself the task to improve my PB (Personal Best) on various distances. The priority was to break 50 minutes for 10 km. Here below a summary of my modest but (at least for me) gratifying achievements:

5 km
22:20 (average: 4:28 min/km), August 26

7 km
33:00 (average: 4:41 min/km), August 28

10 km
49:17 (average: 4:56 min/km), September 1 (PBs:48:07, 11 October 2011, 47:57, 11 March 2016 )

12 km
59:51 (average: 5 min/km), August 17

14 km
1:10:00 (average: 5 min/km), September 8

Probably the performance that makes me more proud is the 22 minutes and 20 seconds to cover 5 km, which is exactly the same time I made 4 years ago, when I was at the top of my condition (at that time I was able to run 10 km in 48 minutes). I thought I could have never repeated that performance, but I was wrong. Just imagine my surprise when I took a look at my watch after the last sprint! So it isn't always true that when you grow old your times get necessarily worse.

Running 10 km in less than 50 minutes required a certain amount of discipline, but after all it wasn't as hard as I expected. I worked quite a lot on the so-called anaerobic threshold (AT), which is the point where lactic acid begins to accumulate in the bloodstream. In other words, it's the point when you're running out of fuel and you start panting as an old Irish setter. I remember my first run after the winter break: I ran 1 km (yes, just one!) at a 5 min/km pace and I felt I was about to die. Was my AT really so low? It was sad to admit it, but it was true. 

You may ask yourself why I am so fixated with this bloody 5 min/km speed. Well, this is usually considered the border between jogging and running. Many "experts" claim that if you want to be a serious runner, you should run at this pace and of course, if you can, even below. I think that each of us should judge according his or her personal experience, so don't take such suggestions as they were carved in stone.  Anyway, after some years of running, I tend to agree with the "experts". In addition to that, running at a brisk pace is more challenging and entertaining to me. 

So I started running from mid April every other day, trying to push the AT further each session. At the beginning of May I nearly completed 5 km running at a 5 min/km pace and I remember I had to stop 100 meters before the end, exhausted. Nevertheless, I wasn't going to let these obstacles get me down, and I kept following my plan. Unfortunately I had to stop my training for three weeks due to a problem with my heel tendon. In July I resumed my running and gradually I got closer to my 10 km / 50 minutes task. First I covered 7 km in 35 minutes, some days after 8 km in 40 minutes, all this with no particular trouble. Whenever I felt "uncomfortable" (that is, I felt my legs heavy and my breath rhythm became intense), I stopped. Eventually, on August 11 I made it: 49 minutes and 48 seconds to cover 10 km (a PB which I improved by almost 30 seconds some weeks later). 

On the internet you can find for sure many valuable programmes to achieve the same task in less than a month. The method I used is based on patience and discipline and it worked for me (actually it is a method rather than a real plan, as I didn't care so much to achieve my goal in a limited amount of weeks, but I preferred to take all the time it was needed and to accomplish "naturally" my mission). I'd be glad if you want to use the same method. I wish you success and good luck!

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