One problem with seeing some tangible improvements in my 5K pace and finishing in the top half of runners at my last 5K: it puts the pressure on for my first 10K.

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Okay, it doesn’t really. It’s just in my head. For my first 5K, my goal was just to finish and not be last place. I had rarely run the full 5K distance before the race itself – usually topping out at 2.5 to 2.8 miles. The same is happening going into my first 10K – I usually top out at 5 1/2 miles.

Here are the differences between going into my first 5K and my first 10K:

  • I’m on a success high and have higher expectations for myself as a runner than I ever dreamed I would already be at just four months after running my first 5K.
  • It’s harder to put things into perspective: as a first time 5K-er, I was just starting to dip my toes into getting more active and upping my fitness level. I had very low expectations for myself. I was thrilled to finish, and didn’t care I was one of the last “runners” to finish before the walkers started strolling in.
  • Obviously, the distance is twice as long, but that does not equate to just estimating twice the time it takes me to complete a 5K.
  • Even if I were to perfectly split the 10K with my 5K time, that still puts me much further to the back of the pack. Why?

A lot of people walk 5K races. A lot of people participate in 5Ks, period. Fewer people sign up for 10Ks, and a fewer percentage of the participants walk them. When I was looking for a 10K to run during my Army Ten Miler training, I had a hard time finding one. It seems to not be a very popular distance. It’s not as easy as a 5K but you don’t typically get a finisher medal like for a half-marathon or even the swag of being able to say you did a 10 miler. So 10K’s were hard to find, and judging by the results of past events, everyone is a runner – looking up the results of 10K’s in the area, at most the last place person averaged a 14:00 mile, which is hard to power-walk. I’ve heard of a lot of people power-walking 13.1 miles – I just don’t hear about 10K’s that often period.

Even on an off day now, I’m so down mentally with the 5K distance that unless it’s a crazy hilly trail run, I’ll be confident going into it that I won’t finish last. And while I’m confident I will finish the 10K on Saturday, I guess more than being afraid I’ll be in last, it’s that I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed if I do come in last.

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This is what I’m having trouble doing this week.

I’ve been having a bad week outside of running – some aspects of my new job are a little frustrating (some aspects of all jobs are, but this week in particular it felt personally frustrating), and classes have started for grad school and I’m feeling stressed about juggling. I don’t feel like I ever have time to do all the things I want to be able to do. Just last night I got home late thanks to class, and knew the responsible thing to do would have been to go to bed as soon as I could.

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Instead, I went running. I tried a new 3:2 interval, and really pushed hard for those 3 minute running intervals. Each of the three miles ticked off a little faster than the one before, the third coming in at sub-11.

Four months ago that would have thrilled me. And while I can recognize how far I’ve come and how much progress I’ve made, I want even more progress. I want to run the whole 10K at a sub-11, but even if I manage to sustain that pace for the whole 6.2 miles, that still puts me in the “slow runners” back of the pack.

Have you run any 10K’s? What was your first? How do you feel going into your first “new distance” race? 

What is your mantra when you fear you can’t do it? 

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