What to expect from your first 10k race

10k tips for race beginners

Have you signed up for a 10k but have no real idea what you're letting yourself in for? If so then don’t panic. Here's my guide to what you can expect from your first 10k race experience.

You'll feel nervous

Pre-race nerves are perfectly normal whether you're a first timer or an elite athlete. In fact if you're not a little nervous or apprehensive before the start then you probably haven't prepared properly! You'll most likely start to feel some cognitive (mental) symptoms of anxiety in the days leading up to the race. These include feeling nervous about whether you can achieve your goal and whether you've done enough training. Again, this is perfectly normal. Positive self-talk or affirmations can be a powerful psychological tool in helping to banish any negative pre-race thoughts. This involves replacing any negative statements with positive ones. For example; ‘I can do this.’ The somatic (physical) symptoms of anxiety such as butterflies in your stomach tend to kick in much sooner before the race. This is simply a sign that your body is preparing for action. You may find that sitting somewhere quiet and doing some deep breathing helps in calming any pre-race nerves. One thing's for sure; as soon as the starting gun goes off, any nerves will disappear completely!

The start may seem fast

There will always be runners who start too ambitiously, so don't be surprised if the start feels fast. The trick is not to panic. Just stick to your guns and run at YOUR planned pace, nobody else's. Those who make an over-zealous start will more than likely slow dramatically during the latter stages of the race. Most race starts are seeded, with the faster runners positioned at the front of the field to ensure a safer and smoother start for all. It’s important therefore to be realistic and honest with where you stand on the start line so that you don't impede the runners behind you. If it's a mass start then try to avoid weaving in and out of other runners because this just wastes precious energy. Try to settle into a good rhythm and relax!

Everybody hurts

10k running isn't easy; it's not supposed to be, otherwise everyone would do it! Just remember that when the going gets tough, you're not alone. Everybody, from beginner to elite will start to hurt during a race. We’re all human and it's perfectly normal when you’re running hard to experience a certain level of discomfort. Take solace in the fact that those around you are hurting too. A little bit of pain during the race will almost certainly be eclipsed by the euphoria and sense of achievement that you'll feel at the finish line.

You'll want to do it again!

Don't be surprised if moments after finishing the race you vow never to run again! This is perfectly normal. When we feel fatigued, our mindset becomes highly emotional and often irrational. This however, will be short-lived. As the immediate fatigue disappears and the exercise-induced endorphins kick in, you'll be planning your next 10k in no time at all.

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

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