With a month to go before the Dubai Standard Chartered Marathon I took the highly (non)scientific approach of Googling training programmes for a 10K run, figuring that while I couldn’t achieve marathon-levels of endurance in four weeks, I could probably make some progress towards a half decent 10K time. I landed on this training plan via Runner’s World UK and dove straight in. The first run was on December 30th and it totalled 14K (divided up into a warm-up, cool-down and some intervals). Up until this point I’d been sporadically running between 5 and 7K, so this came as a bit of a shock to the system. But I lived to tell the tale and was off and running, so to speak.
On that first run, my pace was 6’48”/K with 148 steps-per-minute. Fourteen runs and three weeks later and I bashed out a similar run to that first one at 5’49”/K and 166 steps-per-minute. I used my series 3 Apple Watch to track all my runs and posted the data to Insta Stories, archiving it in Highlights. As per the programme, I managed 18 training runs before race day.
I’ve been running the Dubai 10K sporadically since 2008 (pausing for pregnancies, breast feeding etc). My previous personal best was 52:34 in 2014, and my slowest was 57:19 in 2011 (I’d gotten married six months before and was clearly more interested in champagne than training!). This year, at the age of 40, I ran it in a personal best of 51:08. If I actually want to get any work/parenting/life done, I won’t keep up this schedule, but a month of running by the beach along Dubai’s amazing Jumeirah Running Track five times a week has been way more rewarding than simply clocking up the kms.
Here are 12 things I’ve gained:
1. A sense of accomplishment from more or less sticking to the five-day-a-week training plan I’ve been following (via @runnersworlduk).
2. The very trackable development that running gives you. I haven’t tried any other sport where you so clearly improve every single time you get out there. I use the Workouts function in the Activity app on the Apple Watch - I know loads of people love their Garmins or the Nike+ app - whatever you choose, seeing that ever-improving data is incredibly motivating (I played piano for years as a kid and never got any better).
3. A tan (it’s been years). Not on the face, obvs, thanks to @drbarbarasturm SPF 50 Sun Drops.
4. A brain filled with more awareness, fresh perspectives, book/film/TV recommendations and laughs from the hours of podcasts I’ve listened to (particular thanks to Adam Buxton for the lols - if you see anyone chortling their way down the track it’s probably me).
5. Visible leg muscles and the sense of badassary that creates.
6. Freedom from screen time, phone calls or kids jumping all over me (mainly that last one tbh).
7. A sense of camaraderie with other runners, esp the guy who pushes the blue Bugaboo and bashes out pull-ups on the way. Thanks for always waving dude, you are awesome.
8. A valid excuse not to wash my hair because it’s just going to get gross again. And Balenciaga makes baseball caps.
9. The kids’ new-found enthusiasm for running (and expanded knowledge of sealife from our post-run visits to the fish market).
10. The chance for some endorphin-charged family bonding: my brother (who ran the marathon de sables in 2018 and therefore is a total legend) ran the 10K with me, while my sister-in-law has stepped up to accompany Leo for the family fun run (she’s pregnant so this is really above and beyond).
11. New shoes. Because I can’t think of a significant life event that is not improved by buying new shoes. I got these.
12. A view of the actual horizon. And that’s about as deep as I get.
By posting my runs to Instagram I forced myself to stick to the schedule and not flake out (oh the shame!). Having programmed runs also pushed me far more than I would have done flying solo. There really is nothing better than running outside when the weather is good (yep I am a total fair weather runner – no way would I do this in the cold and dark!). Good luck if you’re planning on getting out there, and drop me a line on Insta if you have any questions.