Turning a 'bad' race into a lesson learnt, and using it to prepare for the next one.

Have you ever had a ‘bad’ race? I say ‘bad’ in inverted commas as everyone has a different version of their own ‘bad’ race, you might have been training for your goal race and you didn’t finish, or maybe you’ve set off on a race too fast and paid the price, or got your fuelling wrong and ended up by the side of the road questioning why you do this in the first place? Sound familiar?

Well my bad race was at the London ASICS 10k, I actually got a PB by 12 seconds! So why was it bad?

My previous 10k time was 40:15 and I was chasing that elusive ‘sub 40’ time, I wanted it so much, and I’d planned to follow my ASICS pacers (Danny and Marcus) as I was feeling confident that I could do it.

I started the race quite well, I had a 6:38 first mile but the boys assured us that we’d make up the time as we went along, I kept strong and we crossed the 5k mark in exactly 20 minutes, we were right on schedule! We headed down near Westminster and I seen the 7k sign, and just as we passed it I suddenly felt exhausted, I could feel the pacers easing ahead and I didn’t have the drive to stay with them. Everything in my head was so negative, “you’ve lost it”, “you can’t do it now”, “can I pull out?” yet somehow I managed to keep going, everything inside me wanted to stop as I didn’t even think that I was close to a PB anymore, but I kept running.

I saw my coach at the 9km mark, I hadn’t even looked at my watch again, I just wanted to get to the finish, and he shouted “4 more minutes of hard work!” to which I thought “oh no, 4 minutes is so long…”. I was thrilled to see the finish line! Somehow I managed a small sprint finish and stopped my watch and took a look at the time.

Oh no. Please no...40:03. Nooooo! Why couldn’t I have just pushed myself a bit harder?! I was furious at myself!

I kept repeating the time over and over again, 40:03, 40:03, grrrr! I analysed the course: my watch said 6.27 miles so technically it was long, it had hairpin turns in it so I could’ve saved time there...etc, etc. But in the end I just wasn’t brave enough, I didn’t push hard enough and therefore that’s what I got. 40:03.

I put my trainers straight on the next day, I think I actually did a long run! I’ve never felt fire like it but I just had a huge desire to get back out there and train harder, I knew I could do it! I went to track the following day and surpassed all of the times that my coach wanted me to do, I didn’t care if it hurt, I wanted to smash it! I maintained my S&C twice a week and I made sure (even more so) that I was stretching and foam rolling everyday, even when I didn’t want to, I just had 40:03 repeating in my ears!

So I kept up the high miles and the recovery routine and I entered a race up in the North East, the Darlington 10k, a two lap course with the potential for PB’s (not entirely flat but I’d heard good things about it, and I thrive off a good atmosphere, so it sounded perfect). I’d still ran every day in the week up to the race, but the miles had decreased, I’m training for the GNR in September so that is my main goal for now, but I was feeling ready!

I started conservatively, I knew going off too fast would ruin my legs so I tried to focus on my own race. The first lap felt fast, I was coming up to the 5k mark which was where my coach and friends were standing...Julie shouted “20 minutes exactly” as I ran past.

Damn. That meant I’d have to do that distance all over again...but faster! Was it London all over again?!

I didn’t want the negativity to kick in like it did last time, I just focused on the person in front of me and tried to catch them, that was my game for the next mile, just push up to the next person and see if I could overtake them. It was working!

I knew in London that my fourth mile was the fastest, so I didn’t want to repeat that either, I held back and just focused on my little game, I knew the ‘uphill’ section was at this point too, so I had to save my legs for the final 2 mile.

Mile 4 was 6:24, 2.2 miles to go and I’d only banked 1 second, if I kept this up I was going to finish in 39:39…

Mile 5 was 6:25, only 1.2 miles to go and I was still on course for 39:39 (just!)

Mile 6 HURT. LIKE. HELL! I couldn’t relax for a second as I couldn’t have another finish over 40 minutes, I knew that I could do it. I found a good rhythm (I was still playing my game of catch the person in front) but I just kept repeating “you want this” with every step I was taking. I was running down what I thought was the final stretch, I saw my coach and he shouted “there’s 2 there for you to catch, GO NOW!” but I still had half a mile!

I gritted my teeth and went, whatever I had left I just went! We turned the corner and I could see the finish (FINALLY) and the clock read 39:04.


39:35 and a brand spanking new PB, I couldn’t be happier! 4 years ago I couldn’t break 55 minutes for 10k, look at me now :) I’m thrilled!

Just keep working hard, the ‘bad’ races may come, but let it be fuel!

written by

Jenna Wilkinson

Maths Teacher from Sunderland

Age group: 30-34

Club: Sunderland Harriers

Coach: Simon Taylor (Sunderland Harriers)

Half marathon Ultra marathon 10 KM Marathon Ultra trail run
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