fitness · racing · running

Small Victories: Tracy’s Continuous 10K

So I’ve been running for about five years now and mostly I’m a run-walk interval type of person. Way back in 2012 I posted about what an amazing feeling it was to run for 20 minutes in a row. I’ve come a long way since then, but haven’t aspired to do continuous running over distances. In fact, I’ve always been in awe of people who can do it.

Not only that, the jury is still out about whether some people actually cover the ground faster with run-walk intervals. The theory: the legs have a short time to recover on the walk break, thereby making it easier to maintain a good pace on the run portion. With the 10-1 run-walk intervals, you obviously spend way more time running than walking.

When I started out on the MEC 10K on Saturday, which is the race I’ve been training for since early September, I thought I would do 10 minute runs with 30 second walk breaks. But I’ve been going out pretty strong lately on my solo easy and tempo runs and haven’t really taken walk breaks. So when I passed over the mat to start the timer  on Saturday, I thought, “what the heck? Why not try to go for as long as I can without a walk break?”

I’ve been pushing myself a bit harder in training lately, running up hills that I used to walk up, doing short pick-ups with the promise of a short walk or slow jog immediately after, that sort of thing.

The event couldn’t have taken place in more familiar territory. I have walked and run the path from Gibbons Park into Springbank and back more times than I can count. And could the weather possibly have been better on Saturday? The answer is no. It was a little cool to start with but I made the right call choosing a light tank and shorts. I kept it simple with sunglasses, no ballcap (which I’ve noticed I’ve been removing a lot lately), no water of my own (I’m learning to trust the water stations in an event), and my Fall running playlist (you can find it on Spotify if you want to follow–bear in mind that it works for me and there is no “theory” behind its construction other than that right now I like those songs in that order when I’m running).  I had my Garmin on my belt instead of my wrist so that I wouldn’t check it; the plan was to go by feel. I just wanted the data after, not a gauge during. On my wrist I wore my Timex Ironman watch in “chrono” mode so I’d know how long I’d been out. But even that I consulted only rarely (and forgot to start it until 1 km into it anyway).

I felt super relaxed and ready to enjoy my run, challenge myself a bit, and see how my training with Linda might cash out into something I could feel good about. I didn’t have any big aspirations for a personal best, which would have meant coming in under 1:06 (I never claimed to be speedy!). And it’s because I wasn’t going for a time that I felt good about challenging myself in this other way.

As one kilometre rolled into the next, I was feeling pretty fresh. I had the race broken down into three parts: go out easy for the first 3K, go steady the next 3-4K, and then pick it up the last 3K. I mostly stuck with that strategy. I took a tiny bit of water at the 5K turnaround and the 7.5K water station. I had just one Clif Shot Block at around 4K. I am terrible at incorporating nutrition properly and also didn’t really know when and it’s hard to chew when you’re running (and I didn’t want to stop running).

I kept things moving along with a few different mantras: “fast feet” is always a good one. Also “touch, lift, touch, lift, touch, lift” is my favourite because it reminds me that all I need to do with my feet is touch and lift and touch and lift again. There is something comforting about its simplicity. I did the Linda thing and fixed my efforts  on reaching the next sign, the next bench, the next whatever to keep me mentally focused instead of all over the place.

Before I knew it I had just 2K to go and I was remembering Linda telling me that there is no reason to finish a race with anything left in the tank. I mean, you’re done, right? So push a little why don’t you? I agree with this in theory but I was afraid to go really hard too soon and fizzle early, so I saved the final big push for the last kilometre. At that point, I really threw myself into it and felt incredibly awesome because I realized that no matter what I was about to finish 10K without a walk break. Not even on a hill! My last segment was at a 6:30 pace, which for me is good. I had a few moments of faster than that (even under 6:00). I was breathing hard across the finishing mat, but that’s as it should be.

I haven’t done an event alone in awhile but I didn’t feel lonely at the finish line. I milled around a bit, even met a fan of the blog and another woman (who took the picture of me in this post) who is going to blog for us about winter camping in December (hi Wendy!). I soaked in the great weather and the buzz of the finishing area, enjoyed the bananas and the bagels, and reveled in my new accomplishment.

Okay, so at 1:06:32 I didn’t beat my best 10K time. But I felt so good that I’m convinced I can get that 10K under 1:05 in fairly short order. It just means pushing a bit harder and sticking to the continuous running.

I like learning something about myself as I go. What I learned over the last little while, culminating in Saturday’s continuous 10K, is that my body doesn’t need the walk breaks. It’s my mind that tries to tell me I need them.

What’s your take on continuous versus run-walk intervals?

5 thoughts on “Small Victories: Tracy’s Continuous 10K

  1. I remember being elated with the 20-minute continuous run in the NHS’s Couch to 5K programme, but I only managed a continuous 10k about 3 years later! After a few injuries and breaks from running, I’m back to running with a bit of walking in the middle. I reckon it doesn’t really matter how you cover the distance, as long as you do it!

  2. I love the idea of walk run in the beginning or when trying a new distance. But I always tell people to just listen to your body and most of the time the body is telling us it can keep going the mind is the one standing in the way.

  3. I’m curious. What if running with walk breaks is faster than running without? Will you go back? What if running without breaks is more likely to lead to injury? Then will you go back to run/walk? I guess I always assumed when I was running (always run/walk) that I could at any time switch to running continuously. I thought of the walk breaks as good for speed and good injury prevention. I didn’t think of them as necessary. Don’t get me wrong. They’re necessary right now. But I never saw running continuously as better than running with walk breaks. Helps, I guess, that some of the seriously fast people I know take walk breaks. And I suspect when it comes to the speed and injury questions, it’s pretty individual. Faster for some and not for others.

    1. It’s not clear which is “better” and I think it depends on the person. Personally I like finding new ways to challenge myself within the activities I do. Continuous running is one such way. Much of my training involves drills of all-out or at least hard repeats interspersed with walk or slow jog breaks. So even the continuous running is not all the time. Whether I will go faster that way or with walk breaks is yet to be determined.

  4. Hi it was really nice post about your 10K race, Well done! Refreshing on how you explain your experience.
    I ran in last September the Eastside10K and it was great experience.
    According to your question about continuous vs run-walk intervals, I’ll say that interval running is more efficient way to improve your cardio vs continuous running. Everything depend on how you set up your intervals and intensity in order to gain cardio improvement and you don’t need more than 30min to do it, you can actually be efficient training with 10, 15 or 20 minutes, and again everything depend in the intensity on how you do it.
    Eventually you will need to train continuously in order to get use to it to the distance that you want to run, but it depend on how you will set up your training plan.
    Hope this can help you.

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