It’s been an interesting year for this fitness dreamer and running events. Extra jobs, extra commute, extra excuses. Here’s the thing about these types of events. Once you have been a part of an amazing running event like the Mermaid Run, you want to do it again.
The San Francisco morning fog was thick over the Golden Gate Bridge as we drove to the the 2013 Mermaid Run. This would be my second year at this event and I was ready for the potentially chilly weather.
Crossing over the iconic bridge, I kept an eye out for fellow over 40 10k runners.
The event this year included an additional 10 Mile run that wove through Crissy Field on the San Francisco bay, and up to an out and back across the bridge. A 10 mile distance was out of my comfort zone, but I loved seeing women already out and running in the event.
The additional hitch this extra race provided was the complete lack of parking. After circling around several times through the expensive San Francisco Marina District homes, we finally parked in just in time to get to the venue.
The throng of women dressed from serious fitness to serious fun spread out all over the Little Marina Green. The morning fog was starting to break up as the 5k runners got their start and I prepped for my own run. The dance beats added to the energy and the MC’s kept everyone pumped up while pointing out amazing costumes.
This race is a fun one to people-watch. Girls and women of all ages and all fitness levels are out to enjoy the day. One of my favorite costumes? The multicolored tutu with tights that looked like a the scales of a mermaid tail! Sorry, I wasn’t fast enough to get a shot of that one.
I made the decision to run a 10k and higher distances going forward. The feeling is a little is scary. Signing up for 5k races was an easy way to say, “Sure! I had a couple races this month!” and it kept me in my comfort zone.
Here’s my advice for how to run a 10k for women over 40…
I had a very specific goal heading into this race.
In addition to trying to run a 10k in under 59 minutes, I had a race plan. The plan was pretty simple – keep a slower pace to start and slowly build up with the goal of a negative split.
A negative split means that the time it took you to complete the last half is faster than the time it took to complete the first half. This running plan is one way to work on going faster in your runs.
In order to do this you ideally need some way to track how fast you are going. I had tools with me at this race to keep track of what my pace was that was easy to review at a moments notice. My friends will confirm that I am a super geek, and adding a GPS watch to my training gear a few months ago has paid off in these situations.
I know there’s an app for that (in fact I’ll be reviewing several that will keep you moving in a few weeks) and as I’ve focused more on running without headphones, I’ve found the smart phone apps aren’t as useful if I can’t hear the information over my heavy breathing. Since most of the races I have attended don’t allow you to use headphones anyway, I’ve started training more without them.
Having immediate feedback on my pace made tracking my finish time a possibility. Unfortunately I was missing a key detail.
You have to know your goal pace before you can make sure you are hitting your goal pace.
I warmed up easy. Running in place, lunges, light stretching and thinking about how I wanted this race to go. Ray was with me once again as my official photographer and we had the added advantage of already knowing the course and where I would be on the lookout for him.
The announcement to line up to run a 10k went out on the loudspeakers and I made my way into the starting chute. Running without a buddy at a race can be intimidating. You’re first instinct may be to book it fast, get ahead of the crowds. I stayed in the middle of the pack and checked my GPS watch was ready to go.
Unless you are a strong, fast runner, I can’t recommend this.
Too many times I’ve found myself caught up in the adrenaline that comes with a countdown and “Ready, Set… GO!!!” being yelled through speakers over pounding dance music. The excitement carries you along and the competitiveness of being in a group kicks in. At least for me.
I have tried this tactic too many times with bad results to try again. To be honest, it takes a lot to hold back from just taking off.
I clicked start on my watch as I crossed the start line and stayed on the outside so I could wave like a maniac at Ray. We had full run of the street so it was easy to weave in and out of the groups to find your pace. I glanced down at my GPS watch and checked my pace trying to stay in the 10:20 minute-per-mile pace for the first mile.
The first mile marker was met with enthusiastic volunteers cheering us all on and offering water and Gatorade. I weaved through the back up and kept on trucking. I found myself glancing at the watch every 6 minutes or so. My goal was to increase my pace by 10 seconds every mile.
Unfortunately I hadn’t done the math on the pace I should have started with and found myself a little behind as I passed the halfway marker. I spotted Ray, smiled big and took the turn to loop around Crissy Field one more time to get the next 3.2 miles in.
Every halfway point, I have a mental refresh in my mind. With a loop race course, you are running on ground you have literally already covered. It’s easy to start getting tired and letting those little voices in your head start taking over.
Instead I repeated to myself – in my head, “This is a whole new race, I just started and my energy is great!”
My watch let me know I was just under a 10 minute pace and needed to pick it up it I was going to cross the finish line in time. The groups at this stage are smaller and spread out so I would catch up to one, check my pace, and head to the next group.
The turnaround at Fort Point is a fun one because all the teams who have different paces typically pass each other going to and from this point. There are shouts of encouragement and high fives as women spot their teammates on the course. Just hearing that camaraderie pumps me up. I hit mile 5 at a 9:40 pace and look at the elapsed time on my watch.
Crap! I would really have to book it to make my time on this one.
I kicked it into gear, knowing that maintaining a faster pace for over a mile might just kick my butt. I focused on my form, and remembered to breath. It is very easy to let your breathing get out of control, especially in a stress situation like my wanting to go faster than my legs did.
The course was familiar and I remembered that there was a bridge on the way to the final half mile. I kept going and has a little dance party in my head once I crossed it. Then I picked another landscape marker to run to. Breaking down the final push to the end helps me from killing my energy. The last thing I want stuck in my head when I’m pushing hard is a visual of a never-ending path that will take me forever to run. That makes me tired just writing it now.
I noticed my breathing was picking up, and my checked my pace. It had dropped to 8:50 which would explain why sucking in air was more difficult. Thank god I saw the venue coming up and spotted my husband, Ray off to the left ready to capture a photo of my sweaty tired self.
The only thing I don’t like about this venue is the final run to the finish line. It’s a U-turn chute, on grass that is damp in the San Francisco Bay air. The change in running surfaces, and my complete fear of slipping and landing on my butt always slows me down.
I pushed anyway and got through the finish line craziness completely out of breath. Spotting Ray I wandered through to an open area so I could stop and lean over. I was light headed and out of breath for a couple minutes, but kept moving so I wouldn’t cramp up.
I did it! Got through another great race in beautiful weather.
We watched the racers crossing the line and offered encouragement. The Mini Mermaids, girls 6-12 that run in a 1.5 mile race took off next. This race introduces girls to the experience and joy of crossing a finish line in a fun environment. I love watching children run! They are so excited and just book it with abandon.
Sticking with the plan to only run 10k races in the future is going to be tough. When there’s the option of something “easier” – in my case a 5k race – it can count as working on your dream, but it may not have the same impact.
Spring is right around the corner and the run events are going to start popping up like flowers.
If you are ready to find your perfect run race, check out Active.com for one in your area. What’s the next fitness challenge on your list?
Go get your fit on
Heather Montgomery is a fitness writer, triathlete, and blogger who is devoted to sharing what she has learned about becoming a triathlete after age 40. She uses her Metabolic Training Certification to help other women struggling to get fit in mid-life. She lives and trains in Santa Rosa, California, the new home of the Ironman triathlon. You can find her biking the Sonoma County wine trails.
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