Columnist: Getting ready for my first 10k is no piece of cake

Thousands of runners take part in Race for Life events each year.
Thousands of runners take part in Race for Life events each year.

When I signed up for my first 10k, I was full of New Year’s resolutions and determination.

The cold weather and dark nights made summer seem like a lifetime away - more than enough time to change from couch potato to runner bean.

I chose to take part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life - I’ve walked the 5k route before and it is for such a good cause that it seemed an ideal place to begin.

My training started off well - I went walking three times a week with a friend, and we stuck to it rigidly despite the gloomy weather. Combined with healthy eating and Dry January, this led to me losing half a stone, which was a massive motivational tool for a while. I downloaded a Pacer app to keep track of my daily steps and aimed to hit a target of 10,000 each day. I found this easier at weekends - running after a five-year-old, day trips out, walks in the park, even the food shopping helped rack up the number. But during the week, with a ten hour shift in an office, I found it hard to get beyond 5,000.

However, it helped me see just how much difference even the little things made - walking to work, just 15 minutes away, and back added more than 2,000 steps and getting away from my desk at lunch could notch up an extra thousand too. My friend and I started timing our walks - we had a circular route of 0.8 miles that we would trek around three times and we pushed ourselves to get quicker each time we passed the starter marker (well, concrete post).

At the beginning, I told myself that I would build up my fitness slowly, and that by spring I would up the pace, start running and go on for longer distances. Alas, the warmer weather has instead only led to unhealthy barbecue food, birthday cakes and an increased intake of wine.

I managed to keep the weight off, and (mostly) stuck to my walking schedule, but there had been no running to speak of.

That was until a fortnight ago, when my Race for Life number and course information dropped through the letterbox.

It made me realise there was just over a month to go and that I was far from ready.

So, I did a bit of online research (try www.myrunningtips.com or www.verywell.com) and joined a few forums in order to devise my own panicked training programme.

Unfortunately online research makes four weeks to 10k sound like a breeze but, as I’ve found out, this is far removed from reality.

A 20 minute burst of running for two minutes alternating with walking for one minute around a country park on my day off left me gasping for breath - and, quite frankly, fearing for both my health and dignity on race day.

I know that I’ll be able to walk the course easily, but my very ambitious target of running most of it in order to finish in an hour or less is a ridiculously long way off.

So, wish me luck - I’m going to need it!