I got the idea of the uncomfortable 10km from my son, Jonny who lives and runs in Perth. I always ask when I ring him how his running is going, he has been working on a 14km hilly course now for months, trying to get faster on it, he tells me he tries to stay uncomfortable all the way, as soon as he starts to feel a bit comfortable, he lifts a bit until he is back to uncomfortable, by running this way he has shaved about 15mins of his time, he does it in 58mins now! I thought it was a great idea so I stole the name for my Uncomfortable 10km.
The 10km run is the benchmark in running, it is the distance most people like to run, and most races are based around the 10km distance. Once you can run and run 10km you soon find out what your 10km time is, you also figure out what you need to do to run it faster and you quickly learn what a bad 10km time is for you.
Everyone has their ideal 10km comfortable time, the time they like to be able to complete their 10km in, we also have a PB 10km lurking in the back of our minds as well. It is often a race time (as its official and we tend to push harder in races) and if we are happy with it we tend to sprout it out as our usual 10km time.
However, often in our running we get complacent with our 10km time. If you start training for long distance events, like half’s and marathons its very common for our time to slow down, often we don’t even realise it until we run a 10km and then wonder what the hell happened. It can be really disappointing to be training hard and running lots of kms only to realise you are getting slower, not faster. This is why I think we should always keep a close eye on our 10km time, as it is the major indicator or how we are running and what level our fitness is at.
Lots of runners are running 3 or 4 times a week, and run lots of kms and complain to me how they are not improving with their running, or not losing weight or not feeling fitter. I often ask how their 10km time is, and often they don’t even know. The body is a great adapter and it doesn’t take it long to settle into anything you ask it to do and stay there. If you start slowing down it doesn’t mind, it will soon adapt to the new pace…and you will still maintain a good level of fitness, however if you are looking to improve your speed, or fitness or lose weight then you have to give it a bit of a wake up and get it out of its comfort zone and that’s where the Uncomfortable 10km comes in.
I think you should run an uncomfortable 10km once a week or fortnight.
By uncomfortable I mean just that , over the whole 10k you should be feeling uncomfortable. You should be sweating, and breathing hard, not enjoying yourself and basically just pushing yourself all the way. You will know when you go from uncomfortable to comfortable…you will start daydreaming, start enjoying the view, start noticing things around you, start trying to find the right tune on your ipod, start chatting to your running buddy as soon as all those things happen, you know you have slipped back to comfortable and you need to pick it up again
You need to be anal about it
You should have a flat 5km out and 5km back easy course mapped out. You should know every km landmark on that course (map my run is good at this, or drive it on your car and go by the odometer or use a Garmin)
You should have a time in your head that you think you can do your best 10km in, it may be your last race time, maybe a PB, however make sure it is something you have done in the last year, it’s no good trying to smash the PB you achieved 10 years ago when you where 20kgs lighter...it needs to be relevant to the fitness you have been over the past year. Also remember it’s a time you can do, not a time you wish you could do or a time you have seen other people do…this is your 10km.
The reason I like to know the 1km marks is because I like to pace myself on those. I find it I just run to the halfway and check my time, I could have stuffed it up and halfway is a long way to try to reclaim the run. But if you check at every one km, if you know what you should be sitting on at each km mark you have more of a chance of completing your goal then just running off like a rabbit and then finding at halfway you can’t go any further, or that you have run out too slow and then need to race back
I have been running a 6 week challenge for the past 3 weeks and have been asking the 32 challengers for their uncomfortable 10k or 5km times each week, and I know they are not enjoying the Unco 10.
So this morning I thought I shouldn’t be giving my runners something I’m not prepared to do myself, so at 5am in Noosa I did my uncomfortable 10km, and this is how it went down…
MY Unco 10km
History- Ran my first ultra (52km) last weekend and had only done a few shuffling runs since then, feeling good though and looking to see how all the 9 weeks of long distance, off road running has affected my road running and speed.
The 10km pace I like to sit on has always been 50mins. Now I very rarely do this when I am running with my buddys , or LRs or training for long distance stuff, but when I feel like I need to see where my fitness is at, I am always happy if I can knock out a 10km in under 50mins…so I like to be under 5mins pace at each 1km, a few seconds under makes me happier still as it means I can have something up my sleeve if things go wrong….this is my pace and my uncomfortable 10km, everyone will have different time that works for them.
I set out my course, Noosaville to Tewantin, pretty flat, with a bridge and a couple of rises
I set my clock at 0 and took off , here is the run down and my thoughts at the time
1km- 4.11- oops a bit too fast, hope I haven’t stuffed it up
2km- 9.11- 5mins- yes, you stuffed it up
3km- 14.30-5.19-See what did I tell you
4km-19.45-5.15- come on big push for a good split
5km-Split- 24.30- 4.45….happy with that but really feeling uncomfortable,
gotta get back now, reset clock for return 5
1km- 4.21- that’s good, maybe too good
2km-9.40 -5.19-oops, what happened there, negative splits not looking good
3km- 14.45-5.05- well at least you haven’t completely thrown the towel in, come on 2km to go
4km-19.35-4.50- that’s better, one to go and you still have Big finish up your sleeve
5km- Back Split 23.21-3.46-Wow Big Finish works, but now I just want to die
10km in 47:51
A couple of points- I felt so, so bad, in the last km, could feel lactic acid building , blood sugar levels dropping and I wasn’t so much worried about my legs turning over fast it was trying to keep my lungs inside my chest cavity…uncomfortable, you bloody bet it was
I ran on for a few more kms at a very comfortable pace as I thought if I stopped I would just drop, so best to keep running and try to get everything back to comfortable and amazingly it all settled down again pretty quickly
A few things about the above score card
I was happy with the time, I was happy with my negative split, I cannot rave on enough about how much a Big Finish can do to your time and also to improve the way you run and how you can improve your pace at any stage of your run ( I used it to the the turn around as well). Never give up as you can see above the difference that can be achieved with a Big Finish.
But as you can see some of those 1kms were very erratic, if I had of stuck on 4 min 50 sec pace I would have still got the time and not have been all over the shop, but I think it would have been still uncomfortable
Another thing (or an excuse at least),
Between km 3 and 4 on the way out (5.15) I was crossing the bridge at the end of Gympie Terrace (anyone who has done the Noosa half will know this one), Ok not a huge hill but a resistance all the same, and if you keep the same pace here, your overall pace will suffer, so what you need to do is lift a little on the hills
When I turned at the 5km, the first km back was all down , so I must of lifted there because of that
And once again between 3 and 4 I was heading back over the bridge, and I went over my 5min km limit again…so as you can see, although not hills enough to make you slow your pace down a little and often you don’t even realise you are
You may think this all seems too hard or nightmarish, but it is only 10km, your 10km, its your race and believe it or not it can be fun once you get into the hang of it and when you start to see improvements in your running its fantastic.
If you have a running buddy that is about your pace it’s a great one to do together, you do the timing on the way out (so you are the coach) and on the way back get your buddy to coach you
Don’t make every run you do like his, or you will start to dread your running, but every so often you should be running 10km this way
Important Point about Unco 10km- this type of running is for runners who have mastered the 10km, they are able to run more than 10km and can run 10km all the way without ever stopping.
If you haven’t mastered the 10km but are very comfortable running 5km or a bit more, and you are looking at improving your speed then you should do an Uncomfortable 5km
Beginner runners shouldn’t even consider any of the above. When you start running all the kms are uncomfortable, and until you have run 5km and have mastered that distance; but mastered I mean, you can run all the way out, turn at 2.5km run all the way back and feel ok, even good at the end, then you could consider trying the Uncomfortable 5km.