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I was talking to a noob runner years ago and I had to explain that she shouldn’t be worried about the miles I was doing, “After a while it’s just another mile. But starting out, and getting faster, is always hard as nails.”

Last year, when I was training 5 and 6 days a week for 10 months, I managed to get quick enough to do a 5K (3.1 miles) in under 20 minutes. It’s a bit of a benchmark. Not for the young and fast people, but for old duffers like me, running 3.1 miles at 6.27 m/m is pretty damn tough. Then I blew my target fast marathon and my training went out of the window.

I’ve been back to fairly regular (about 50 miles a week) training for the last few months, but going fast is still the hard bit. I’ve not actually completed a 5K in ages. I’ve started a bunch of them, but on some of them my Garmin was totally inaccurate so I quit, others I’ve gone fast enough in the first mile but then dropped off the pace so much in the second mile that I was on for a lousy time so I quit.

I had a moment of revelation on that ‘fast 10K assessment ‘ run last week. I’m out of mental practice at accepting the pain, ignoring my brain screaming to stop, and pushing on. You have to accept it and push through.

After the test my watch revised my race time predictions. It said I was good for a 20.04 5K, 1.32 half marathon, and 3.12 marathon. I’m only a few months into the training plan again, and it’s not been adhering strictly, so I thought that was a bit optimistic.

I thought I’d best test the claims, perhaps sneak one a week into my training.

This week I started with the 5K, It was the day after doing half an hour of hill repeats on an 8 mile run, so I was a bit dubious.

To help myself out I cunningly changed my race route. Normally I jog out 4.1 miles. Stop. Then sprint back for 3.1 miles. Stop. Jog home a mile when I’ve put my lungs back in. This time I jogged out 2.5 miles. Stopped. Then ran 1.55 miles ‘out’, turned around and ran 1.55 miles ‘back’. Died. Then jogged home 2.5 miles. That way, psychologically, I was only doing half a mile to my first know mile marker. Then it was just a mile to half way. A mile back. then just around the corner for the last half mile. The watch predicted 20.04, obviously I was going to try to go a second or so faster per mile to break the 20 minutes barrier. I was wearing my Coros (accurate) watch with the footpod as well to be a precise as is possible. I did it in 19.52! Believe me when I say the difference that 12 seconds makes is * IMMENSE!*

It was hard as nails, and it hurt, but I kept going. I was aiming for a 6.27 m/m pace. I did 6.25, 6.29 (oops!) then picked it up with a 6.20, and sprinted the last tenth of a mile at 5.52 pace.

Then I read one of the runners on twitter had been on an online old duffers chat and one of the take-aways was runners over 50 should plan in walking breaks every 3K. I’m 57. I did a sub 20 5K on Friday and the plan was 18 miles today (which I did). And now I’ve started training with the (accurate) chest strap heart rate monitor my watch is saying “meh, try harder”. Walking breaks, indeed!

I’ve got a month before I start my training plan in earnest, so I’ll slip in test half this week. Force myself to push through. I think my body is getting there, now I need to train my brain.

Other good news is that I’ve finally broken the 10½ stone barrier. I keep getting to 10st 7 then troughing out again. Today I was 10st 5½! I’ll probably put some on tomorrow (I didn’t eat too much but 18 miles run, apparently the damaged muscles take on a lot of fluid) but if I can stick on the straight and narrow that’s not far off 10 stone.