Last Wednesday, my friend Vibeke texted me: "I'm racing Sentrumsløpet on Saturday BTW. Are you in?". I originally had some vague plans involving mountain biking in the forest, but I have trouble turning down a good race. I had never raced a 10K before, and I wondered just how fast I could do it.
By Thursday, I had bought a bib from someone else who had gotten sick.
By Friday, I was starting to wonder if this was a really bad idea. I'm neither built nor training for speed (Re: long, slow runs). I had I vague hope that I might be able to run 10K in around 50 minutes. Maybe.
Sentrumsløpet is a big 10K held in central Oslo. This year there were close to 10 000 participants (although I think the official number of finishers was around 8400), including the crown prince of Norway. I felt desperately inadequate as I lined up for the start.
I was mostly scared of making a fool of myself. So you think you're a runner? the mean voice in my head taunted, the slowest runner in history. Everyone will know, all of your training is for nothing. You're not an athlete. It's kind of ironic that I find the shorter distances less intimidating. I knew I could finish; it's the running fast that scares me.
|The first (fastest) heat at Sentrumsløpet heads up the hill to the royal palace in central Oslo.|
One way I face the mental aspect of running is to put on different personas. When I am trail running, I am Leggy Surefoot. I never fall, never stumble, navigate the most difficult terrain with ease. When I run intervals I am Robotina, a machine who just keeps going at the same pace no matter what, and has no lungs, so cannot feel out of breath.
For Sentrumsløpet, I needed to be Superwoman.
I started towards the back of my heat. There were over 1000 people in each heat, and I didn't want to be pushed off the front too hard. My game plan was to hold 5 min/km until km 5, and then assess how hard I could go when I got there.
As I started jog, and reached the hill up to the palace in the first kilometer, I realized I maybe had started too far back. I was dodging passed people every which way. Well, it's more fun to pass people than to be passed! I thought. I also found it amusing that people seemed to be struggling up the 'hill', which to me was short and flat. Come up to my part of town and I'll show you a real hill! I silently challenged those I passed. I'm aloud to be cocky when I race, right?
After I passed the 1 km-sign, I started to struggle a bit more with the 5min/km pace, ironically on a flatter part of the course. I tried to turn on my mental radio, to play some motivational music for myself. I spent the next kilometer trying to get the annoying pop song they played at the start of the race out of my head.
|On the loop at km 7.|
As the train of runners passed through Frogner park, towards 4 km, I found my running groove. The pop song died down to be replaced by the steady rhythm of my feet accompanied by a mental reminder to check my Garmin every thirty seconds or so. Just hold the pace, I thought.
I played tag with a man running in a toga with gold sparkles in his hair and a water bottle taped to his ankle. I finally let he go on the way out of the park. Just hold the pace.
It was a stunning day, hot for Oslo in April, and I gratefully ran through the sprinkler at the 5 km sign. I looked at my watch. Somehow, I had run the first 5 km in 24 minutes. And I felt great! Oh no, I thought, this means I have to go faster. So I did.
I remember thinking that 10ks are easy, because you are halfway done before you've even started. I remembering thinking that 10ks are hard, because have to go faster and faster.
|Right at the end of the race. I'm on the right, in purple.|
At Aker brygge, during kilometer 8, I passed a runner who had passed out and was being carried away on a stretcher. I assessed myself for signs of collapsing and passing out. I had no excuse; I had to run faster. Up the last small hill, I wanted to slow down, but then I saw Audun wielding the camera. So I had to go faster.
I sprinted dramatically across the finish line in 47:21, ridiculously pleased with myself.
|I'll just sit here until my thighs stop doing that weird tingly thing.|
The Verdict: The course goes through some of the nicest parts (the Palace, Frogner park, etc) of central Oslo, so it's a good sightseeing race. It was a little too big for my taste; I didn't like run with a sea of people around me. But it was motivating to race, because it helps me see that my training is working (I definitely couldn't have run this fast in January!). I also beat the Crown Prince of Norway!
I ran a negative split (24:24 and 22:58), and felt like I had a good, controlled race. Which probably means I should have tried to go faster. Uh-oh, maybe I have to run another 10k...
- The Wild Bazilchuk