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Run forest run...

The 10 stages of running my first 10-mile race

Mile 1 – Warming up

Waiting at the start line of the New Forest 10 Mile Race 2019 I promised myself that I wasn’t going to get caught up in all the race day excitement and go out too fast, so although I had a secret time goal to cover the distance I tried to put it to the back of mind, at least for now! The start of the race was across some long, prickly grass, so I was glad to get out onto the mixture of road and trail within the first half-mile stretch. The temperature was warm but the sky was overcast, so the conditions felt optimal. (Pace: 9:43)

Mile 2 – Finding my rhythm

The first mile is often the mile I struggle with most, no matter how long the race, so with that out of the way I started to settle into the run. It was lovely and shady among the leaves, and breathtakingly beautiful when the trees parted to reveal a stunning view across the countryside. I was still conscious not to increase my pace too much too early, and was happy to spend time enjoying the landscape and having the opportunity to run in the heart of the New Forest. (Pace: 9:54)

Mile 3 – First water stop

Although the sun was hiding behind the clouds for most of the race, I was definitely still pleased to see the ‘Drinks Ahead’ sign. Although I was wearing my hydration pack, it was the reminder I needed to keep pacing myself and have a few sips of lukewarm water. It was great to see so many smiling and encouraging marshals and volunteers all the way round the course; it really made a difference especially during the last few miles. 5 kilometres in, I was feeling positive. (Pace: 9:31)

Mile 4 – Watch out for ponies

Not long after the drinks station, the group of runners I was following turned a corner to see a cluster of New Forest ponies standing right in the middle of the course, not at all fazed by the hundreds of runners passing them. We kept a wide berth and a few people stopped to take pictures. It was great to feel so immersed in nature and local wildlife after doing most of my recent running along busy roads. (Pace: 9:37)

Mile 5 – Keep smiling

Almost halfway around the course I was still feeling relaxed and on track with my pacing. I felt that with each mile I was getting faster and stronger and the middle few miles were my favourite section of the race. I made sure to keep smiling, a trick I practised in my recent half marathon, both to keep my mood lifted and to thank the supporters and marshals dotted around the course. (Pace: 9:17)

Mile 6 – Over halfway there

Past the halfway point and closing in on the 10k mark, the group I was running behind started to spread out further away from me, but I didn’t mind. It felt so peaceful running along the gravelly tracks in amongst the shade of the trees. There were a few gentle inclines around this section of the race, but no hugely steep climbs, although I was still glad to reach the occasional downhill stretch! (Pace: 9:25)

Mile 7 – Starting to struggle

Once I got past the 10k stage, I felt like I hit a mental block. 10k is a distance I feel particularly comfortable with, and although it’s not that long since I ran a half marathon, suddenly running another 4 miles felt so far from being accomplished. I knew I hadn’t done enough proper training prior to this race, but I had done a 7-mile training run, so I talked myself into carrying on running until I reached that same distance, and looking back, I am quietly impressed with my pace for this mile, despite my legs starting to feel heavy and sluggish. (Pace: 9:11)

Mile 8 – Run, walk, drink

I made it just beyond seven miles and decided to have a short walking break along with a few more sips of water before hopefully getting back into the groove and running the last few miles more consistently. I walked briskly for a couple of hundred metres and then convinced myself to get running again, just as someone called out to me that I was doing a great job. It was exactly the motivation I needed. (Pace: 10:21)

Mile 9 – Keep going

With two miles to go I was still feeling like the finish line was far beyond my grasp. This was the mile I struggled with the most. I started using a few tricks I had learned from reading other articles and blogs for that stage in a race where the motivation and adrenaline drop. First, I started repeating the mantra ‘Keep going’ in my mind in time with my footsteps, which worked well for a while. Later, I started choosing trees in the distance and telling myself that if I ran to those particular markers, or until the next high-vis jacket clad marshal came into view, I could slow down and walk a few steps before persevering to the next visual target. (Pace: 11:16)

Mile 10 – Sprint finish

Suddenly there was just one mile to go, and the frequency of marshals and supporters increased dramatically. This was the motivation I needed to try and run as much as I could for the final stretch of the race. Looking back I think I could have picked up the pace even further here, as I had regained some energy from my walking breaks and mid-run energy ball. In future, I will strive to remember the saying that your mind gives up long before your legs, as I think my mental strength to simply keep running was lacking that day. The finish line was closer than I anticipated as I rounded the final corner, so I sprinted what was left of that 10-mile race and spotted my parents cheering me on in the crowd. I had done it! (Pace: 10:14)

Having completed my first 10-mile race just within my adjusted goal time of one hour forty minutes, reflecting my recent drop in fitness and lack of regimented training, I know that I will be back to try and break 90 minutes at another race of the same distance in the (hopefully) near future! (Official chip time: 01:38:54)

My next race will be the Royal Parks Half in October, which I’m running on behalf of The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – if you would like to support me and this amazing charity, or simply find out more about their mission to save orphaned elephants, please click the links to read Runner with a cause… or visit my Just Giving page.

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