Last week I posted my race strategy for the 10K I ran yesterday. This was my first 10K race since 1998, so it has been a while since I’ve raced this distance. I was hoping to break 39 minutes, but the one thing I didn’t account for in my strategy was the hilly course, which was more than I bargained for. I assumed that the course would be relatively flat since it was in central Tokyo, but I was sadly mistaken. The race entails circling two times around the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds, with each loop approximately 5K. Not having run the loop before, I wasn’t prepared for the 1 mile uphill climb starting just after mile 2 and again for the final mile. I probably started a little too fast since the first kilometer of the race starts on a downhill slope — I was hoping I could bank some time for the uphill portion, which may have been a mistake because the momentum of the downhill carried over to the flat portion of the course and when the long hill arrived at around mile 2, I knew I wasn’t going to maintain the current pace about halfway up the hill. I clocked a 19:18 for the first 5K loop.
On the second loop, when the downhill portion arrived again, I was winded from the uphill climb that I wasn’t able to bank any time. Mentally, I just couldn’t get that long hill out of my mind and I knew I’d have to run up it again for the last mile, so my focus was a bit thrown off. But I was able to muster some strength and push through kilometers 6, 7, and 8 at a sub 4:00/km pace. Then the dreaded long hill appeared again and as much as I tried pushing through the pain, my lungs and legs wouldn’t give me anymore, thus my pace slowed considerably the last two kilometers. When I finally reached the top of the hill and saw the finish line, I found a second wind to be able to sprint the last 100 meters – it’s always a mystery to me how you always find the untapped reserve when the finish line finally comes into view. For the second 5K loop, I clocked a 20:10, almost a full minute slower than the first 5K loop, which indicates that I probably started too fast.
My final time was 39:28. Although I was hoping for a sub-39 minute race, considering the course difficulty, I was happy with the time and was able to achieve my ‘C’ goal, which was to run sub-40 minutes. This was also a personal record too. I came in 12th place overall (11th for men).
In terms of the other parts of my strategy regarding tapering, nutrition, and rest and recovery leading up to the race, I felt I did a good job in this area since I felt well rested and in good condition at the start of the race. As far as the race day strategy, well, the lesson learned here is that I need to assess the course layout first, then determine a more realistic pacing strategy because my pacing plan assumed a fairly flat course and this clearly was a wrong assumption, and as a result, I probably did not run the optimal race.
Below are my 1K splits:
1K – 3:42 (5:58/mile pace) – Downhill
2K – 3:49 (6:09/mile pace) – Flat
3K – 3:48 (6:07/mile pace) – Flat
4K – 3:57 (6:21/mile pace) – Long Hill
5K – 4:02 (6:30/mile pace) – Long Hill
6K – 3:55 (6:18/mile pace) – Downhill
7K – 3:55 (6:19/mile pace) – Flat
8K – 3:57 (6:22/mile pace) – Flat
9K – 4:17 (6:53/mile pace) – Long Hill
10K – 4:01 (6:45/mile pace) – Long Hill
Weather: Rain, 60s, high humidity, 10 – 15 mph winds. Not ideal conditions, but not bad either.
The race itself was a nice opportunity to run around a major Tokyo landmark. The organization of the race was okay, not very formal and fairly small, but they do have some great prizes for the top 10 runners. There were probably 300 or 400 runners for the 10K. We ran on the sidewalk, which were a few meters wide (although there were some narrower portions and sharp turns), and we had to dodge pedestrians and other joggers who were not in the race, but were are also using the course – so there were points where we had to slow down for a few seconds.
I would recommend the race if you would like the experience of running around the historical Imperial Palace and you aren’t looking for a PR. It was an enjoyable time and I’ll probably try it again next year.