July 10, 2018
I’m not really a runner.
I mean, I own two pairs of running shoes, road and trail, along with four pairs of running socks, and I have a regular Saturday morning date with a friend, where we run up the hill to the Castle in Ljubljana, and then around the trails in the forested area on top, and I’ll take road run of 30 minutes of so at the end of the workday one, two or no times a week, weather and mood permitting, but I don’t self-identify as a runner and I’m not very good, with much room for improvement. I just do it to stop getting worse.
That said, one event now has a fixed place in my calendar, the Ljubljana Marathon, which takes place each year at the end of October. It’s there I face an annual challenge, a reason to train and a way to know if I’m getting better or not, keeping off some of the ravages of time.
We’re talking about the 10k race, of course, because I’m often foolish but rarely insane, and I don’t see how a full marathon could be any good for my bones. My ideal distance is 5k, which I can do at a leisurely pace and without breaking a sweat (metaphorically speaking). Yes, 5k is indeed a “fun run”, so 10k is my distance challenge, one with the very achievable aim of doing in under an hour.
Photo: Wikimedia - Annniken CC by SA 4.0
I’ve run it twice, and both times have been tremendous fun, although both times I came in at just over an hour. My mistake was to relax, enjoy the day and just keep moving, rather than picking an athletic looking person, somewhat younger, in an easy-to-spot outfit, to set the pace. (The start is divided into sections for those planning to finish in under 40 minutes, under 45, under 50, and so on, making it easy, in theory, to find someone in your class to follow in this way. But I just listened to a podcast and put one foot in front of the other.)
Running is a solitary activity, and you train alone for the big day, and then it happens and you walk to the starting area in the morning, the streets filling up with people all heading the same way, already some noise from the centre. People are wearing their running clothes, race number pinned to their chest. Everyone knows what they’re here for and this is my tribe, a motley crew in the under one hour section, people who started running under doctor’s orders or due to some personal crisis, people who took up the sport late in life, people who are out to have fun.
In Ljubljana the band Strojmachine play live at the start, adding to the general party atmosphere, along with all the neon fabric, energy drinks and exposed skin, putting me in the mood of a vast, open-air and early morning rave, with everyone moving forward rather than up and down, on the spot.
After weeks of training on pavements and avoiding traffic lights, cyclists and pedestrians the main roads are now closed and we can run without fear of interruption. It’s intoxicating, and a lot of fun, and if you’re of moderate fitness you’ll complete the race in 75 minutes or less, leaving you the rest of the morning to enjoy (with the serious, 42k folk just arriving, about to do something I can’t imagine).
Photo: Wikimedia - Jeremy Segrott CC by SA 4.0
Enough with setting the scene: the key point here is that 10k is an achievable goal for most people, but if you want to do it for September 8 (in Maribor, a little over 8 weeks away at the time of writing) or October 28 (in Ljubljana, slightly more than 15 weeks), then you need to start getting ready now, either on your own or using one of the many X weeks to 10k guides that are online.
For example, Nike offers an incredibly complex eight-week training plan (PDF), while Runners World has a few simpler ones, designed for people training three, five or six or seven days a week, while this site has links to training schedules ranging from six to 16 weeks. These guides all look good, and will no doubt help a lot, but I tend to ignore them and just increase the time spent running so that I get closer to an hour by race day, intermingled with some trail runs and fartlek for cardio and fun.
With regard to Maribor, the 5 and 10k entrance fee is 10 euros until July 15, then 15 euros until August 15, then 20 euros until September 31. You can pay online here (Slovene and German). Turning to Ljubljana, you can register now here (Slovene and English), and the fee is 35 euros if before August 13, then 40 euros until September 28 (although note that only those registering by September 13 get the full package of T-shirt, backpack, etc).
Photo: Wikimedia - Annniken CC by SA 4,0
In short, if you’re a casual runner, or would like to be one, and are looking for some motivation to keep moving this summer, and a goal to work towards, then now’s the time to start planning your first 10k. The worst that happens is you get a poor personal best that you can easily beat next year with a little more focus.
See you at the start.