40 By 40 · Race Recap

How I Trained For And Ran A Sub-60 10K

Around 9km, Zurika and Ditiro had pushed ahead so I had a target to chase. Gape remained by my side with the tough job of making sure I kept up. We had just battled a stiff wind and an unexpected incline that had thrown me slightly off target pace. For the first time that morning doubt had crept in. I kept looking down at my watch almost willing it to slow down. I was getting too close to that hour-mark. Gape said to me, “It’s all or nothing now”. In despair I said, “I have NOTHING”. His quick response, “You have ALL!” I was so exhausted but those words made me dig deep. I was just too close to lose it all now. I hadn’t come for 1:01 or 1:02. I had come for SUB-60. And then it happened, my watch finally buzzed. I looked down at my trusty Garmin and up flashed “New Record”. And then, the official time: 59:28. It was done. It was GOLD.

Road To 59:28

On the 1st of May, I completed a mentally exhausting 40-day running streak, made harder by the COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting outdoor running. So I was looking to take it easy. I figured a 10K Training Plan with a few easy runs and some speedwork was just what I needed. Running a Sub-60 10K was part of my #40By40 Challenge so with no races on the horizon this was the perfect time to do it. As luck would have it, a free training program from Fitness From Africa, a coaching company in South Africa, popped up on my Facebook feed. I immediately signed up and the following day Coach Marcel contacted me with a program starting Monday 4th of May. The first two weeks were as I had thought they would be – a few short and easy runs. But on the Sunday before the start of Week 3, I looked at the plan and thought, “Coach Marcel has uploaded the wrong program for me”. I sent him a carefully worded WhatsApp seeking some clarification. His response surprised me even more. This was the plan. That was the moment I realised training for a Sub-60 10K was serious business. That week I ran 53.8km.

Although a lot harder than I had anticipated (given my misconceptions about 10K training), I thoroughly enjoyed the program. It was a 5-run/week program which included a variety of easy and intense runs, including speed sessions, a longish mid-week run (12K) and two medium to long runs over the weekend (between 12-18K). In Week 4, I realised it was too hard for me to run 5 days with work and family commitments so for most weeks I only managed 4 days. I loved the speed work which varied every week and I looked forward to my long runs where I got to explore the city. One day I was only supposed to do 18K but ended up with 20K which felt amazing. I also had 3 time trials in the 10 week period. The first was a 3K Time Trial in Week 5 where I managed a time of 17:27 (5:49 pace). The second was a 5K Time Trial in Week 8 where I achieved a new 1:28 min PB, 28:24 (5:39 pace). This was a massive confidence boost two weeks from my race. In Week 9, I did my final 3K time trial in 16:38 (5:32 pace). I knew I was ready.

12 July 2020. After 10 weeks, 44.5 hours, 382.1 km of training, the day had come for a sub-60 10K. It was extremely cold, 2°C (feels of -1°C) when we arrived at Airport Junction at 07:15. Fortunately, the strong 24km/h wind speeds of the day before had subsided. Inspired by Kipchoge, I had organised an official pace team, Ditiro and Gape to guide me to the end. And of course my fabulous girl squad, Polelo, Elisa and Zurika came out to support me.

Most of us hadn’t seen each other since pre-lockdown in March so it was a joyful reunion if a bit strange with some attempt at social distancing and vigorous elbow greetings. I then gave a few instructions to the pace team, 1) we don’t pause the watch even if there is an obstruction and 2) they must do all they can to prevent such obstructions! We headed to the Airport Road with a 2km slow jog followed by 4 X 80m strides as our warm up. From the onset, our strategy was to keep Ditiro upfront to set the pace and Gape would run at my pace to keep me going. After starting me off, the girls focused on their workouts with the promise to be there at the end.

The first 5 km were smooth-sailing. My legs felt strong and I managed to stay exactly on target pace, 5:57/ 5:54/ 5:54/ 5:55/ 5:57. But even then, it was never lost on me how daunting this task was and as we entered the Airport gate (around 4.5km into the run) I remember saying, “This is tough, huh?” We ran round the Airport Loop and as we were exiting, I spotted Zurika behind us. Her timing was perfect as the wind we thought we had avoided had returned. The team quickly formed a cocoon around me to break the wind. My breathing didn’t feel as rhythmic or as comfortable as it had for the first half and my current pace slipped past the 6min/km mark, at one stage reading, 6:17. I knew I had to step it up. My splits for 6 – 7km were 5:53 and 6:03.

Around 7km, Gape took my water bottle from Ditiro so he could push even further ahead. At this point, I suspect Gape knew it was going to be a tight finish. I felt it too. I was relieved to see my 8km split was 5:56. Zurika shot ahead while Ditiro remained within a reachable distance. But I was now panting and the ugly force that is self-doubt had entered the fray. Probably sensing this, Gape reminded me that I was stronger than I thought and I had to keep going. When he said, “Stop looking at your watch. Just run!” – I momentarily thought, “Does he think I’ve lost it?” My pace for 9km was my slowest at 6:08 but with Gape’s reminder that I had ALL, I surged ahead, letting out a few mighty roars. We had an altercation with some cars at a small intersection. The guys tried their best to stop cars from turning. But the drivers were having none of it, so we ran in the middle of the road to avoid them. I had worked too hard for this. I was too close for it to slip away now. This was mine. The last km was my fastest, 5:48 and with 99% run in the red zone (average heart rate: 172bpm), I knew I had truly given it my all.

We caught up with Zurika and as the boys jogged ahead, we ran the last 2km to the parking lot where Elisa and Polelo were waiting. There were screams, high-fives and some illegal hugging. Everyone was beaming from ear to ear. My victory was theirs. I was so unbelievably happy they were all there. I surprised each of them with a small Thank You gift box, each containing a gluten free carrot cupcake baked by Zurika and sprinkled with gold to mark the occasion! After we parted ways, Ditiro and I drove to Mugg n Bean for some cappuccinos. As I waited for him in the car, I cried. It was all just so overwhelming. I thought about everything, all the running, where I had started in 2017 and how far I had come. I thought about COVID-19 and how I had kept running through it all. I thought about how running has kept me sane for the hardest 12 months of my life. I thought about my mum and imagined her smiling and telling me how proud she was.

Thank you to Coach Marcel for a brilliant and supportive 10 week plan that challenged me whilst building my confidence. Thank you to my awesome pace team and girl squad who believed I could do it even before I did. Thank you to my amazing friends and family as well as the incredible running community who’ve never wavered in their encouragement and support. Thank you to my husband who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly behind the scenes! And above all, thank you to my mum who always told me I could do anything I put my mind to.

Let me leave this here: All that stands between you and your dreams is hard work, dedication, consistent effort, a taste of failure and an unparalleled belief in yourself that it can and will be done. Never underestimate the power you have to achieve your dreams. 

Here is to chasing your 59:28!

I’m joining two amazing runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up, the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!

40 thoughts on “How I Trained For And Ran A Sub-60 10K

  1. I had tears in my eyes while reading this, Shathiso. Amazing, truly amazing.

    CONGRATULATIONS!! To you and your incredible Kipchoge-Pacing-Team!

    I love that you succeeded. I love that your friends helped you. I love that before photo with your team. I love your little carrot cake surprise box at the end.

    Your heart rate chart shows that you gave it your everything. I don’t think I could run for an hour in Zone 5. You did great!

    Now is the time for some well-deserved rest. And then to think about the next goals. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Catrina! My husband was shocked about that average heart rate, as was I! And I could truly say by that alone, I gave it everything! It was such a fun and exciting day. And I am so glad I got it done. I felt I had crossed some kind of barrier and was over the moon, I still am. I’ve taken the week off but after having run non-stop since the beginning of the year, it feels so strange. Training for a 2:15 Half Marathon starts on Monday. I’m looking forward to it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was holding my breath throughout this amazing read, and I knew the outcome🤗you are I credible my friend, and what an Honour to share this day with you!!!
    Here is to You ,Your Mom and many more amazing runs!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing work and a great outcome – also beautifully written. I’m so pleased for you! It shows that we never know what we’re capable of (I think I’m still riding high from running 50k this time last year!) and I love all the support you’ve had along the way and had on the day. HOORAY!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shathiso, you are such an inspiration. Congratulations on your big accomplishment! I think 10Ks are the hardest distance to run well and you did it! It sounds like your support team was awesome. I loved Gape’s response when you started to doubt yourself: “You have ALL”! It gave me goosebumps just reading about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I never imagined 10K training would be this hard. I found it harder than Half or Marathon training! I am so grateful for my support team and Gape knew exactly what to say especially towards the end when I thought I had lost it!

      Like

  5. Such an awesome job and congratulations! I also love how this post is written as well.
    I’ve been chasing a sub-60 minute 10K since I started running, lol. I haven’t tried to run for PRs for a while but that could be a good 2021 goal!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was saying to Zenaida that once I could run a 10K, I immediately switched my focus to running longer distances. So even when I did 10K races it was always part of a longer distance training plan. This was really the first time I actually trained for a 10K with the mindset to get a sub-60 and I think that’s what’s needed – specifically training for the 10K without it forming part of a longer distance plan. So I have 100% confidence that you can achieve that goal. Will be supporting you all the way! I know you’ve got this.

      Like

  6. Such an amazing story!!!!!! Well done, YOU! It has been so inspiring following you on this journey, and this victory is so well-earned 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have goosebumps and chills! I am so proud of you! What a triumph!

    I also love how you are dressed so brightly, and everyone else is in all black. It really highlights your victory! Way to go!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Another HUGE congratulations for you! I am so happy and proud of you. You’ve inspired me to not only train for a PR but to also train for a sub-60 as well.

    Wow on that heart rate. I cannot imagine running in that zone for about an hour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My husband looked at that heart rate afterwards and said “I don’t think your doctor would approve!” Go for it Zenaida! I found that once I could run a 10K, I immediately switched focus to running Half Marathons and pushing for longer distances. So even when I did 10K races it was always part of a longer distance training plan. So this was really the first time I specifically trained for a 10K and I think that’s what’s needed – focused and specific training on the 10K without the 10K being part of a bigger plan, if that makes sense! You’ve got this!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is so amazing! Congratulations! You really have been working so hard and its paid off. I love that you were able to accomplish such an awesome goal even without real races going on.

    Liked by 1 person

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