Why One Race Changed My Perception of 10Ks

Hate a certain race distance? Maybe you just haven't given it enough of a chance to woo you.

Photo: Lester Cacho

I’m not usually one to run a race on a whim; I need time to freak out and calm down and prepare for such endeavors. But as of late, I’ve been dabbling in last-minute signups—first with a trail 20K, then with a road 10K this past Saturday. I’ve never been fond of the second distance, for the same kind of reasons why I’ve never loved the 800 meters. Too long to go hard from the gun, too short to hold out for the right moment. So it’s no surprise that my last two 10Ks—the Encinitas Turkey Trot and the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio 10K—definitely shocked me when I was able to run them fairly hard without collapsing. The second race in Texas, though, full shifted my view on the distance. And here’s why:

  1. The spectators. The 10K goes by quickly, which means spectators can roll out of bed and cheer for a bit without missing too much of the running crowd. It didn’t hurt that this particular race started at 9 a.m., which was a more reasonable hour for those who enjoy sleeping in on a Saturday morning. San Antonio fans came out in waves to cheer for runners; I don’t think I’ve smiled so much while running through many different neighborhoods before.
  2. The challenge. This used to be what turned me off from the distance—I just couldn’t figure out how to race the darn thing. I’m still no expert, but there’s now this strange sense of comfort that comes from the uncomfortable parts of running a fast 6.2 miles. I felt fatigued, by my fitness kicked in just enough to give the legs one last jolt after every mile marker, where I vowed was my last at that pace.
  3. The fact that it’s not a half marathon. I’ve raced more than 20 half marathons, and I’ve enjoyed probably 18 of them. But there’s something that manifests itself during a 10K that doesn’t during the longer distances. Dare I say, the 10K is actually more fun to run than a half? Don’t tell anyone.
  4. The splits. I never run even mile times. Never. I suck at it. I’m better than I was, but I’m still the one who goes out too hard or saves too much and blows up in the middle from trying to make up for lost time. But the 10K? Save for some slowing on the uphills, I hovered around the same exact split the entire time. It lends a certain rush when you know you’re running consistent (and for me, it was a great confidence booster heading into some longer tempos for marathon training).
  5. The event. I give exclusive kudos to the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll event for putting on an always fun time. Pump-up jams at the start mesh well with the drive and amped-up attitude you need in order to succeed at a 10K, so I went off with a bang as top-40 tunes were at my back. It also didn’t hurt to get to start with corral MEB and get an added zing of celeb status.