Norway’s Fastest 10k Race: An Attempt at Sub-40

Hytteplanmila is one of the most popular 10k races in Norway, and many runners plan on ending their running season with new PRs in this race. The 2017 edition took place on October 21st, ad comprised more than 2,000 runners. I ran the race, aiming to set a new PR, and this is my report.

As soon as I started running this year, I set my sights on a sub-40 10k, which would be a substantial improvement on my current 10k PR from 2013. That one stood at 46:15. As my training progressed, running a decent half marathon took precedence, but this goal was always in the back of my mind. This race is sort of an unofficial season ender for my local running group. They’ve been the largest team (most runners) for a few years running, and they arrange a bus for the trip, and that’s how I ended up running this particular 10k. As it turns out, it’s a very popular race, and loads of people go here to finish off the season, in what is branded as the fastest 10k in Norway.

Like I mentioned, I went up there on a bus together with loads of other people from my local running group. As an aside, it’s pretty cool to be in the company of other runners and talk about running for more than two minutes without people signing out of the conversation. Will do again! We got stuck in traffic on the way up there because of an accident, and this resulted in the start being postponed by 30 minutes. I was kind of annoyed because the worst part of a race to me is the waiting before it begins. Anyways, I got changed when we got there, hit the roads for some easy kilometres to warm up, and finished getting ready with a couple of strides to get my HR up.

The field was absolutely packed at the start, and there are a lot of fast runners. I was confident of going below 40, and possibly even 39, so I placed myself around 10 meters ahead of the 40-minute pacer. This was the first time I ever heard an actual gun go off in a race, and it spooked me a bit! Anyways, we were off and I was absolutely jammed shut in the middle of the field. I knew that there were many quick runners here, though, and that I would gain nothing from trying to pass people at this point, so I just went with the flow. At around 500 meters or so, the field loosened up a bit, and I just tried to find my rhythm. As my first KM split popped up, though, I realised that I had been taken by the occasion (again!), because it went by in a way-too-fast 3:35. Oh well, it’s a downhill KM, so let’s just assume I can take that. I needed my splits to average at around 3:55 to finish under 39 minutes.

I really didn’t want to blow up though, so I made a conscious effort to slow down at this point. It went OK, and I saw quite a few people pass me during the second and mostly flat KM. It went by in 3:44. Still a little fast, but I took that buffer and ran with it into the inclines of the third kilometre, where I slowed down further. I knew that if I went too hard here, I would blow up, so when I saw that the third split was 4:04, that was alright. Another 500 meters of slight climbing at around the same pace, and I was ready to turn up the engine a bit. At this point, it was obvious that a lot of people had overextended themselves because I couldn’t keep count of how many I passed here. The fourth kilometre went by in 3:55, right on pace, and I knew that the easiest stretch of the race was coming up the next two kilometres.

I tried to find a nice and steady pace, but I kept having to pass people during this stretch. Sometimes I would try to settle behind a back only to discover that the person was going a bit too slow, so I had to accelerate again. I think this stop-and-go act here probably made this stretch cost a bit more than it should have. Still, my splits for kilometres five and six were 3:40 and 3:48, so more or less according to plan.

When laying out my race plan, I knew that if I passed 6km before 23:15, sub-39 was on. Checking my watch while I passed the marker, and seeing it was just below 23 minutes, made me happy. And likely a bit complacent, too. The hardest and least inspiring part of the race was coming up, and knowing that my stretch goal was probably in the bag already, I just kinda shored it up at this point. I searched for someone going at around 3:50 pace to try and hold on to, but every back I found ended up going a bit too slow, and those that passed me seemed to go way too fast. So I sorta drifted around these three kilometres, feeling a bit uncomfortable, but at the same time knowing that I probably had a tiny bit more to give. Anyways, my splits for kilometres 7-9 were 3:54, 3:58 and 3:52.

The final kilometre was a hoot. Markers every 100 meters, and I accelerated slightly and felt pretty good. But, I knew that the final 200 meters consisted of a pretty steep hill, and didn’t want to blow up there. So, for some reason I let my pace slip at around 500 meters, thinking I’d rest myself into the hill. Why!? Thankfully, one of the other runners in my club passed me at around 300 meters before the goal line, and that gave me a kick up the backside, and I sped up and passed him again. Unfortunately, I kinda overreached during the first half of the final climb. He passed me again midways through the climb, but I held on to his back and passed the finish line right after him for a final split of 3:47, and official finish time of 38:31.

In other words, a nice 7 minute and 44 second improvement of my PR, and well below my initial goal of sub-40. I’ll take it! I could probably have shaved a couple of more seconds from my time with a bit more racing experience and optimal pacing. But at the end of the day, this was pretty damned close to what I was capable of on the day, and I gotta be happy with that.

Taking a few days off now to let every niggle that’s been bothering me heal, before starting an 18-week base building phase ahead of next season. I’ve more or less set my goals for 2018, and when it comes to the 10k, my aim is to go sub-37. That means taking another minute and a half off of my PR. Doable? I don’t know, but I’ll give it a shot!

This race report was originally published over at r/artc, a great running community that has been invaluable to me as I’ve tried to progress as a runner.

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