How To Run A Great 10k: Tips from a British Legend

We called him a legend to his face, and we’re standing by it. Andy Vernon has been a titan of British distance running for over a decade with armfuls of domestic titles on the track and country, as well as multiple international medals. Let’s Get Running caught up with him as he prepared for the 2018 European Championships 10000m.

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As the championships approached, he outlined his holistic approach to preparation in the British Athletics camp in St. Moritz:

I’ve had some good sessions up here, good runs. Lots of hilly routes, getting strong; lot of gym work, getting strong. Covering all bases really.

Getting strong to withstand those last four laps of the 10k.

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I’m trying to do a bit more speedwork - some strides just to get my body running faster again, preparing for that last lap. I’ve got the fitness and I’ve got the strength to get to the last lap and it’s now just about: once you’re at the last lap, you need to be ready for it. I need to be able to get everything out and try and run at least a 55 second lap.

In keeping with this balanced approach, he demurred when we asked what his favourite session might be.

There’s no session that I really look forward to doing. The ones that you know you’re going to get a good stimulus out of, they’re probably tough sessions.

Indeed, Andy Vernon’s successful running career has been an object lesson in the benefits of consistently well thought out, tough training.

I think it has been: covering all bases. So doing bits of everything. Doing the sessions. Through the winter I do a lot of strength stuff - I do hill running, I do long reps, I do long runs, I do tempo running - so that builds up your strength. But then that’s coupled with doing things like plyometric stuff and hurdle walkovers for hip mobility, doing the gym stuff. I think it’s just the fact that I try to cover everything.

Of course, being in good shape is not in itself a guarantee of good results. Vernon’s consistent ability to get the best out of himself on race day has been remarkable.

I’m a strong runner. I’ve always been able to finish fairly well. I’m good at pace judgement, I’m very good at judging my own pace. (There are days when I have to sit off, when I know I’m having a bit of an off day, but still, that’s part of it, rather than going out and absolutely blowing up.) I feel like I always get within about 2% of the best I could get out of myself that day.

It’s clear that he possesses a rare clarity of thought that allows him to make good decisions, while also being intrinsically motivated to give his very best.

Thing is: Missed Opportunities. When you go to championships, you only get one chance to do it. You can’t rerun the race, it’s not like trying to run a qualifying time where if you miss it you can go to a race in two weeks time and have another shot. It’s like: you have one shot at this. And if you mess it up, you don’t get that opportunity again.

To a racer like Vernon, these big days are what it’s all about. Rather than a reason to feel stressed and under pressure, they’re a reason to get psyched. The reward is in touching distance.

You’ve got to bring your A game to the race. You know that there’s about 10 people who can come home with a medal, maybe even twelve… You know statistically three or four of those are going to have an off day, it’s just the way it goes. People over-train, people get over excited, people can’t handle the pressure. You’ve got to keep a cool head. Because I know I can win a medal, I go into a race like this a bit more excited. I’m not going to say I could definitely win the race in the last lap...

He ultimately finished in fifth place, and top Briton, in 28:16.90. Yet another impressive performance in a GB vest. Vernon plans to make his much anticipated debut at the marathon in 2019, and everything we’ve seen so far indicates he’ll be a formidable competitor over the longer distance. Watch out.