The Marriotts Way 10k is now 9 days away, and I am nervous.

On Wednesday night I set off on only my second full 10k training run ever. It was getting dark as we’d set off late. I was off on my normal route, then planning to run round a nearby village with lit roads as it would be dark for the last 3 or 4k.

I used a high intensity hour run track from Audiofuel to try and pace myself as I’m still finding keeping a steady pace difficult (I’ll review the Audiofuel tracks later). The first 5k passed like a breeze really. I kept a fairly steady pace with each half mile being whispered in my ear by the Nike + lady at the same average pace. I felt pretty fine, then just after finishing that first 5k my brain started to gang up on me.

The Marriotts Way 10k states no headphones are allowed in the rules, so even though I only ever wear one and keep the volume low I will be forced to be headphoneless. This means no carefully constructed 160-180bpm running list. No Zombies. No Audiofuel telling me how great I’m doing and shouting “feet to the beat”. No nice Nike + lady telling me when every half mile has finished.

“You’ll never be able to do this without the music to keep your pace” muttered my own brain. By the time I’d got to around the 4 mile mark I was obsessing about how on earth I was going to keep a steady pace with no music. I just knew I’d head out too fast, burn out before I’d even gone a mile and be unable to recover properly. Maybe I could find an app that would vibrate at 170bpm? Would it be rude to have the beat play out loud with no headphones? I must have this or I’ll never make it.

As I kept running my average pace started to drop. “there’s no way you’ll do this in under an hour” stated the voice in my head. “This feels really hard doesn’t it? And it’s a whole 30 seconds a mile slower than race pace”. “Look how much slower you go on the hills, what if there are a lot of hills, you’ll never even finish”

By the time I’d finished the 10k I was about ready to cry, and certainly not feeling strong, confident and capable of hitting my goals. So what I need to know is, how do I silence the negative little voices?

In the grand scheme of things it’s unimportant. I’m not aiming to win anything, all the goals I’ve set are purely my own. It’s not taking over my life, but I can’t help but think that spending 40 minutes telling yourself you’re really bad a something WHILE YOU’RE ACTUALLY DOING IT, is probably not the best performance enhancer.

My plan? To run another 10k on Saturday at slightly slower than race pace, and to do it without music. Hopefully I’ll do fine and it will kick my negative brain into touch.

If not I’ve researched some techniques to try and shut my own brain up.

When the little voice starts up again I can focus on the “now”. Think about my feet hitting the trail, focus on my posture, how my body feels and how it feels to be out, running.

Apparently another technique is to focus entirely on task, repeating a word like “smooth” to yourself over and over again, or stealing a technique from Paula Radcliffe who counts to help her keep focus.

Or there’s always the classic CBT technique of twanging a rubber band.

It’s easy to be positive for someone else, to shout them encouragement, tell them they’re fab, that you have every confidence in them and that you know they can do it. It’s not so easy to say it to yourself when it’s your own brain trying to shout you down. I try to remind myself of how far I’ve come, that 4 months ago I couldn’t even keep running for a full 30 minutes at any pace and now I can DEFINITELY run a 10k, even if it’s slower than I’d like. I’ve tried reminding myself that I’ve already run 5ks at my target race pace, so I just need to work on keeping it up for longer. But my brain has an answer for everything.

Or maybe the little voice is right, maybe I really can’t do it.