Can you go from the couch to 10km in 10 days? It's possible, but not pleasant

Three nights before the race, I'm woken by searing pain in my legs.

As I hobble to the bathroom sometime around midnight in desperate search of painkillers, all I can think about is developing a stress fracture in my shin.

I've got to call this whole thing off.

A week before, I'd agreed to run my first 10 kilometre race. The only problem was I hadn't run in more than two years and I'd never jogged more than a few kilometres in my life.

I was curious to know whether a person like me, someone with badly-behaved kneecaps and a tortured relationship with running, could become a natural at the sport.

What I didn't anticipate was the limits I'd push my body to over the short 10 days I had given myself to prepare.

Day one

The first day was easy enough. I had a session with running coach Paul Mackinnon, a former elite hockey player and Lululemon ambassador, who showed me how my flailing arms were getting in the way of a strong technique.

After a few pointers, Mackinnon photographs my progress and the results at the end of our one-hour session are nothing short of incredible.

Later that evening I go for a three-kilometre run, my first in years. I fly like I'm running on air. I feel elated.


On day three I decide to go for another run, this time a five-kilometre trot. It was easy enough, until my legs seized immediately afterward.

The pain barrier

I couldn't walk. I couldn't climb stairs – a massive inconvenience since I live in a third floor walk-up apartment.

Days four and five are marked with horrendous pain in my legs. I start dosing on painkillers and magnesium, and spending a ridiculous amount of time on a foam roller.

On day six I feel marginally better before running 20 metres for a tram which heralds the return of my shin splits. If I can't run for a tram, how on earth can I run 10 kilometres?

On day seven, just three days out from the race, I decide to go for another run; a three-kilometre amble. I'm feeling very unprepared. I don't think I have this race in me.

Still, I run my fastest time yet, shaving 30 seconds off my original run time. But when I stop running I'm immediately struck down with shooting pain in my shins and feet. Each step I take causes me immense pain.

After a night with little sleep, I see a sports massage therapist. My diagnosis? Severe shin splints, and while I'll be okay on race day, I'm on my way to a stress fracture.

I'm fit but my body isn't used to the movement of running, Mackinnon also tells me. I spend the next two days stretching and foam rolling and praying.

Race day

Fast forward to Run Melbourne and I've done all I can. My only aim is to run the whole 10 kilometres without walking.

The first five kilometres pass and I'm okay. I'm even overtaking people. I get to eight kilometres and I can feel the burning in my chest and the blisters forming on my feet. But I'm so close.

At nine kilometres, a hill forms in front of me combined with a vicious head wind. All I can think about is my friends at the finish line, willing me on.

I sprint the last 200 metres and I'm done in 59:05. Less than an hour and I'm still in one piece.

Hell and back

So is it possible to train for a 10 kilometre run in just 10 days? Yes, with an army of expert help. But it's not advisable.

I've put my body through hell and back over the past week and have somehow still emerged with a newfound passion for running.

Taking part in Run Melbourne and getting that 10 kilometre medal is one of my greatest achievements. 

This definitely won't be my last race, just don't ask me to do it in 10 days.

This journalist was a guest of Lululemon and Run Melbourne.