Of the eight races that make up the East Midlands Grand Prix Series, the Corby 5 was one of three that I didn’t take part in last year. I was therefore looking forward to this week’s race, particularly after missing both the Blisworth 5 and the Rugby 6 due to nursing my way back from injury.
Taking part was always going to pose an injury risk. 5 miles isn’t an easy distance to race, and this would be the first time that I had ran hard since the fateful Stratford Half Marathon almost a month ago. I decided to proceed regardless and, after around a mile warm up, lined myself up on the start line ready for the off.
It was quite a busy start, as all of the EMGP races tend to be. A lot of hustling for position and, with no time markers or chip timing, it’s difficult to position yourself correctly. Given the recent amount of running I had no real expectations of my impending performance, and so didn’t pay too much care to where I started.
As part of the warm up we jogged around the rather picturesque country park setting before heading out of the park and downhill to the start line. As we approached the start we could see the group already positioned, facing us. This meant that at least the first half mile would be uphill and, as the race finished inside the country park, we would have to take it on again at the end. My initial low expectations suddenly dropped further.
Last year, of the races that I did take part in, I finished each of the three 5 milers in around 37 minutes, a pace of 7:22 per mile. A year on and this pace is now not too far from my target half marathon pace, with 10k pace around 7:00 per mile. However, again, expectations were low.
As the race started and we set off up hill I actually felt quite good, dodging and weaving to move through the pack, although trying not to over exert. At the top of the hill I felt very different and quite out of breath already. The course then flattened off for the rest of the first mile as I regained composure and settled into a rhythm. The first mile came in at 7:22.
Following this came a long downhill section, lasting the whole of the second mile. At times it was so steep that I was almost stumbling into the next step. It was quite nice though and almost felt effortless. Just keep picking the knees up and let gravity do the rest – 6:49.
Mile three was almost entirely flat and uneventful. I did enjoy taking in some of the surrounding countryside though, whilst keeping out of the way of the occasional speeding car. One of the best aspects of the series is the courses. With the exception of Silverstone (and maybe Milton Keynes, although I didn’t do that one last year), they are all set on country lanes with attractive scenery. 7:18.
I was starting to get tired at this point, as my recent lack of hard miles began to take its toll. Despite starting relatively well, I started to fall off the pace as a short and sharp up and down brought the end of the fourth mile – 7:42.
I knew what was coming next, it was just a matter of when the incline would begin. I wasn’t kept waiting long before the climb began, and didn’t stop until entering the country park for the sprint finish. It was a tough hill, lasting almost the entire fifth mile and claimed the pace of many runners on the course, some even resorting to walking. I did take some satisfaction in stepping out and overtaking a number of other runners, but just didn’t have enough left to take on that final marker during the final few hundred metres.
The last mile came in at 7:57, giving me a finish time of 37:19, 20 seconds or so slower than my average 5 mile time from this time last year. Disappointing in a way but also impressive in a sense, particularly given the hot conditions too.
In terms of injuries, everything still seems to be working fine, so it looks like I’ve come through unscathed. My quads are quite tight, I imagine due to the steep downhill section, and I have a bit of soreness in my upper shin, but I believe this is unrelated to my previous shin injury and more muscle soreness.
The race did make me realise just how far off I am from the pace that I was at a couple of months ago, pre injury, and where I want to be in a couple of months time. My next main goal for the year is an autumn half, potentially Leicester in October, and if I want to be truly ready for that then the work needs to begin soon, to get back to where I want to be. With that in mind, I’m not sure how much benefit, aside from enjoyment of course, that I will get from competing in the rest of the series. I feel that my time would be better spent putting in some meaningful sessions as opposed to racing almost every week and carrying out easy and recovery runs in between.
I think I may dodge the rest of the series and divert attention to Leicester, getting back on track and hopefully achieving the seemingly elusive sub-1:40 goal.