Following the recent club interval sessions, which were designed with the intention of improving our 5km and 10km times, I wanted to put in a best effort 5km race to gauge my improvement over recent weeks. I also wanted to see where I was at in terms of my half marathon pace training. I appreciate they are not entirely accurate but, using a race calculator, my goal of a sub-1:40 half marathon would equate to a 5km finish of 21:46. Realistically, I’m aware that I need to get this closer to 21:00, potentially even sub-21:00. Today though, my ultimate goal was for a 21:30, with anything under my previous PB of 21:52 being my fallback.
I felt I had prepared for the effort sufficiently. In recent weeks I have been running parkruns with a friend (Joe), successfully achieving two consecutive PB’s for him of just over 24:00 and then just over 23:00. They came off the back of some big Friday runs, with the latter coming a day after a 15.6 mile endurance run. The Saturday was rough, and I honestly don’t think I could have run any faster than the 23:00.
This week however, I did my distance run on the Thursday and, at 7 miles, it wasn’t even particularly long. Ok, so I could have tapered a bit more and not done a distance run at all, but with the Northampton half coming up, I couldn’t really afford that.
Unlike some of the other local parkruns, Rugby is half paved path, half ‘light trail’ with a particularly tricky downhill section should the weather be too wet. I’ve travelled down a section of it before without the use of my feet, which is fine provided I slide quicker than I could run. With the amount of overnight rain, there was potential for coming unstuck in my effort. In truth though, conditions were perfect and the going was soft, but certainly good enough to be pushing hard without worrying about losing your footing.
So good preparation, and good conditions…
Joe was there again, although he was aware of the fact that I wouldn’t be pacing him this time, and would be running my own race. He decided that he would try to keep up for as long as possible before dropping back when he found the pace to be too quick. Given the distance, I had my watch set to kilometers, in the knowledge that anything under 4:22/km would equate to a PB, with 4:18/km resulting in a 21:30.
If you haven’t run at Rugby parkrun before, there is a considerable hill at the beginning of the second mile, and then again with around half a mile to go (it’s a two and a bit lap course, with the first lap being slightly longer). With this in mind, I planned to start quicker than my target pace in a bid to make up some time, knowing that I would lose some on the hill. Starting from the front, I did exactly that as we began the mini lap of the path section. We got maybe a quarter of a mile round when Joe said, from my right shoulder “mate, this is a 6:15.” I knew it was quick, but I didn’t really want to look at my watch, not this early on anyway. A quick glance down showed a first half km pace of 3:50, which is sub-20 pace. I knew that wouldn’t be sustainable but, again, I wanted some time in the bank. I did however, slow down slightly.
My watch buzzed for the end of the first kilometer and I was 19 seconds ahead of my PB, 4:03. The hill at the end of the second was tough, but I kept quick feet and short strides to get up it with some energy left, putting my foot down at the top, overtaking a number of other runners in the process. With the second km at 4:31, I was still ahead of time, and on target for my goal.
The third kilometer is fairly flat, as you navigate around the perimeter of the field before returning to the paved section to begin lap 2. This is where Joe started to fade, but a 4:18 kept me on track. I started to run out of steam though, and instead of putting in a big fourth km before the hill and final run-in, I could only muster a 4:24.
I turned the hairpin corner in ‘the wilderness section’ to be faced with the final obstacle. Two choices, I thought. Either push hard and see what happened or just make it to the top and then give it all I had for what was left. In the end, it wasn’t really much of a choice, as I struggled up the hill 7 seconds slower than lap 1.
I did give it everything I had left for the final 800m, but it wasn’t enough as I crossed the line in 21:57 (22:01 official time). It wasn’t quite as quick as the Wolverhampton parkrun that I did, but that was a much easier course. It was also a 2 minute PB for Rugby so, all in all, I am very happy with my time. Joe managed another 30 second PB, so he was happy too, even if he did feel that we started too fast.
So perfect conditions, an almost perfect preparation and a near-PB on a difficult course I am more than happy with. A good way to start a Saturday.
Thanks to Silviu Enache for the photo