It’s been quite a busy few weeks recently. First of all, the new job didn’t quite work out as expected or as hoped, which unfortunately lead to me leaving after just a week in the job. Luckily, my previous employer accepted my request to return and I am now back working in Coventry. Less commuting time results in more time for running, and I believe I have found a semi-safe route where I can run the entire commute (more on that at a later date).

I’ve also been running occasionally with an old school friend (Joe), who originally got me into running. After four years or so away from running, he decided to run a half marathon with his brother in September. In preparation I ran a few parkruns with him over the summer, mainly pacing him through. His solo 5km times were around the 25 minute mark, but running together got him down to low 23’s, whilst chasing me when I was on a PB effort lead him to a PB of his own of a mid-22. He did the half marathon in just under 2 hours, which is more than respectable for a first half.

Since then he hasn’t really been running a great deal and jumped at my offer of running the Coventry parkrun together last weekend. Again, I paced him through to a mid-23 and I felt really good and fresh come the end. Joe didn’t. He’s got a 10km planned for January, which he is again running with his brother. His brother is aiming for a time of 45-48 minutes. Based on his recent training and that 5km time, I would say that 48 is certainly doable, but it would be a challenge. He’s also planning to run the Coventry half in March.

I’ve been suggesting to him for some time that he should join me in the club sessions on Tuesday evenings. He works in Birmingham and lives in Coventry so it’s understandably quite an effort to get to the sessions. Anyway, this week he managed to make it. A good 5 x 1km, plus 2 x 400m to give him a feel for what we do. To my surprise, and annoyance, he was very fast, faster than me in fact. For the first 2 km’s he was around 10 seconds behind my 4:07 ish pace. For the third and fourth one, he matched me at around the same pace. For the fifth and final one though, he took off in pursuit of the coach, who always leads this type of session by some distance. My PR for 1km was 3:58. For that final km he clocked a 3:48! Chasing him, I also clocked a PR of 3:53.

Moving on to the 400m, we completed these as a relay, with the two of us as a pair. I set of first and completed a 1:28. Joe followed that up with a 1:20! My second was a 1:27, which he matched with his final effort. I must admit, I didn’t expect him to be so fast in his first speed session, particularly given his race times. Although it was slightly demotivating that he was faster than me given our differences in training, I was genuinely happy that he did well and seemed to enjoy the session.

One thing he said at the end of last week’s parkrun was that it is “so much better running with me than without me.” He was referring to being able to run at a faster speed, and this got me thinking about my recent 5km efforts whilst running solo. He is right in that it’s easier to run faster with people running fast around you. The drop in pace experienced when running solo happens less often when others are running at a consistent pace around you. It’s just natural that you maintain pace to keep up with them. With that in mind, I’m not sure if my 5km solo ‘races’ are the best indication of my improvement. That being said, it is often difficult for me to get along to parkruns on Saturday mornings, so I just have to go with what I can.

This brings me on to today, and my final point of the post. The past few weeks have been especially busy as I have been working towards the final submission of my engineering degree course. This afternoon I delivered a presentation and by tomorrow I need to submit a 6,000 word dissertation (already submitted) which completes the degree. Five years of studying part time whilst working full time have come to a head and, as long as I haven’t failed this final module, I will come out of it with a first class degree in combined engineering. Elation and relief!

So I now have Saturdays back. For the time being at least, I am hoping to begin a masters degree in January, although time is running out to start that quick and it may actually be April. Anyway, having this Saturday off means I can complete my 20th parkrun. No one to pace this week, so a PB effort is on the cards…

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