Wolverhampton parkrun, October 13 2018.

I had run the Wolverhampton parkrun four weeks previously, coming in with a time of 22:18. However, the day before I did the longest run I had done since the turn of the year, a pre-work, pre-breakfast 14 miler, so I wasn’t expecting anything faster. This time though, I had executed a mini-taper leading in the weekend and was feeling far more confident about my chances.

There’s a question surrounding whether you really need to taper for a 5k. I’ve answered this previously with regards to a half marathon. Regardless of the distance, if you want to give it your best shot and go for a particular time then yes, you should always taper, with the length relative to the race distance.

So I had completed a 5k tune up session on the Tuesday previously (6 x 400m at goal pace) and then I did a nice and easy (and I mean easy) 4 miles on the Friday, so I turned up on the Saturday morning feeling ready, target time 21:30.

The start at Wolverhampton is quite a tough one. The start line is in the centre of West Park, in a large area next to a bandstand. It is therefore very wide, with the course turning onto a narrow path within 200m, which then leads onto the perimeter path, where you complete three full laps before returning next to the bandstand for the finish. The perimeter path is wide enough to not get bogged down, plenty of space for overtaking, but negotiating that first section is challenging.

Anyway, I knew that for 21:30 I would need km splits of 4:18. The first km came in at 4:15 but this was unfortunately as good as it got. From here my pace dropped, significantly so with splits of 4:31, 4:24, 4:29 and 4:27. West Park is tilted on an axis running from top left to bottom right, so half of each lap is downhill and the other half uphill (uphill towards the finish). That being said, it’s still a relatively flat course, although my watch did pick up an extra 14m of elevation gain compared to four weeks previously. What I’m saying is that there’s no excuse for my 22:08, just 10 seconds quicker than my effort on tired legs and 18 seconds slower than my “stake in the ground” Coventry parkrun from mid-August.

So in short, there’s quite a bit of work to be done if I want to achieve my goal of a sub-21 before the end of 2018. If it’s not a challenge though, then it wouldn’t be a goal!

I’m keen not to race too often, but I do (currently) have a number of opportunities leading up to Christmas where I can have a go at a 5k, including potentially another bash at Wolverhampton. My current all time PB is on that course earlier this year, a 21:16.

I’ve also been reading about specific 5k training, and consulting a number of available training plans that are out there. It may be to my detriment, but I don’t very often follow any particular training plan due to my own availability being flexible (or more inflexible) week-on-week. I do like the plans on The Running Bug (link in case you’re interested) so I try to take what I can from them, along with specific 5k sessions that I’ve found elsewhere. I’ll share my research at some point, when I get chance, as it’s interesting to discover.

Something that I’ve found I’ve been guilty of in the past, including recently, is aiming for a race goal but not correctly dedicating my training. Again, more on that in a later post.

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