I have been doing parkrun most Saturday mornings for the last couple of months, but parkrun isn’t a race and I don’t treat it as a race. It is usually a tempo, a hard effort, but measured, I am not fighting for position and I am not pushing for the line. It is a good way of measuring my fitness and enjoying some faster running with a nice sociable atmosphere and without hurting myself too much.
I’ve not raced for a couple of months and March was the last time I was racing with any sort of regularity. Racing hurts and that mentality of wilfully hurting yourself to achieve your goals can take a bit of getting used to. Saturday, I raced.
My fellow Rochdale Harrier Jon is running really well at the moment, having run a substantial 10k PB of 35:02 the previous weekend he was keen to find a fast 5k to attack his 5k PB on. For this reason, instead of the usual early start to get to a parkrun somewhere in Greater Manchester that we had not done before, Jon, Brian and myself found ourselves heading along the M62 towards Liverpool, for a slightly more civilised start time of 10am.
The race was the Alder Hey Halewood 5k, organised by Knowsley Harriers. They put the race on monthly and it is free to enter, although they take donations for the Alder Hey Hospital Charity, which we were more than happy to give. I hadn’t slept well and my stomach was griping a bit, I wasn’t really feeling much like racing, but after a trip to the toilet, a long warm up and another trip to the toilet, I was feeling a bit better.
The course was pretty flat, had a couple of turns near the start and a one hundred and eighty degree turn at half way, it should be fairly fast, without being super-fast. We got talking to a guy from Blackburn, who wasn’t running due to plantar fasciitis, but was there supporting his girlfriend. She had run 17:40 for 5k in the Summer, but had not run hard for a few months due to injury. He had a question me and Brian, would either of us be running sub-19 minutes? Obviously looking for a pace gauge. Not today was the answer.
I lined up a couple of rows from the front, I didn’t really know the quality of the field, but I made a fairly quick judgement, I probably wouldn’t be worrying the top ten, but there were plenty runners slower than me as well. We started and there was a bit of a rush, as there always is, two turns and a couple of nudges as people found their pace and some space and we were on the straight that would carry on for one and a half miles to the turnaround point.
At half a mile I could see the leaders and had a small group just in front of me, including the first three ladies, I felt they were going just a little bit too fast to hold on to. It was feeling quite hard, my cold was making my nose run and my breathing felt a bit laboured, but my pace was OK, it was time to just get my head down and try and maintain.
The third of the ladies in front was starting to fall off the back of the group and I was catching her, by the mile mark I had caught and passed her. The second mile was harder than the first, I probably let my focus slip and eased off a little, there was nothing physically slowing me down, just my brain telling me to make things a little easier. The last mile usually gives a bit of a mental boost and I refocused a little and started catching the two ladies in front, including the Blackburn athlete.
I was feeling a little sick towards the end and probably didn’t push the last half mile as hard I could have, would that extra suffering been worth the seven or eight seconds and a couple of places, obviously at that time I decided it wasn’t. Proof that I was only half in race mode. That morning I had thought to myself, anything sub-20 minutes, I will be happy. I ran 19:17, which is my best 5k of the year by a few seconds, whilst I am happy that my fitness is returning, I think that if I had been properly race focused, I could maybe have run sub-19, even with the cold legs that were a little bit tired from a long run on Thursday.
Jon ran 17:24 and was disappointed. Hopefully as my fitness improves and I learn to embrace the hurt a little more, both in training and racing, I can be disappointed with some sub-18 performances in 2018.
I quite fancy a return trip in a couple of months, should be a good measure of how my training is going.