Thanks for that Mr Hadley. Sorry to blather on so soon after my last post, and to start with a shouty, 80’s power ballad lyric no less, but please bear with me. Hopefully it will be worth it…
At the start of the year, Claire and I decided we’d try and get to a different parkrun each month in 2017. We’d run Shorne Woods in January, and a trip to Malling for February was going to coincide with our friend’s birthday and a celebratory brunch afterwards. Sadly that didn’t happen in the end, but me and Claire went along to Malling on Saturday anyway in honour of our friend. I even donned my new parkrun t-shirt, in all its lovely apricot glory, so I’d look the part (aka a corporate git).
We’d been to the venue before at Leybourne Lakes last summer to have a walk around, it’s lovely fyi, so we had an idea of the run route (which is twice around the main lake) and how to get there. It was only a twenty minute drive from our house and we arrived in good time to get parked (only a pound for four hours), have a stretch and a warm up jog, which was needed as it was a bit damp and chilly first thing. The route is nearly all on compacted gravel path, with the odd muddy bit, but with the recent rain there were lots of puddles on the path to watch out for and I was glad I wore my old trusty pair of Adidas Boosts (which have a bit of grip and seem to enjoy being dunked in mud).
I’d had an easy week to recover from my marathon at Ranscombe and my legs had felt ok, so I added a bit of faster running and an interval session at the beginning of the week in preparation. I’d got a parkrun and 5k PB on Christmas Eve, and a third place finish and close to my new pb at my last parkrun at Shorne Woods at the beginning of January, so I was looking to get another fast time on a flat course. In the days before though I was torn between going for glory and saving myself for the Bowiethon Marathon this weekend (and not breaking something; I’m still quite nervous after my injury issues at the beginning of last year). In the end though as we warmed up, I felt quite good so I decided to go for it and make the most of the opportunity.
A comparatively small field (compared to my home parkrun at Great Lines, or especially my old one at Bromley) congregated at the start and I wished Claire good luck as I wandered closer to the front. We were let go and immediately I found myself at the front, trailing two other runners. We picked our way through the worst of the puddles and I tried to settle in to a fast but sustainable pace. The two leading runners (a young one of about 15 and another older runner in a fetching 50 run milestone t-shirt) got a few yards further ahead, but they were going too quick for me at under 6 minute a mile pace. I also wanted to cheekily use them as guides for the first lap so I knew where I was going, so I tucked in a bit while trying not to let them get too far away.
The going was pretty much flat and the only thing to watch out for was the odd deep puddle, the occasional walker with dog(s), and intermittent narrow sections of path. About a mile into the one and a half mile opening lap I sensed the two runners ahead begin to slow down and drift back to me. I tried to ignore them and stick to my even pace but as they were ahead of me, two abreast, I had to slow slightly so as not to run through them! As we neared the end of the lap there is a tight turn (the only one on the course) to take you on to the start/finish area and as things opened up I slipped into the lead (!).
I’ve never won a race, let alone led one, so it was a novel feeling to be out at the front. I could hear the young runner a few yards behind me, but I tried to ignore him and stick to what I was doing and not freak out. He was breathing quite hard at this point so I knew he was working hard, while I felt quite controlled so I just tried to maintain pace and focus on where I was going and stepping. I abandoned trying to avoid puddles now and just went with the best racing line. I still felt ok and sensed the second place runner falling further behind. As I went along I tried not to think of anything but maintaining my effort, and not falling over or running into anyone/thing.
About halfway round the second lap I was pretty much on my own. I began to think about winning and I had to try really hard to focus and not get carried away. At the same time I felt vulnerable out in the lead, with everything to lose! I was desperately trying to hear the runners behind me and if they were gaining on me, above my own footsteps and breathing. I know it was only a parkrun, but I was desperate to win. As I got to about half a mile to go I began to tire and my breathing got heavier. This coincided with going past the tail runner and having to start going round some of the slower runners. This was tiring enough but it added to my stress, as I couldn’t tell if the steps behind me were from lapped runners or the young whipper-snapper trying to burst back into the lead.
The penultimate 400m were really hard work and my legs began to feel very heavy, not just from the pace but also the Ranscombe run coming back to haunt me. I gritted my teeth whilst at the same time trying not to tense up (not really possible) and I plodded on. I got to an empty bit of the lap at this point however and the quiet reassured me I wasn’t about to be overtaken imminently and I relaxed a bit. I got myself ready for a big finish as I made the final turn and tried not to lose too much speed there. I did accelerate a bit towards the finish funnel, but I was gone at this point and didn’t really get much quicker. It didn’t matter though, I got a first place token with a bit to spare; I’d won!
I celebrated by trying not to lose my breakfast at the end of the finish funnel. I was still hands on knees and gasping for air as I saw I’d finished in under 19:15, for a slightly long parkrun of 3.15 miles, and a lovely new PB! (I think it came up long as there are no tight bends to throw my Garmin’s GPS off – Strava actually gave my a 5k PB time of 18:59 but think I’ll have to settle for the official time of 19:14). After I’d got my breath back I had a chat with the other runners and the first four of us were lined up to have pictures of the artful mud splashes we had accumulated on our way round. I needed to recover a bit though, so I jogged half mile or so to try and get my breathing and legs back as I waited for Claire to finish.
She finished a few minutes later in a really good time and inside her target, and was even happier than me when I told her I’d won. We wandered around a bit to recover some more and say thank you to the volunteers and I made sure to soak up the win, it may never happen again!
To put the win and time into context, the field was small at just 125 runners and the course was very flat. My time would have only got me 8th at Great Lines, with the winner’s time being over 2 and half minutes ahead of me (on a hilly course) – so I didn’t set the world on fire. But I did win! And I got a new PB and ran pretty much a perfect race; I could only have run a few seconds quicker, with a bit more effort in that middle mile and at the finish. I’m proud of the run and it gives me confidence that my training is going well and I’m improving. I might even get my picture in the local paper…
I ran a half marathon in training the next day to top up my fitness ready for Bowiethon on Sunday, which went well considering I was quite tired from the parkrun. This week I will do a few light runs to taper and be as rested as possible for Sunday. I’m hoping to get under 3:50 for the marathon there, but trying not to get cocky so will run to how I feel and see what happens. If things don’t go well speed wise, I might slow things down and try and go longer instead and do another 3.74 mile lap for an ultra and try and get a ‘distance-covered’ PB. We shall see and I will let you know how I go.
Thanks for reading. Adam 🙂