So this is my first ever blog about my running. I have no idea who is going to read it – but I guess even if no-one but me ever does, it will still act as a useful record for me to read back over the weeks, months, perhaps even years, to remind myself of how I was feeling at various stages throughout my running “career.”
In common with most semi-serious runners, I keep a training log. In this I record my times, my distances, my pace, and sometimes - if I’m feeling particularly geeky – a breakdown of individual miles run. What I don’t record is how I feel. That’s what this blog will do for me. I have no idea what it will do for you, but I hope you enjoy reading it.
I’ve called the blog Competing for Fun, because that’s what I do. Every runner has their own reason for running. Or more than one. For me, running is all about racing. Not necessarily for a particular position (although I do usually have a rough idea of whereabouts I feel I should finish), but racing to try to beat a particular time, and for the pleasure that brings me. I haven’t managed a personal best, at any distance, for about ¾ of a year - which isn’t great. But there’s more than one way to enjoy a race result … you can set a target, relevant to whereabouts you are in your training, and aim to beat that. Or, as I have been doing more and more over the last year, you can run with a fellow runner, pacing them to hopefully beat their own target. Helping a new runner get below 30mins in a 5km race for the first time, for example, can be just as satisfying as getting a sub 20min time yourself. Well, almost.
But tomorrow, I’m going for a time at Parkrun, Colchester. My I set my pb for this route - 20m30 - just over a month ago. I’m running better now than I was then, with an encouraging 20 mile effort last week the highlight of my running year so far, as my training progresses nicely towards this year’s London Marathon. Although my 5k pb is 19m44, set in April 2013, I would really love to get close to 20mins this time around, which I think for Colchester Castle Parkrun would probably represent a better performance, given the hills.
To (hopefully) achieve this time, I shall do the following:
Turn up early enough for a warm up. Normally for a 9am start at parkrun, I turn up around 8.55am. This isn’t helpful.
Wear suitable clothing. I once announced to some friends that vest and shorts are the only suitable clothing to race in. They take regular digs at me because I have frequently been spotted running in multiple layers, hat and gloves, etc – but genuinely, for a fast 5k, I wouldn’t want to be wearing anything else because, no matter how cold you feel at the start line, if you’re running hard you soon warm up.
Eat a decent breakfast. I recently discovered Wheat free, Dairy Free, Gluten Free Muesli. I don’t really get the Dairy Free bit, since they surely can’t expect anyone to eat it without milk? But finally I have found a filling breakfast that doesn’t play havoc with my innards. Unfortunately, not only have they managed to remove all traces of wheat and gluten from the product, but they have also managed to remove all traces of tastiness too.
Race the first half hard. Not sure I would normally recommend this, but the first half at Colchester is all downhill or flat. Previous tactic has been to try to save something for the more difficult second half, which involves the large hill from lower to upper Castle Park, twice. Tomorrow I intend to work really hard for the first bit, and get some time in the bank before it gets tough.
And finally, the one thing I have never tried at Colchester, is to start at the front. Sounds obvious – and I always used to do this at Cambridge, where I have set all my fastest times. Weaving in and out of runners taking things slightly steadier than you is not the ideal way to start a race: the sudden bursts of speed required to overtake seriously drain your energy levels, and the stop/start nature of this type of running will seriously disrupt your rhythm. Also, I find it much easier to maintain a decent pace right from the start than attempting to build up to one.
So, there’s my plan for tomorrow. Oh, and Get a decent night’s sleep. So I’ll leave it there.