Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Favourite Distance - 5KM

Valentine's Day

My son Harry - not an early riser

On Saturday 14th February, I made the extremely romantic decision to leave Charlotte in bed and go off to run another Parkrun at Thetford. A bit of a last minute decision – I wouldn’t normally race on a weekend when I have my son staying, but he was fast asleep and Charlotte was kind enough to offer to keep an ear out in case he broke tradition and woke before 10am! 
I wasn’t really expecting a great deal.


Firstly, I was aware that the weight had started to creep back on just a little, something I am trying hard to get back on top of, since it’s clearly a major factor.
Thetford - muddy, but not as bad
as Nowton Parkrun
Secondly, I hadn’t particularly trained towards improving my short distance times recently, with Great Bentley having been very much the focus for the last couple of weeks.
Thirdly the course was likely to be a little muddier than the last time I ran it, when a frost on the morning had helped to harden the ground a little. 

So therefore, whilst I always hope to achieve a PB, I was trying to be realistic with my targets for this race, and so whilst Gold Target was sub 19mins and 1st place (still never managed this in over 100 races now!) I had more likelihood of hitting either Silver (course PB and 2nd place, where I’ve finished on my three previous Thetford runs) or Bronze (simply another consistent 5km in the low 19mins.) 


Another Solid Run

Two miles, I took stock of the situation
In the event, I got my tactics a bit wrong, trying to keep up with the eventual winner for the first mile or so. Racing for position rather than time is a new experience for me, and I need to be careful I remain realistic. After about 1km I realised we were running at sub 18min pace, which I know I’m not ready for just yet, and I began to fall back over the remainder of the race – concentrating hard on holding it together to still achieve a decent time, and ideally not to get caught by the guys behind.

The winning time was 17m30, so good job I didn’t try to keep up with him any longer! I came 2nd – again! – and with a slight course best of 19m04. Only 7 seconds outside my PB for the distance, which is only just over 1second per kilometre – so possibly if I’d gone off slightly more intelligently, it may have been there for the taking with a decent finish. But no regrets – I knew I’d pushed hard throughout and Silver target achieved so good enough to remain positive about my running.

So what do I take from that into my next 5km? Maybe I would have had more left in the last mile if I’d let the leader go on ahead at the start – but hard to judge, because I didn’t know at that point how quick he was (I’ll know if I see him there again next time!) But going off hard at Thetford is still probably the best tactic – the first mile is much easier (mainly path) than the next (2 off-road laps around a meadow, with a hill in it, albeit only a small one!) So it makes sense to make the most of the easier terrain and start off quicker. Just not that much quicker. 

A nice route, and when the paths are nice and dry in the summer
there's every chance Thetford will allow me to improve my 5km PB


1st place or a new PB?

Ultimately, what do I want to achieve at Thetford? 
Well, undoubtedly 1st would be nice – but it’s all relative, because presumably if the winner hadn’t turned up, it would have been me crossing the line first, but my time probably wouldn’t have been any better, in fact probably worse without having him to chase. So would a slower 1st place be preferable to a new course PB and 2nd place? Not really, given that it’s all about improving as a runner, which for me means seeing progress with my times. My first ever Half Marathon saw me finish in 7th place, but in a small and less competitive field. My most recent saw me finish 77th, but 22 minutes quicker - and I know which one gives me the greater pleasure.

Our next trip to Thetford saw us in volunteer roles, since we were racing Tarpley 20 the following day. It’s important to do your fair share of volunteering at Parkruns, since you’re never charged a penny to run, and it’s always fully staffed with people giving up their Saturday morning so that you can race. I volunteered fairly regularly at Colchester, but have been a bit slack recently, and so a couple of weeks back we helped out at Bury, and this week we were there donning volunteer vests at Thetford. It’s also a good way to meet a few more people, and to feel more a part of the team. 

Next Up - Time Trial and the Kevin Henry Series

So my next 5km race will be our club time trial, at the end of this month (February.) Being only 4 days after Tarpley 20 – getting my excuses in early – this will probably feel tough, but I hope to break 19mins for the first time on this course, and in doing so I have great chance of a new PB (currently 18m57) since it’s by far the easiest course I run regularly, with only one slight hill near the start, that you get to run back down towards the end, and no sharp twists and turns, and a decent surface to run on. Unlike Thetford, I won’t be worrying about position – it entirely depends on who turns up, and in fact it would be preferable if a couple of our quickest guys show, since I know everyone’s typical times and will be able to use them to “unofficially” pace me to a good time myself. There are runners at the club I know I’m not ready to beat just yet, but I hope to have closed the gap a little over the last few months.

A longer term aim for this season is to regularly score for the club at the Kevin Henry series of 5k races we compete in against other local running clubs. I’ve mentioned these before in my blogs – since they’re probably my favourite events of the year. They’re pretty competitive, comprising as they do some of the best runners in the region, and so are a great way to judge progress. Every runner scores at least one point for the club by completing the course, and so it’s a very inclusive competition which rewards big club turnouts, something everyone at HRC embraced fully last year, and hopefully will do again this time around.

In addition though, the top 6 men and top 4 ladies from each club see their finishing positions used to calculate a final club score. My aim therefore is always to try to get into the top 6 men home for the club, something I didn’t quite manage last year – but this year, I know I’m definitely stronger, and whilst it’s fair from being a certainty, I think I have a good chance of featuring in some of the races.

My next blog will centre on my performance at the Tarpley 20, and since I am writing this the day after, I can tell you now it wasn’t great! So you can look forward to a depressing read shortly….

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