My once-a-year 5K race has rolled around again, on 3rd July 2013. I really should get around to doing a Parkrun and then I wouldn’t feel the ridiculous pressure of it being my ‘once-a-year’ chance to get a PB.
Fortunately I had read something just that morning about pre-race nerves. It said something like “if you’re feeling nervous, remember you’re the only person putting the pressure on yourself. If you really don’t want to do it, then go home!” It was quite a liberating thought and made me feel much better. In my mind I wanted to beat last year’s time of 27:45, and my 10K time from the previous week suggested I could run 5K in 26:39. I confess, I had 27:45 written on my hand in biro so I could check my time as soon as I finished
It was a warm and sunny evening as I arrived at the Olympiad sports centre, and I collected my number without issue. I made my way to the start area, and milled around with the other runners. There were a number of groups of runners from local running clubs and I did feel rather on my own. I think I was missing my running partner from the last 2 years.
I had a little warmup jogette and found a railing to hang onto to swing my legs around in some dynamic stretches. I always feel rather silly and very self conscious doing these so I naughtily skimped on them and made my way to the start mêlée. A friend spotted me at this point and we had a little chat as we waited. The course goes right past her house, which must be a very strange feeling!
We heard the race director shouting “3 – 2 – 1 …” We never heard “Go” but the masses pushing forward told us it was the start. As in previous years it was a mad rush for the first corner, where the course narrows from open grass to a single track path. I think I timed it just right this year as although the first dash felt way too fast, as I settled in line on the narrow path I was running with runners all going at the same pace as myself. It felt fast but do-able so I basically just hung on. At the slope where the route zig-zags up to the cycle path we all slowed down, and the guy in front of me actually slipped as he turned the gravelly corner. I slowed down even more as I’m a coward and I did not want to end up on the floor as well.
The cycle path was slightly shady which was a relief as the evening was proving to be very warm and muggy, and then we were off the path and on the streets heading downhill back towards the start. I was starting to feel tired and hot at this point, and had to keep giving myself updates to keep going. I was telling myself I was half way, I only had a mile to go, just round the corner….
We left the road and headed back on the ‘single carriageway’ path. I unfortunately found myself behind a handful of runners who slowed down at this point. I was torn between gnashing my teeth in frustration, and being grateful for a chance to catch my breath. I managed to squeeze past them as soon as the path was wide enough, and headed over the grass to the finish line. My legs were shouting loudly at me, my heart was pumping, sweat was pouring off me, but did my best approximation of a sprint finish and made it to the line.
As I stopped my Garmin, I saw the time – 26:45. I’d taken a whole minute off last year’s time. Another new PB? YES PLEASE!