As a complete change from yesterday’s relay race, tonight I ran my slowest 5K ever. I wasn’t racing, but I was running the route of next week’s 5K River Run with runners from the Chippenham Harriers Beginners Group. This had been organised to give these new runners a recce of the route before their first race at the end of their course.
As I was a couple of minutes late I had to catch them up, so remained at the back as a tail runner. The running was complicated at the start because we were running on the same paths as racers in a 10K race. I was chatting away to a lady who was run – walking, trying to encourage her without being patronising. She did make me laugh though, when she said that sometimes marshalls’ encouragement just makes her want to swear. As we finished I told her I was marshalling next week, explained where I would be, and told her I expected to see her running and to hear her swear at me. I’ve never asked anyone to swear at me before.
5K in 46:52 that was quite fast enough on a hot night. As we said goodbye, she said thank you for running with her, and that I’d been “entertaining”. Hmm!
It had been another beautiful day, and the weather was just perfect for racing in the evening. After last week’s 10K disappointment I felt like everything was riding on tonight’s 5K. No pressure then.
I wrote last year’s time and pace onto my hand, put my running kit on, cooked dinner for my children, raced around looking for car parking money and shot out of the door with about 45 minutes before the start time. Fortunately I don’t live far from Chippenham, and even more fortunately as I crawled around the packed car park I managed to nab a space. I bumped into a good friend at the start, so was feeling in high spirits.
From the off all went well. I survived the usual crush at the start, I kept an eye on my pace to keep it close to last year’s. I overtook when I could (not easy on this course) and tried not to hold anyone up when I could hear them coming up behind me. I crossed the line and my Garmin said 26:47. Checking my smudged hand, last years time was 26:46 – so close! I was aware that in non-chip timed races it’s vitally important to keep in the same order in the finish ‘funnel’ as you crossed the line in. Just after I’d crossed the line, two guys were racing hard over the line, and shot past me. I got one of them to move behind me in the funnel but I wasn’t 100% certain that the other chap had crossed after me so I left him where he was.
Provisional results were out the next day, and gave me a time of 26:49 – 3 seconds slower than last year. I was a little disappointed, but to be honest I still felt very happy with my race as I’d run the best I could on the night. To be that close to last year’s time (when I had trained really well for it) was actually pretty amazing. Looking closely at the time of the chap recorded as finishing in front of me (in case he had ‘pinched’ my place) then my time would have been 26:48 – shaving a whole extra second off.
I uploaded my data to Strava and was pleased to see some good results on segments on the route. Various friends gave me kudos and one (who had also run this race last year and this) made a very interesting observation. He pointed out that the course we ran this year was actually slightly longer than last year. On coming off the riverside path last year we cut straight up onto the road whereas this year we ran a little longer by the river before angling up to the road. For last year’s race my Garmin recorded 3.09 miles, whereas this year’s was 3:11. Now, here comes the data wrangling bit! If I look at this year’s data and stop it at 3:09 miles, it gives me a time of 26:40 Woot woot!!
Anyway, even without funnel line pushers-in, and slightly longer routes, I am very pleased with this year’s time. Even with my data wrangling I can’t really claim it as a new PB but I am still very pleased with my time and not at all disappointed.
I received proof positive that I’d worked really hard in the race when I returned home. My teenaged daughter proclaimed that I ‘stank’ and I was leaving a ‘trail of stink’ as I walked around the house. Lovely!
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!
So if, like me, you only run one 5K race a year, obviously there’s a lot resting on this one, short race. The chance to set a new PB that will last for a whole year is the one that springs first to my mind. So, no pressure then!
Looking determined at last year’s River Run
So here’s how I’m approaching this momentous day. Which is, in fact, today. At 7.30pm.
First of all, I go to the wonderful McMillan Running website, and plug my recent 10K time in to their pace calculator. So for a 59:26 10K, Mr McMillan predicts that I can run a 5K in 28:36:38. He also helpfully tells me this means I have to run at 9:12:36 minute miles.
At this point, I find myself, mouth open, thinking “9:12??????” Best put the kettle on and have a think about that. You see – this sounds fast to me – seriously fast. Sip tea, and think positive thoughts.
Okay – have had inspiration. I know I ran a fast 3M training run recently, which was under 30 minutes (yay!), so let’s have a look at the pace I ran then. This route slopes down for the first mile or so, and then has a long slope in the second mile. I wont say hill, because its not that steep, but its enough for you to recognise its uphill. Ah ha – splits of 9:19, 9:49 (the slope!), 9:14, 9:19 to finish.
Feeling a bit better now. Warn running partner by text that pace to aim for is scary.
Check on website starting time of race, look at photos from last year and remember that there’s actually quite a lot of running on grass, and paths. Oh, and with the recent very wet weather, maybe a River Run is not the best race to be doing?
Give myself a good talking to again, and decide to stick to the recent advice I read on ‘how to pace a 5K race’. It was basically “Start out as fast as you can, and then just hang on for the finish line.”