Parkruns are a strange old thing. Often times I find myself lounging around, studying my somewhat erstwhile Parkrun posts and pondering whether or not I over-think the whole ordeal.
Think about it. I don’t do any true preparation, or pre-race management, lest of all mid-race management and realistically if I want to have any real hope I need to eradicate the objectionable provisions I currently endorse and commence treating my fragile body with the degree of respect it deserves.
Saturday’s Parkrun was the first time I’ve ever been running and attempted pacing. Throughout my entire life any kind of run that I have undertaken has always used a “try not to stop” working logic and speed is purely an afterthought. But knowing that I’ve already hit between 30 and 32 minutes for a 5k equipped me with the extra impetus to pick a “target time” and, you know, attempt to hit it with some degree of structure.
So, whilst “getting in the zone” with some music in the car before my warmup, I tried to work out what kind of split I’d need to break the 30minute barricade. If 30minutes was a gate, then I had all the keys, but didn’t really work hard enough to find which key unlocks it.
My initial target was going to be low 9minute miles, probably around 9:10 or 9:15. Tiring muscles aside, I knew this would put me somewhere between 28:30 and 28:44. Realistically I knew this probably wouldn’t be sustainable so was happy to accept that as long as I strayed no further than 9:40 then I would hang onto the sub 30min 5k.
Fully intent on not overexerting myself I spent much of my first mile staring at my watch (after the initial 20seconds or so it took for us to ACTUALLY get moving, one of my biggest bug bears with group races) – I’m still not sure if this was a foolhardy or genius move. I spent much of the first half mile around the 9:15 mark before easing off and spending the second half of it around the 9:50 mark. I hit the first mile in 9:40 (rounded up for ease of display) which epitomises exactly what I was talking about in terms of consistency. On the flip side though, I felt really light on my feet and my breathing pattern was under complete control.
Speaking of breathing, I don’t think this gets talked about anywhere near enough and I may do a short article on the concept but I’ve adopted a 6 beat breathing pattern. Breathe in on 1 and 2, hold on 3 and 4 and breathe out on 5 and 6. I also make a conscientious effort to breathe in when my left foot hits the ground. I read a really bizarre article years ago that said you’re less likely to get lactic acid build up (“Stitch” to you and I) if you breathe in on your left foot compared to your right foot. I have literally no idea if this is true at all but it certainly struck a chord with me and I’ve adopted it ever since.
Anyhoot, I continued the steady pace up until the half-way cone where my tactic was to kick on from then and up the pace to, at a minimum, the 9:00 mark. I don’t know the exact time I hit the half way point but all I know is that by the time I reached the second mile in 09:26 (rounded up) I was definitely on for a sub 30min 5k, provided I felt good enough to maintain the 9:33 average I’ve racked up. Truth be told, my breathing felt pretty good still at this point and my body hadn’t yet succumbed to the usual aches and pains. Heaven forbid I perhaps foolishly believed I was capable of kicking on a bit and taking a rather sizeable chunk out of the old PB.
What happened in the remaining 1.1 miles I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain. Not only did I find another gear, I think I found a new engine. My natural instincts told me to push and push I bloody well did. I don’t know if that was the equivalent of truly lost in the zone but I just felt like I had so much left to give. Keeping pace didn’t mean anything to me anymore. It wasn’t a thought in my mind. It wasn’t enough. Not good enough. I wanted more. This insatiable appetite crippled me in the most pleasurable of ways, coursing through my veins and warming my blood. I just kicked and kicked again. I’d pick a pace-setter, catch them, overtake them and pick another. Victim after victim. Falling by the wayside. My third mile? 8:43 – eight minutes and forty-three seconds. The THIRD lap.
Which leaves the last 0.1 mile. The nightmare segment as I prefer to refer to it as. The “I can see the finish line, why is it so far away” fragment of the race that you spend screaming at yourself, throwing breathing patterns, pacemakers and technique out the window, crying through gritted teeth as you pray for enough steely determination to guide you to the finishing post. I think deep down I’ve always wanted to make sure I complete this bit in under a minute but I know that’s not always possible. In deed, I only just missed out by clocking in around 1:02 but it was all adrenaline. Pure, unadulterated adrenaline.
All of which, excluding the rounded numbers, clocks me in around 28:50 for my 5th Parkrun. Allow me to reiterate:
Not only did I go sub 30mins, I went sub 29mins too! Smashing by PB by 82seconds, I’ve definitely set myself a whole new ballpark of benchmark to achieve. The possibilities are endless. I think I’d like to hit sub 27 before the year’s out, but I’m scared to set targets now because once I begin working towards it I find myself obliterating it in a grandiose exhibition of defiance.
Nevertheless, it’s better to have smashable targets than no targets at all. Sub 27mins is potentially unrealistic for now considering that a 28:50 works out roughly 9:17 per mile at a constant pace. If it wasn’t for my unusually quick final 1.1 miles then it might’ve been a different story. My 1:02 worked out at 8:09 per mile so I stepped up the gas with the finish line looming (despite an imminent body collapse waiting in the wings) so there’s still a degree of consistency required first. Obviously 9:00 miles bring you in sub 28mins but to go sub 27mins requires 8:41 per mile, i.e. my third mile on this one is constant race pace and believe me I’m not ready to run at that pace throughout by any stretch, even with a full warmup, mental prep and pacemaking watch facilities.
But perhaps I’m beginning to over-think the whole ordeal again. Perhaps for now, I should just revel in a ridiculously satisfactory 5k PB time.