Sub-20 parkrun

A sub-20 5k has always seemed like one of those mystical things for club runners to me. Almost up there with a 3-hour marathon. It’s super fast and something I never thought I would get anywhere near.

Then Nike produced their super-shoes and in the first month of lockdown I took a minute off my PB to bring it down to 21:06 and it didn’t seem so far away anymore. But 66 seconds is still a lot of time to shed.

I made an attempt at it in April of this year but had to fail out 2 kilometres in when I realised I hadn’t set my watch up correctly (I turned on ultratrak which, despite the name, actually turns off GPS intermittently). Unfortunately, I had a small window before the 7in7 challenge and Evolve Trio and that was that.

Now it is November, the triathlon season is over, and I decided it was worth a crack before I dropped my training down over winter. It wasn’t the best start: my digestive system woke up unhappy which meant I marched up to the start not feeling great. But I thought I would give it a go anyway because perfect days don’t come along by accident very often; they’re made.

As such, I tried to go through all of the preparations for assuming it would be a good day. Carb-heavy breakfast of Frosties 90 minutes before, a caffeine energy gel 30 minutes before, I took my coat to keep my warm before the run, did a 15-minute warm-up and some activation exercises to get my body ready.

I got myself right on the start line to get a good position and ended up going out too hard. This was sort of the plan though as I didn’t want to get held up by other runners. And despite all this talk of negative splits, many PBs are run by someone running beyond themself in the first half and then somehow managing to hang on.

I clocked through the first kilometre in 3:48, so with some sliding room, but with it also being downhill and going out too hard. The second one was 4:08 but this wasn’t disheartening because I realised I had forgotten to turn GLONASS on for more accurate tracking and thus the course was likely to read short.

By the 2k mark, I was hurting and suspected my pace was unsustainable. I wanted to give up and walk so many times. There was wind. And the slight uphills feel like a lot when you’re already on your limit. I managed to go through kilometre three in 4:02 but the pain just got worse and my fourth kilometre was 4:17.

By this point, I didn’t really know where I was at. I knew I was behind the 4:00 per kilometre mark, but given my GPS was off, I felt like I was still in with a chance if I just kept the legs turning over.

As I got to the bottom of the final hill I checked my watch and saw I had 90 seconds left. It’s all a gradual hill but the first 2/3 is very gradual and the final 1/3 is a little steeper. I allocated 30 seconds to each section and knew that if I got to the bottom of the pivot point with 30 seconds to go, I could sprint to the finish.

I made it through ahead of that and opened up everything I had left. I closed the line in:

19:39

I had done it, I was a sub-20-minute runner!

My final kilometre was paced at 4:04 so about in line with the rest given the slight changes in elevation. My watch registered 4.83 kilometres meaning that the 4:04 pace it said I was running was actually more like 3:56.

My calves were screaming after I stopped. Even walking down the finish funnel was a strange limp of not bending my legs and they didn’t stop hurting for the rest of the day.

It turns out I wasn’t overestimating the pain I was in. My average heart rate for the run was 198 and it reached a maximum of 209. I’ve held an average of 190 before at the Abbey Dash, but it usually maxes out at 205 and I’m several years older now. As a little bonus, I was also 1st place in the VM35-39 category.

Thank yous: thank you to all of the marshalls that make parkrun possible. I try to thank them as I run past but today was just a head-down day with an occasional wave of thanks. I hope that’s understandable!

Birthday wishes: happy birthday to Poppy! I shamelessly went for a PB rather than joining the birthday run train and she still gave me a birthday biscuit. Also thank you to Anne for handing out the chocolate mini bites.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, November 7th, 2021 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.