I wasn’t going to post this until my weekly training review tomorrow, but I’m too excited not to!
I did it! Today I ran my first ever sub-30 minute 5k at Parkrun. I still can’t quite believe it, especially given my previous personal best was 30:29. I thought that I would struggle to complete this goal until the New Year, as getting 30:29 had been a real slog.
Saturday 24th November 2018 – Sub-30
Just getting to Parkrun today proved difficult. My alarm went off at 7:15am, but I lay in bed until just after 7:30, trying to convince myself to get up and head out into the cold. Eventually I dragged myself out of bed and got ready to go. Chris decided to also run it as he was dropping me off anyway.
We arrived late, but luckily managed to get one of the very few remaining parking spaces. Just in time, we got to the starting area. I started around 3 rows from the front of the pack, as despite not really feeling it I was hoping for a personal best. I had taken last week off from racing Parkrun, and just opted for a steady run around the park instead. Hoping that the break from racing would have helped, I readied my Garmin and waited for the claxon.
The claxon sounded and off we all went. Around 15 seconds or so later, a woman took a fall ahead of me. She was helped up by her friends and continued to run, but it caused a bit of a bottleneck. As such, it took around 4 minutes before I was able to overtake and pick up my pace. I knew that I had lost some time, however my confidence was lifted slightly when my watch notified me that my performance condition was +7, which was a good result. Due to the slow start, my first mile came in at 9:45, 6 seconds outside of sub-30 pace. I was a bit disappointed as my first mile is usually my strongest, but I kept my performance condition score in the back of my mind and just focused on the 2.1 miles that were remaining.
To my surprise, I completed mile 2 in 9:18, which was my fastest ever mile! Unfortunately, just after receiving the mile 2 notification, I approached the dreaded hill. I managed to climb it without walking, however my pace did slow a little. On the previous lap, I had managed to hold a decent pace up the hill, however this time my pace dropped to over 13:00 minutes per mile. Knowing that I had lost more time, I tried to pick up the pace once the hill had levelled back out. For some reason, I just couldn’t get back into my stride. My pace was all over the place and above 10:00 minutes per mile. I checked my watch and could see that my average pace was starting to near the ultimate 9:39 mark. I made a tough decision and opted to slow my pace down to around 13:00 minutes per mile for 30 seconds. This slower recover period allowed me to reset my mind and I was then able to run the next 5 minutes at a quicker pace, with 9:27 being the slowest. I even managed to run sub-9 minute per mile pace! Again, I decided to take another 30 second slower recovery period before picking my pace back up for 2 minutes until I approached the final hill climb of the 5k route.
Aaaand there it was… the final hill. I knew that this could be make or break for my first even sub-30 5k. Looking at my watch, I knew that I had a bit of time to play with, so I made the tough decision to slow my pace for the hill. I was starting to feel sick from pushing so hard and didn’t want to burn out on the hill and struggle with the final 0.1 mile sprint. As soon as the hill levelled back out, I knew I had to start to run. My stomach was burning but I pushed on. I managed to overtake people on the final turn as I made my final sprint towards the finishing line. This felt like the longest 0.1 mile I had ever ran!
I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch; I didn’t want to check my time as I wasn’t sure if I had made it under 30 minutes or not. After having my bar-code and timing chip scanned, I checked my watch… 29:35! I couldn’t believe it. My face lit up and I couldn’t stop smiling. I rang the PB bell and eagerly awaited the official Parkrun results. To my surprise, the official results also had my time as 29:35.
I waited for Chris to finish and then we headed into town to do our weekly shop; I treated myself to a large triple chocolate cookie, because I had definitely earned it!
My progress from my first 5k to a sub-30 minute Parkrun has been anything but smooth!
Saturday 26th November 2016 – First Ever 5k
I started running in November 2016 and plucked up the courage to enter my first Parkrun on November 26th. I wasn’t sure what to expect on the day, but I definitely didn’t expect there to be so many people!
As I was just starting out on my running journey, I didn’t have a chest heart rate monitor so I can’t check my Zones, but I definitely felt like the entire 5k was spent in Zone 5! Back then I also trained in kilometres (seeing a higher number made me feel like I’d ran further!), however Garmin has now converted that and puts my pace at 14:38 minutes per mile as my average pace for my first Parkrun.
Seeing that pace now makes me realize how far I have come on my journey. At that time, 14:38 was fast! I struggled all the way around the course and had to walk parts. I realized how unfit I was, but also how supportive the local running community was. Normally in sporting events no-one cares about the people who finish last, however that isn’t the case with running. I got cheered on and given words of encouragement from other runners and marshals.
Finishing last can be really tough to take. This was especially true as I had never realized how unfit I was. I could walk for miles, and knew that I was carrying more weight than I should have been, but was not morbidly obese. I saw others who were older than me (I spent most of the Parkrun trying to keep up with a gentleman called Clive who was 81 at the time!) or heavier than me and they were doing really well. It made me realize that if I trained and put my mind to it, I could be a runner too, and that it wasn’t too late to start trying.
It’s fair to say that my training hasn’t always been consistent. I’ve had a few niggles and a lot of excuses in the past! My first half marathon cast a lot of doubt over my ability to run my first full marathon around 6 months later. Unfortunately, this doubt didn’t encourage me to train more, but instead put me off running. This, along with a change of job and the bad winter that we had, meant I was unprepared for my first marathon. Still, I completed it, albeit in sightly over 7 hours.
I took some time out after completing the London Marathon and then realized that I can achieve more. I used to watch the London Marathon on the TV in awe of all of the participants, but now I know that I can and have achieved that. I was happy to have completed my first marathon, but also a little disappointed with my time. I didn’t put the training in and with it being the hottest London Marathon on record, it definitely showed! Deep down I knew that I could have done a lot better. A few days after the marathon, I made a commitment to myself to train harder and booked a place for the Blackpool Marathon on the 28th April 2019 – almost exactly one year since London.
Now I’m training regularly and increasing my distances. I’m doing hill work, speed work, core strengthening, etc to try and get the most out of my body. I’m watching what I eat to try and fuel better. I have lost over 3 stone since I started my running journey and now feel a lot more comfortable with my body, inside and out. My mental health has improved as I know that I can push myself and achieve things which I never thought possible. My race times from 5k to half marathon have since improved and I know that the best is still yet to come!