This has been a momentous day; I achieved one of my running goals for 2014.
I went under 20 minutes for 5K for the first time ever, by clocking 19:43 at the Marlay parkrun in Dublin this morning.
To be honest, I surprised myself with that sub-20 time. My previous personal best was the 20:55 I set back in January, also at the Marlay parkrun, although I ran an unofficial 20:50 for the first half of the Great Ireland Run last Sunday.
That said, I knew I was in good shape. I’ve been training well and complementing my running with swimming, and I took over a minute off my 10K P.B. at the Great Ireland Run.
Also, I ran that 20:55 under the post-Christmas effects of overtraining and overeating, so having shed three kilos since then I was always likely to improve on it.
The funny thing is that I wasn’t aiming to run sub-20 today. My intention was to use the parkrun as a speed session to run three miles at a target race pace, and that would have got me around in 20:45 – still a new 5K personal best. Perhaps by not thinking of sub-20 I relaxed enough to perform better. (Former cricketer Ed Smith has an interesting article on this very subject in this week’s New Statesman issue of 11-17 April 2014.)
Anyway, how did this parkrun unfold?
The weather wasn’t as blissful as for my sun-kissed 6-miler yesterday morning. Today was overcast in Dublin, with a cold, swirling wind. And we were showered upon during the second kilometre of the run.
I went out a little too fast in the first kilometre – 3:54 instead of my intended 4:09, perhaps due to a rush of adrenaline in the cavalry charge of the race start. And this with an uphill section in kilometre 3 to come.
Fortunately I soon recovered. I got my breath back by focusing on breathing out hard so that my lungs would then fill naturally to their full capacity. (This is the basis of my cure for stitches while running.) A second kilometre at 4:05 meant that I could recover while still running strongly.
I continued my strong pace up the hill to the back of the park, and passed the 3-kilometre marker at almost 12 minutes exactly. Kilometre 4 of the Marlay parkrun is mostly downhill, and because I was already running hard on the uphill I gained momentum and time on the descent.
At the 4KM marker I was just inside 16 minutes – and the thought of a sub-20 finish flashed across my mind. But I shut that out. I didn’t even look across to the finish line at far side of the Marlay Park concert field. I fixed my eyes on the ground up ahead of me.
Around the concert field on that last lap, I maintained what felt like a steady, hard pace. Turning the corner at the top of the field, I glanced at my watch and saw 18 minutes and something seconds, but I wasn’t sure how far I had left to go. Without any kick or surge, I ran in for the finish.
Imagine my surprise to find, on looking at my stopped watch, that I had gone well under 20 minutes! Not only that, but I had run the last of my three miles in 6:09, a lot faster than the target race pace I had intended for my speed workout.
So, my parkrun today exceeded my expectations and saw me nail one of my targets for this year. Now I have to maintain this form, improve on it, and bring it onto the roads for my summer races.
I’m in the sub-20 club, baby!