I wouldn’t usually write a ‘race recap’ of a parkrun but I did approach this particular run as I would a race, so I thought it merited a post of its own.
My training plan called for me to run this as a tempo run. I’d warm up for a couple of miles, run this at 8.45-ish and then cool down for a couple of miles. However I really wanted to see what I had in me at this stage of my training, so I decided to race it as hard as I could and see what I could do. The last 5k I ran hard was in Newbury in December when I averaged 8.16. Surely I could beat that.
To make the most of the opportunity, I took two consecutive days off – Thursday and Friday – to rest my legs. That felt really good, both physically and mentally, and I drove up to London on Friday really excited about testing myself the next morning. I’ve been running so many miles lately that I genuinely thought there might be the possibility of a PR.
I spent the weekend up in London with two of my best friends, two of my bridesmaids. We left our menfolk and our kids at home; it was just the three of us, and it was fab. J suggested we ran Bushy Park, which was the original parkrun, and I loved that idea. But being with my besties made many of my good resolutions fall away…instead of running there as a warm-up, we drove. And instead of running a mile as a warm-up, we spent time parking the car and dashing to the loo. Not ideal.
Bushy parkrun is massive – there were over 1200 runners there! I lined up fairly near the front, checking in with the guy next to me about how fast he hoped to run – he planned for roughly 26 minutes so I felt I was in the right place. It was a lovely mild day, everyone was hugely relieved to have a break from the snow, so spirits were high. Just before the start, I took off my long-sleeved top and just ran in my sleeveless vest/tank – I haven’t run with bare arms since September and heck, that was good for my soul.
I didn’t hear a count-down – suddenly the rows in front of me surged away so I dashed off. The first quarter-mile was a little chaotic – we ran across the grass and I tried to steady my heart-rate from the adrenaline rush! I felt like I was running hard but not too crazily. After about half a mile, I found some space on the path and settled down.
The route loops around the park, often on path, often on trail. The ground was pretty firm, definitely not muddy. It was crowded but I was nearly always able to run at my own pace, I only had to slow a few times. There were a number of kids running around me including a dad running along holding the hands of his son and daughter who must have been about 7 and 4 respectively, they were flying along. I was both hugely impressed with their speed and tempted to ask their dad if he could tow me along as well.
I didn’t check my watch at all during the race – I knew that if I was running fast, I could freak out, if I was running slower than expected I would be dejected. But I was honestly convinced I was running at PR pace. As I started tiring in that final mile, I kept repeating Desi Linden’s mantra that I’d heard her talk about in a podcast this week…’Stay on it’. I kept repeating that in my head until I crossed the line and stopped my watch.
I didn’t check my watch for a good minute or two afterwards until I’d caught my breath and when I glanced down it was 25.41 – an average pace of 8.14. Darn. I was a bit disappointed.
Bushy Park parkrun is so big they have some complex Double Funnel system for dishing out tokens. I have genuinely no idea how they manage it but my time came back pretty much identical to my Garmin so I take my hats off to them.
I found my girls who had both surpassed their own expectations. We did some stretching and then got coffee and croissants as we watched the thousands of posh cars queue patiently to get out of the car park.
This was a good morning’s work. I learned a lot.
- I know how fast I am right now and that’s helped me start working on realistic goals for Annecy.
- I learned that I really do need to warm up and cool down. That was foolish. I have a slightly pulled muscle as a reminder I’m not 25 any more. My coach was clearly unimpressed when I admitted my short-comings and he’s right.
- I’m really pleased that my mental game didn’t give up towards the end – my splits were 8.11, 8.16, 8.17 so although I went out a bit fast, I held the pace for the latter half of the race and my resolve remained firm.