This weekend I was over in Cardiff visiting Katie, and instead of lazing about like normal people on a Saturday morning, we were up at 8 so we could head down to Bute Park to take part in the Cardiff parkrun.
This event is much larger than the one I normally take part in at home, mainly due to the fact that Cardiff has just the one event whereas London has over 30! So we found ourselves milling around the start/finish area with 557 others, with conditions pretty much ‘perfect’ for running.
I’d been looking forward to running all week at work, and stated my intentions early; I hadn’t run a sub-19 minute 5k since the end of October as I’d been combining parkrun with other events or training sessions on the same day, so today I was going to go as fast as possible and just hope not to blow up before the end.
The route starts on a narrow path along the river, which was probably only room enough for about 3 or 4 people across, so I tried to stick myself as close to the front as possible. We set-off promptly at 9, and for the first 500m or so it was a real struggle to find any space or indivertibly trip someone up who was running in front of you. After a while it began to spread out a bit and it was easier to get into your own rhythm and run the way you want to.
The route took you along the river Taff towards the city centre for the first 2km, before heading round a 1km loop at the top of the course before heading 2km back the way you came. Running 5k fast always feels really hard as you’ve got no time to ease your way in; it’s pretty much flat out from the go so you’ve got to head off hard and hang on.
A bonus of having higher numbers taking part is that there are more people around you to work with (or in my case hang on to) which can drag you along slightly faster than if you were running on your lonesome. Eventually I settled into a group with a couple of other guys and focussed on keeping the pace high. The route was pretty scenic – unfortunately when you’re working hard over short distances it’s not always that easy to look around – you’re just concentrating on running hard and counting down the minutes to the finish!
I always like to say thanks to all the marshals out giving up their Saturday mornings out on the course – but days like today all I could manage was a smile through gritted teeth and a little thumbs up. It was really hard work.
Coming around the top loop you know you’re on the way back home which spurs you on; the pain is coming to an end. The nature of the Cardiff course is such that on the way back you pass some of the slower guys still making their way out to the top of the course. I mainly remember thinking I’m just bloody glad that I still haven’t got as far as them to run!
I spent pretty much the entire run with a chap with a red ‘50’ t-shirt on. Not only is parkrun a free weekly event, but once you reach 50 runs you get a free adidas t-shirt with a big number 50 on the back. Likewise, for 100, a little black number makes its way to you. I remember thinking for most of the guy in the ‘50’ shirt was obviously a better runner than me and he was holding something back for the end.
However, into the last 1km and I knew it was time dig deep and give it everything, whilst trying to remind myself I was actually in fact meant to be having fun. I passed a couple of guys (including the guy in the 50 top) in the last 500m and staggered over the line to stop the watch at 18.33; a new personal best by a whole 10 seconds! It may not sound like a massive amount, but over 5k it was a fairly big gain so I was pretty chuffed with that. This placed me 24th out of 557 finishers – that’ll do nicely. I managed a pretty evenly paced race as well, with my kilometre splits being; 3.40, 3.43, 3.47, 3.48 and 3.34.
After convincing myself that my legs weren’t going to give way, I wandered back down the course to spot Katie and a couple of her friends and give them a good shout on the way to the finish. Katie was looking strong on the home stretch, and ended up running 22:49, visiting the ‘22’s’ for the first time and smashing her best time by 30 seconds! She also finished in the top 15 girls.
All in all, a very successful morning running-wise. The problem with getting faster is it always seems impossible that you’ll ever be able to beat that mark again. No doubt I’ll give it a crack though… Not satisfied with just the 3.2 miles of running, we decided to back that up with an additional 10 straight after to clock a half-marathon for the day.
We ended up going to the Wales South Africa rugby game in the afternoon and decided to give the legs a much deserved break on the Sunday.