After spending most of August away on holiday, September has given me a chance to try and rebuild my fitness levels back to where they were during marathon training earlier in the year. I’ve started to train towards the Thames Meander marathon in November, so have been combining a couple of mid-week speed sessions with a long run at the weekend.
I found myself at the start of Brockwell parkrun on Saturday morning feeling motivated off the back of a decent interval session in the week and decided I’d lay down a hard effort to see where I was at fitness wise. I’d only been back running properly for a few weeks so assumed I’d be nowhere near PB shape (currently 18.22, which I ran in the middle of marathon training in February).
I had on my new ‘go-faster’ luminous lightweight shoes that I’d won for being parkrunner of the month in September – entitling me to a free pair of trainers from my nearest Sweatshop – awesome. I even allowed myself a little warm-up (normally I don’t bother and just stand about chatting), running up and down lido hill a few times to get the heart-rate going.
I bumped into a few familiar faces at the start, including a couple of guys I’d normally be running at a similar pace to, so made a note to try and hang with them for the first half at least before I’d probably drop away (or so I thought). However, it didn’t quite work out that way, and within a couple of hundred metres I found myself completely cut adrift, with the leaders a few seconds ahead and another group formed behind me.
It ended up being a solo run from start to finish, which can be difficult as there’s no one else to work with and push you forward (not physically obviously). I’ve recently made changes to my watch so I only get updated splits every mile instead of kilometre, and as a result worry less about whether I’m on the right pace or not – I just try and get my head down and run an even paced race. The first mile came in at 5.45, but didn’t feel ridiculously fast, and I just concentrated on trying to hold that speed.
I went through the first lap in just over 9 minutes, but with the second lap being slightly shorter than the first, I knew I could be on for a fast time if I held it together. The leaders were only about 10 to 15 seconds down the road so I could tell I was having a decent day. There are two pretty significant hills on the second lap, and I slogged my way up both of them, giving Katie (unfortunately still out of action with a sliced up toe) a wave at the bottom of the second and grunting something about things going well.
By this point I’d gone through the second mile also in 5.45 and started to get excited about a potential fast time. I was too exhausted to do any calculations in my head, so just concentrated on getting to that finish line as quickly as possible. I didn’t look at the watch once in the last 5 minutes – it was just head down and empty the tank.
I turned onto the grass for the final 50m stretch before the finish and gave it everything towards the line. I crossed, stopped my watch, and fell to my knees, knackered. I asked one of volunteers timing if he knew what my time was – ’17.57’.
I couldn’t quite believe it – a 25 second PB (which is a big chunk over 5 kilometres). First time under 18 minutes. I just had absolutely no idea where that had come from. I said at the start of the summer I’d like to run under 18 minutes before the end of the year, but then other things got in the way and I dismissed the idea. Brockwell is also a very hilly course – it would be interesting to see how fast I could go around something flatter. It’s given me a great confidence boost when looking ahead to 26.2 in November.
I treated myself the following day to a nice 20 mile run around south-west London. It’s been a very short build towards this marathon (it’ll only be about 9 weeks of proper training), so I’m interested to see how that turns out.