Parkrun PB

I’ve managed to put together a decent block of training and I’ve been hitting approx 5hrs/40 miles a week most weeks.

I know to move to the next level I need to step up to maybe 6hrs and 50 miles but to be honest my body struggles to cope with the work/train/life balance on 5hrs and usually by Friday/Saturday I’m shattered on my current regime.

So it remains to be seen whether I can ever move up in terms of training load. Potentially 5hrs is what Greg McMillan would term my “sweet spot”. To achieve 6hrs I’d need to be running 1hr a day with 1 day rest. It sounds tough.

Anyway, I’ve got into decent shape. I know that based on my heart rate response on training runs. I’m at least back to where I was in late 2015/Jan 2016 and with that in mind I felt like an effort over 5k to test where I’m at.

Work was chaotic this week following the May bank holiday and training was lighter than normal so I decided to take a rest day Friday and take in Newcastle parkrun on Saturday morning. I was hoping for a nice day and no wind.

I’d done some thinking and decided I had never paced a 5k properly.

My style (I thought) was to just go as hard as possible from the off and hang on after 2 miles and just accept the misery of the last mile and a bit.

Wondering whether that was the best strategy I decided to read up on 5k pacing strategies.

I managed to find a useful pace calculator on runners connect. I plugged in a goal time of 16:48 and saw that ideally I’d run the first mile in 5.31-5.36, the 2nd mile bang on pace (say 5.26-28) and then just go all out for home.

I liked the idea of that. I knew I’d recently ran the Clive Cookson 10k wrongly. I’d tried to even pace it and overcooked the first 5k. But I knew I was running 5.36s those first 3 miles. So I felt confident that the first mile would feel “easy”. And I knew the second mile at Newcastle parkrun is favourable.

I was aware that mile 3 at Newcastle is tough. But I liked the thought of closely pacing those first 2 miles with my watch and then just going for it.

Plan sorted.

On waking, as usual, I felt crap. Looking outside the weather looked damp and the trees weren’t as still as I’d have liked.

I decided I was still going to go and do it, but I didn’t feel good.

The 2 mile or so jog down confirmed how I was feeling. Heart rate high, sweating. Negative thoughts. Felt crap.

On arriving I was considering not even running. There was 20 minutes or so until the start so I tried to relax and just wandered around the nearby lake. That calmed me and I carried out my plan to do 3 minutes at threshold just before the start. This was something my coach Dave Tune had advised me to do. It just gets a bit of lactate in the system so the body and mind gets less of a shock when the run proper starts.

Although not great that took my mind off the struggle of a jog down and I made my way to the start line.

Bumped into Michael Hedley and before we knew it we were off.

I had my plan and I stuck to it. That meant maybe 15-20 people flying off ahead. Not to worry. I was going to slowly build into the first mile.

For quite some time I was running maybe 5.50-6 pace and there was a bit of a head wind. I gradually applied the pressure and by 1k I’d already moved into 5th or 6th and had increased the pace to maybe just under 5.40 pace.

It wasn’t feeling as easy as I’d hoped but this was mainly due to the headwind and I just focussed on getting to the 1st gate and then I knew I could complete the first mile on plan.

As hoped, passing through the gate and onto the path through the trees there was calm and I felt like I picked the pace up to complete mile 1 in 5.33.

The quicker pace was confirmed in mile 2 as I was working at 5.20-21 pace.

I had a decision to make as, on the one hand I wasn’t sure whether to keep pushing or dial it back knowing this was a fast mile on the course.

I decided to stick with it. I was in 6th, I had a lad just ahead who seemed to be going strongly so I just went with it.

Through gate 2 and back onto the Town Moor conditions were perfect. I knew that meant mile 3 would be tough back into what wind there was but so far so good.

I got passed into 5th pace just before 3km and I was feeling good.

I completed the 2nd mile in 5.21 which was ahead of plan and the sub 17 was setup. Time to go!

But the problem with Newcastle parkrun is the 3rd mile. You turn around and passed the old Museum (now the Wylam Brewery pub – note to self – must get down for a pint!) and it just gets hard!

Luckily I had 4th in sight and I just focussed on getting passed him. No buggering about, just get passed. An option could have been to tuck in behind but the truth was he was struggling more than me so there was no choice but to go and push.

I was pleased with my effort and coming off the gravel path and back onto the concrete the wind was gone again.

Great I thought. Immediately my pace increased but a glance at my watch showed I was only averaging something like 5.59 for the 3rd mile! Shit, work to do!

The first 3 lads looked at least 20s ahead. At this point I passed Elswick club mate Lee Bennett who was spectating and I got some good encouragement which was nice.

I was working hard but felt like I could do it.

I was slowly but surely improving my pace average. By now I was counting my steps 1-2-3 and just trying to push and work.

This was where I could make it count but I only managed another 5.33!

I needed a sprint finish which in truth I didn’t muster but I can’t deny I was pleased with my effort.

I got over the line in something like 17.05-17.06 for a PB and so close to dipping under the elusive 17 minutes.


Final push to the line

As it happens Strava has given me a 16.58 5k time but of course that doesn’t count.

But I’m pleased not just because of the PB but also the way I paced the run. It is still tough but pacing it more intelligently gives you that fighting chance in the last 3rd of the race which is where it counts. Anyone can fly out first mile and die the last. It takes skill and discipline to run a more conservative opening and apply the pressure later. It has certainly convinced me its what I need to be doing to excel over 5 and 10k.

As motivation during the run I’d promised myself a week off if I broke 17 minutes. That didn’t happen and I now have two weeks work travel ahead of me which will impact my training no doubt.

So the goal will be to at least keep ticking over and then decide the what next. I don’t consider myself a summer runner, mainly due to hayfever, but I do have one eye on getting a fast 5k race in to put this to bed once and for all. This parkrun PB has shown that I’m in shape to do so.

Thanks for reading.