I’d like to dedicate this Blog post to Jasmine x
Before writing this post I wanted to re-read my first ever Blog from back in June 2013 (you can read it here – first blog), just to remind myself why I started writing about my running and also how far I’ve come.
My goal was always to run the sub seventeen 5k before my 35th birthday on 10th March 2016. Of course I missed that goal, and it’s been a long journey – over 5 years since I first ran Newcastle parkrun in 2012 in 22:39.
As I’ve explained in previous blogs my key races this year are the Blaydon in June and the Great North Run in September. My goal for Blaydon is a top 40 and the Great North Run around 1hr 17 for my debut over the distance.
It would be wrong to say that the sub 17 5k target was put to one side.
Indeed, to achieve either of my goals I knew I needed the sub 17. One of the things about running is that there is a correlation between what you can do over short and longer distances. To run a 1.17 half I knew I needed something like a 16:48 5k.
So I planned to get a 5k done in May and have a real crack at getting the monkey off my back. Unfortunately, missing my original goal of March 2016 had made this goal (and at times this Blog) feel like a monkey on my back!
That said, deep down, I knew I could do the sub 17 as far back as 2014. It was just a matter of when. I’d gotten close…
At the Blaydon Race in June 2015 I had gone though the 1st 5k in 16:3- (though downhill) and I’d ran a few 17.10s at parkrun and a parkrun pb of 17:05 at Newcastle. I just needed a race as I hadn’t done a 5k properly since September 2014 where I ran 17:53.
So the Temple Park Friday night 5k on 19th May seemed ideal. It seemed fitting also to me that the race was organised by Luke Adams. I have a lot of respect for Luke. Having ran 1hr 10 some years ago at the Great North Run firstly Luke is a class runner. Secondly he played a part in my running journey having coached me at the back end of 2013. It was unfortunate that I wasn’t to know that I was actually on my way to becoming anaemic at that time due to an unrelated illness. So, as a result I wasn’t coached for very long by Luke but I have kept a close interest in his running and his RUN EAT SLEEP coaching and events management business.
I knew the course was fast and a Friday night gives me a good chance to fit the race into my work schedule. One of the reasons I have been so lightly raced over the years is my work travel schedule which makes it difficult to commit in advance to races.
Anyway I decided to enter this race and in my mind I felt confident I could finally break my target at the race.
Training was going well.
As mentioned in previous Blogs I have adopted a much more positive mindset in my life. Still not perfect but improvement is improvement. Although I wasn’t running as many miles as my peak in 2015 I was feeling good. A few key points I would highlight –
- I adopted the “plan your training” at least a week before discipline – both the what and when – this helps simply getting it done;
- I was completing a light early morning daily exercise regime – just simple, star jumps, Burpees, push ups etc. Over time this daily routine compounds;
- I joined SMART FITNESS for a weekly strength and conditioning class. Again, I think this seems subtle but before joining I could barely do 1 pull up. I can now do pull ups with extra weight!;
- I train using the 80/20 rule. I’m a big believer in Pareto as its a universal law. It means I do 80% of my training easy and 20% hard. It helps keep me healthy and it works! My harder sessions were giving me confidence that I was in sub 17 shape.
At this point I want to give a special thanks to my other previous coach Dave Tune down in Doncaster. I first met Dave at the height of my health issues with anaemia. In fact I had to cancel my first meeting with Dave as I literally got the phone call from the hospital a couple of days before I was due to drive down. Without wanting to be over dramatic, I might not be writing this blog if it wasn’t for Dave as I can’t be certain I would have kept the running going if I hadn’t had his friendly and calm advice. I felt ashamed to be cancelling the meeting due to anaemia but Dave was very understanding and gave excellent advice. He helped me feel normal after all.
Dave was the first to tell me that I wasn’t dreaming, that I definitely had a sub 17 (and more) in me. That was dynamite and gave me so much confidence. He also taught me the type of hard work that was required and the importance of lactate threshold training, good nutrition, hydration and sleep. One of my slight regrets is not seeing through my coaching with Dave but I decided to go it alone in Oct/Nov 2015. I was struggling mentally with work travel and fitting in training. I felt like I was pushing myself too hard. I know now it was me who wasn’t dealing with the planning and dedication that was required.
Anyway, back to the race!
Coming up to race week I was getting nervous. I told myself that was a good sign. I planned two key sessions – a 20 minute threshold run on the Monday and a speed play session on the Wednesday.
In terms of numbers both sessions were excellent.
The threshold was done averaging 5.45 miling (I’d need to run 5.27-28 for the sub 17) and my heart rate average was relatively low. That said it had felt like I’d had to push. Maybe too hard. The speed play was great all round. 5 times 1 minute hard (by feel) with 2 minutes rest. Most of them were completed 5 minute miling. And I had a Eureka moment on the last rep as I’d been tightening in the shoulders reps 2, 3 and 4. On rep 5 I decided to just relax the arms. I almost imagined I was legendary Aussie marathon runner Rob de Castella! Felt great. Confidence was there and I was ready.
Come Friday I was keen to get work done without too much stress. Didn’t work out that way but I’d managed to get my nutrition spot on and felt good as I got in the car to drive down to South Shields. I was keen to get in the zone so I turned to my old friend Iggy Pop and the title track from the seminal album Fun House. I literally played it on repeat pretty loud all the way down. Its such a great tune and the guitar and drums and horns are just amazing. Iggy’s vocals are so cool. A real motivational tune for me.
My good mate and all round running pal Michael Hedley had kindly offered to meet me at Temple Park to give me a course recce before (he had ran the race a couple of months prior) and also cheer me round. I was very appreciative. I felt good on the jog round. I had a couple of little doubts about the course – the grass start as it had been raining all day and there were maybe 3 or 4 fairly sharp corners that would need to be navigated effectively. But other than that the conditions were perfect.
I managed to get a few strides in about 10 minutes before the off and got a decent starting position on the line. My key focus was to get a decent position on the path and off the grass quickly. As we got underway that happened ok but then I felt a little boxed in until we navigated the first sharp left hander. I was then able to open up a little bit and settle.
An absolutely vital decision I had made earlier in the week was to not wear my Garmin GPS watch. I strongly believe the Garmin is a training device and not a racing device. Perhaps for Half Marathon and Marathons they become again valuable but not for 5ks. I had decided I would race and, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, use my internal GPS.
I had also primed myself with some mental self talk. Simple two or three word statements I could repeat when I needed.
It was great having Michael there at various points with the type of positivity I needed from the sidelines. I had started well and I was aware I was in good company. I was also aware that I was running amongst sub 17 runners. But I was unaware of what pace I was sitting on, and knew I couldn’t allow any let up.
I would say the first 2-3 kms took what felt like an age. I felt very strong, and I felt like I was travelling well but it wasn’t flying over. Just before the end of the first big lap there were a few little inclines which, although not difficult, just required a bit of something. And coming round the first sharp left hander again I was conscious there was still 2kms to go, what I would call the business end.
I focussed on keeping the shoulders relaxed as I had done in training. Only difference this time was the arms were starting to ache and get heavy. Around 3.5k the legs started to feel the effort. I think a couple of runners did pass me between here and 4.5k. My main focus was not letting a Jarrow & Hebburn runner get away as we negotiated the last 600m. Although I was desperate for the race to end at this point the course was actually enjoyable with a slightly favourable downhill section. I wasn’t losing ground on the J&H lad but I wasn’t making it up either. Coming to the last bend I received the final shouts of encouragement from Michael – asking for a sprint finish. I managed to pick up slightly but nothing like the sprint finish I am capable of.
Crossing the line I felt the job was done but I couldn’t be 100% sure. I overheard a runner who was just behind mention 16:46 which gave me real hope I had ran something under 16:45.
On the warm down jog with Michael the world felt like a better place. I was knackered but in a good way. And driving home it was great to get some celebratory fish and chips to enjoy with Jasmine.
The provisional results were out and the sub 17 was confirmed – I finished in 12th place with a finishing time of 16:44… Absolutely delighted!
The final results are posted here – results
My next (and final) blog post on sub seventeen dream will detail my plans for the future with my running and blogging! This is the end of the sub 17 chapter but certainly not the end of my running and blogging journey!
Thanks to anybody that has read this blog over the years and it would be great to hear from you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org