I’d put myself under quite a lot of pressure for this one. I’d ran an 18.05 in July and I was happy but a little disappointed I’d missed the opportunity to post the sub 18 5k which was planned for May. I’ll not dwell again on the reasons for missing that target, suffice it to say the BUPA Great North 5k was selected to get it done. The only problem was I had a fortnight away on holiday leaving only 2-3 weeks to get tuned back up.
In terms of this week I had a great run out at the Jesmond Joggers Anniversary Champs (see Week 3 training diary) and it was a great over distance effort for a timely confidence boost. I felt in shape. Problem was I had a nasty reaction in my shins and had to have Tuesday and Wednesday off. On Thursday, still feeling a little discomfort, I put in an easy 35mins. The legs felt better as the run went on but on Friday were really sore again! Not to worry, a bit of foam rollering would loosen off the calves and relieve some of the tension.
Even so it was fueling some doubts. Have I done enough training? Do I feel fit enough? How should I pace it? Should I go off hard? What if I blow up etc? What can I say, I’m an over thinker. I made the decision to leave the Garmin at home and promised myself to just run with the mantra “keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing”.
Alarm was set for 7.30. I was lying awake at 6.30 which is when I get up for work. Felt ok, very nervous. Nerves make you feel bad but you have to tell yourself it’s good. Your ready to try, to really make an effort.
As is my new preferred routine I had a small glass of water, a few sips of beetroot juice and a few bites of a nectarine. This is key! You do not need a proper breakfast for an early 5k. You want to feel pretty empty on the stomach. You will burn yesterdays energy. I made sure to eat very well in the week leading up to the race. That said I still felt a bit sick on the way down. I cycled the 4 miles from home. Again, this is a new routine. It is my preference to the other options which would be jog down (waste of energy in my opinion) or bus (would only fuel the nerves).
As I cycled down I thought to myself what would I do when it gets tough (all 5ks will get tough, to try to not accept or ignore that is to not face up to the challenge of giving your all). Tell yourself “keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing” I thought.
It was quite busy, more busy than I imagined. I deliberately avoided the mass warm up. Its just not my thing. It is the opposite of what I need to get in the mood. I found a quiet side street and jogged backwards and forwards. The sickly feeling subsided which I was somewhat relieved about.
I got on the start line about 3 or 4 rows from the front. I noticed a few people ahead who looked a bit far forward. Politely asked a lady what sort of time she expected. Getting a quizzical look in return I decided a polite excuse me was better and I squeezed past.
The gun went off and I quickly decided on a 100m spurt to get in good position. I quickly found myself next to Danielle Hodgkinson who I knew was capable of sub 17. I had no intention of trying to get anywhere near that sort of time but I decided to go with it, no need to deliberately slow down, just relax. Actually I was running ahead of her at least until 2k, at which point she showed me what strong, controlled running is all about and showed me a clean pair of heels. She went on to win the ladies race.
The great thing about not wearing the Garmin was no distractions. No “oh no, I’m going to fast” or “oh no I’m going to slow”. I was fairly settled. There wasn’t streams of people passing, I was holding my own. The course was a little undulating with a few full turn arounds which disrupt your rhythm.
As always I started feeling it around 3k. I could hear maybe 3 runners on my heels. A Gateshead Harrier past on my right just before a small incline. I took the decision to put in an effort right to the top of that incline. I probably stole 5 metres or so but couldn’t maintain the effort at the top. I was running on grit now and was aware my foot falls were getting heavy, slower and inefficient. The 4k sign was a welcome sight. I got over the section of running track and turned onto the millennium bridge for one last push. At this point the Gateshead Harrier went past me. Coming onto the Newcastle side I gritted my teeth for one last flourish. It wasn’t enough to reel the Harrier in and my focus turned to the ticking clock. I could see 17.32 in the distance. I kept closing my eyes then opening them again. I knew the sub 18 was on, just needed to finish the job.
I had it in my mind throughout this week that I was in shape for a 17.52 or 17.53. Sure enough 17.53 was my time. Who needs a Garmin!
I was pretty spent and not really aware of my position. It wasn’t about that for me. I’d researched the race and knew it wouldn’t be highly competitive as the region’s best runners will be in the HM. But still I’m very happy with 13th place and I can now focus on the cross country.
Thanks for reading! Good luck to those running the “proper race” tomorrow!