All training plans suggest periodic rest weeks or at least to taper off the training schedule before a race, so I put this to the test last week with no mid-week swim, ducking out of a couple of commuting rides (it was raining anyway) and just running gently. Then on Saturday morning I went for it. It was my first Parkrun, and having watched the previous couple of weeks with the kids I knew a time around 20 minutes would put me in the top 20 of 150+ runners. The fastest runners can do it in under 17 minutes and the slowest are over 40 so there’s a massive range of abilities. I thought under 20 was quite achiveable for me although the last time I ran a self measured 5k I ended up a minute outside my target.
A share of a second bottle of wine on Friday night had me waking up very de-hydrated and slightly cloudy at 5am. I quickly drank some water and found an effervescent multi-vitamin tablet to pop as an alternative to the preferred Alka-seltzer which could not be found anywhere in the house (I looked hard!). 7am and I felt much better and tucked into a small bowl of porridge and honey, and sipped a bit of SIS Go with my morning cup of tea.
I set off for the park 20 minutes before the race started at 9am and warmed my muscles with a gentle jog but still had 5 minutes of hanging around the boating lake with other waiting runners. I re-warmed the muscles with a few runs up and down then found a position at the front of the crowd before we all set off. I tucked in behind a cluster of 6 runners for the first mile and felt comfortable doing the small lap back past the lake, then as we set off up the hill towards Heaton Hall the pack broke up and most of them slowed as I pushed on. The hill wasn’t as long or steep as I had previously imagined and on reaching the 2k marker only 7mins 30 had elapsed so I was well on target and still feeling comfortable. I deliberately didn’t push any harder as the course flattened and passed the 3k sign at 11:30 still comfortable. I decided to push through the 4th kilometre as much of it was down hill and reached the last marker at 15:15. By this stage there was nobody within 10 seconds either ahead or behind me. The last kilometre around the lake was hard as I felt my legs weaken but I sped up for the last 100 metres to come in 7th and recorded 19:24. Much faster than I had hoped but with some scope for further improvement. I’ll try again at the end of the month with new trainers, socks, a perfectly clear head and hopefully a few more club runners present to help regulate my pace and push me somewhere closer to 19 minutes.
The rest definitely helped me and for the first time my legs ached for a couple of days proving that the muscles had been challenged rather than just working my heart and lungs to the max.