Out Of Nothing

It’s been 5 weeks since I last properly ran a parkrun. Since then I’ve been brutally assaulted on the physio table twice a week, and the closest I’ve come running is throwing in a few cheeky jogs at parkrun while I’m not allowed to properly run.

Yesterday I turned up to Gunnersbury parkrun bright and early. I was volunteering again and was helping with the initial setup – selfishly this means I get to both volunteer and complete the course, as I edge closer to my 50 club t-shirt.

The previous week I’d been the 30 minute pacer to see how my legs felt on a medium pace jog, and they’d felt fine. So this week I decided to switch to 9 minute mile pace which would see me finishing the parkrun in a bit under 28 minutes, and was also my target pace for the half marathon and marathon.

For some reason however, I got cocky. I thought ‘what if I just set my watch to pace me round in 23 minutes – I wonder what would happen’. That would mean about 7:24 per mile pacing. It was a stupid idea for many reasons.

  1. I’m not meant to be running at the moment. I’m meant to be building back up to running gently.
  2. I’d never run close to 23 minutes for the 5k before. My all time PB was 23:30 and, surprisingly, I wasn’t injured when I ran that.
  3. It had been raining overnight, so the muddy stretches were very slippery. Slippery does not equal fast. Slippery + Fast = Humiliating face plant
  4. I haven’t run in 5 weeks
  5. Did I mention I shouldn’t be running?

Fortunately I dismissed this idea. Less fortunately, I didn’t dismiss it entirely. As I stood at the start line I thought sod it, let’s just see what happens.

Gunnersbury parkrun starts on a downhill. Everyone goes far too fast on the downhill, so it’s handy to hold back bit. But then knowing you’re going to be faced with a 1km uphill, you want to build up a bit of a head start. By the bottom of the hill I was 20 seconds ahead of target pace if I wanted to finish in 23 minutes. That was okay – I’d soon lose that on the 1km climb. As I turned the corner at the 1km marker and headed uphill, I tried to maintain pace and keep my Garmin telling me I was 20 seconds ahead. Don’t ask me how, but I managed it. In fact when I crossed the half way point I was 30 seconds ahead as my time was called out at 11 minutes. Christ – if I continued at this pace I’d finish in 22 minutes!

That’s when I hit the muddy grass. Trying to maintain pace when you’re running downhill on mud isn’t easy. There was no point in just charging on as I’d clearly end up falling in dog poo. When I got to the tarmac again, I was thankful, but realising the muddy stretch had taken a lot of effort. I was still 15 seconds ahead of the 23 minute pacing though, so I just tried to maintain it. If I could do that for as long as possible, I stood a real chance of not just beating my 23:30 PB, but maybe even beating 23 minutes.

The 4th kilometre was a spent just trying to regulate my breathing. I’m not used to running at this pace, and I was feeling the energy being sapped from me with every breath. As I entered the final kilometre I held the 15 second lead but was starting to struggle. What’s more, I knew the last few hundred metre sprint was uphill. Actually – worse. It was uphill and on muddy grass again. Shitsville.

That said, I wasn’t puking. And if I wasn’t puking, I still had to believe that I could push harder. As I hit the final uphill I really dug in. I was slipping all over the place on the grass, but overall I was moving in a forward direction faster than others around me. As I drove my knackered legs on entirely borrowed energy, I crossed the finish line alongside another runner and did my best not to collapse on the floor – desperate to repay the oxygen debt. I had no idea which of us had crossed the line ahead of the other, so I gave them the benefit of my doubt and suggested they take the finishing token ahead of me.

New finish line technology later showed that I’d actually crossed the line slightly ahead of him, but I didn’t really care about my position. I cared about my time. I checked my watch. Un. Frickin. Believable. Properly properly unbelievable. As in really not believable at all.

I hadn’t just beaten my PB. I’d absolutely annihilated it. I destroyed it. Every inch of self respect it once had was now gone. I’d basically offered it a lift home from work, then driven 100 miles in the other direction and told it to make its own way home. I’d pretty much slept with its supermodel girlfriend, and then reversed over its dog on the way out. I may as well have waited until it was asleep, then cut off its testicles and put them in its mouth.

It wasn’t just under 23 minutes. It was under 22 and a half minutes. The final official time was 22:25. Where the hell did that come from?

Please don’t tell my Physio




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