A few weeks ago I registered my slowest ever 5K time on a hot Sunday morning in East London. Chastened, I resolved to learn to love the distance using aversion therapy, turning up at races at a moment’s notice and trying to find a strategy to enjoy what thousands of others do every Saturday at their local Parkrun. As a little incentive, I stashed away the bottle of beer I received for finishing the 5K on that fateful day, not to open it until I I improved upon the best time I’d set in April 2013.
Since then it’s been a matter of two mid foot struck steps forward, three heel struck steps back with two local Parkruns completed in quick succession. My nearest Parkrun is a comparative toughy, three laps around a grassy playing field with a moderate hill on each lap. I figured that if I could slowly improve my times there, I could then show up at an otherwise “easier” course, smash that PB and open that beer bottle.
After a saintly Friday night with plenty of “helpful” rather than “ironic” hydration, I decided to cycle the couple of miles to the park in an attempt to warm up those weakened weekend limbs. I also tried the last minute caffeine hit tactic, downing a double espresso an hour before the start following the wholemeal toast and honey strategy an hour before that. It was a warm summer’s morning but not as hot as it had been a fortnight before so conditions were ok but not perfect. And progress was made – 20 seconds faster than the “personal worst”!
With the target just a little closer, I had to capitalise so last Saturday I returned to the starting line, making it two consecutive Parkruns in a fortnight. I’d even done some tfast intervals on the preceding Monday and a challenging club run on the Wednesday. However, the night before, I allowed some complacency to creep in, fuelling up on Nando’s and craft beer followed by a late night sleeping on a sofa bed with what felt like an iron bar sticking into my back.
Otherwise the preparation was the same: toast, caffeine, bike, gentle start, “sprint” finish. The result? 9 seconds slower than my personal worst. Back to the drawing board.
I think I need a new strategy and have been dipping into a comprehensive list of ideas on the 5krunner blog which could have been written especially for me. After a couple of weeks of taking it easy I’m going to launch into half marathon training, following a programme rather than the makingitupasIgoalong approach of the past few months. This will mean regular speedwork rather than the less reliable “do a bit of panting a few days before, that’s bound to make me faster” approach. I’m also going to try to keep turning up at random Parkruns but also trying some of the following to see if they help me to get that beer bottle open before its sell-by date:
– Proper warming up
– Pay more attention to what my Garmin is telling me
– Get some lighter shoes
– Get to a race on a cooler day
– Beetroot shots?
Watch this space