5km Parkrun: Festive PB

Merry christmas folks. I was working last night and so the evening didn’t seem particularly festive. I spent a good part of the evening trying to stop a bleeding nose from bleeding, which is often both a lot more annoying and difficult than you might think. The nose is a beautifully designed organ, fantastic for its purpose, but not conducive to an examination under a headlight at 8pm on Christmas Eve. Serious design flaw.

The rest of the evening was spent thinking about running today’s 5km Parkrun which I had intentionally marked as PB potential. I wanted 21 minutes ideally, a swooping 40 seconds faster than my current PB – which sounds easy to do (40 seconds is nothing right?), but in the last kilometre of the race when all you want to do is stop and take a big big BIG fucking breath, it really isn’t that straightforward. Not that that’s lost on supporters in races who remind you to keep going. Don’t get me wrong, I love the support and its always fantastic to have a good crowd and their bleary eyed mildly condescending support, but if you’re the kind of person that shouts keep going, you are a terrible person and there is a special place in hell for you. It is right up there with dog walkers that can’t control their dogs. OF COURSE I’M GOING TO KEEP GOING DID YOU THINK THAT I WAS IN IMMINENT DANGER OF STOPPING THATS THE POINT DONT YOU GET IT I HAVE TO FINISH THIS FUCKING RACE OTHERWISE THERES NO POINT IN STARTING AND SO BY DEFINITION I WILL KEEP GOING GOD.


The pace I needed was 4:12min/km which would have brought me tidily in at 21 minutes. I knew that this was a tall order and so I decided that anything shy of the 21″40 PB would be acceptable.

I met up with two of my strava buddies to begin the festive race with. Ironically there were less Santas today then on the Parkrun last week. Suppose all the work’s done by now I guess? The venue for today’s run was Southampton, which generally supplies a good event. I was told once that it was in fact the third largest Parkrun in the UK but I don’t have any evidence or numbers for that statement. It probably comes from the same people who tell you that you’ll catch a cold if you go out after a shower.

Southampton is a nice place to Parkrun. There are 4 main courses which are largely similar and are based around a proud and defining hill at the north end of the park. The route is paved throughout and only at the very end do you cut onto grass for the finish funnel. Volunteer support is aways seemingly plentiful and people look like they enjoy their lives, which judging by yesterdays queues in Tesco, not many people do. In today’s course (C) this was to include 2 laps of the aforementioned hill. Now this hill is not particularly steep and I believe overall its gradient comes to 3% or so, so nothing that makes you whimper in terror. That said, it does go on. The climb each time is a kilometre and builds from the point just after the so called Flats. It continues to the very top of Coronation Way and true to the gradient, is mostly gentle in incline. The first 300m or so are subject to an insidious change of gradient, which to the eye, almost seems flat and as you begin to catch your breath it really begins to frustrate you. You know there’s a proper hill coming but you’re tired already. The “actual” hill then kicks in 2 places towards the end, I slightly longer steep part, succeeded almost immediately by a shorter one. Both kicks are interspersed by a short flat segment which I have described as flat but is still in incline. In short, this hill is a bastard and you do it twice.

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Here is the workout and I have enclosed the pace chart from Garmin below. A few points – the green line is the elevation which seems perfectly benign but the graph is lying to you. Clearly that pace chart has never run up that hill before. Also my Garmin was playing up today quite considerably and chose to screw up my times which has upset me no end. Strava now thinks I didn’t PB and so as far as I’m concerned, it can go and fuck itself.

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Here are the splits.

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I’m not going to comment on these particularly – the 4th split represented the bulk of the 2nd loop of the hill and quite evidently it hit me hard there. Looking at pace trends, this is similar to other times I have run Southampton. Aaron my friend who was running with me gave me great advice to drop pace but maintain a similar effort going up the hill and so part of this was intentional. What this meant was that as I turned the northerly most corner down towards the final kilometre I felt I had something (not very much) but something left to churn for the sprint home.

In sum, I am happy. My official final time was 21:28, watch time 21:25 so I’ll go with Parkrun. I ranked 50th overall of 351 runners which was pleasing. There’s something genuinely and morbidly satisfying about passing people in a race. It’s a right bastard when they overtake you again though. That said, the run was as good as I could have achieved in the circumstances. It was on the back of a full week running and some tiring preceding sessions and no taper. On a flatter course, with a bit of a wind down on the weekly miles I am sure that 21 minutes is there for me. I’m only 28 seconds away and hey, that’s easy.


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