Following my 5k/parkrun PB at Dulwich parkrun last week I decided to return to my regular long easy run day of Thursday and forego any attempt to improve my PB further today. Nonetheless I still wanted my parkrun fix and so chose to run Crystal Palace parkrun event number 213.
Personally it was my 10th parkrun at Crystal Palace Park and my 38th overall. Continuing at my present average rate of participation I should become a member of the parkrun 50 club in July 2015. Hopefully this will ensure I receive a 50 club t-shirt in good time to use it as my race shirt in my first marathon, aged 50, at Brighton in Spring 2016.
There’s something about the start of Crystal Palace parkrun that affects me like no other. Certainly the tree lined avenue, part of the park’s original layout, that embraces us all as we run off the line is a starting vista that few other parkruns can match, but it’s more likely to be something mundanely physical I think. Whatever the reason I always have a strong feeling of light headed-ness, perhaps an endorphin/adrenaline rush, as I run between the trees. So much so that I often wonder if I’m ok … But it passes quickly as the course turns right off tarmac onto a path at the end of the trees and the gradient, imperceptibly at first, begins to increase.
The course has a character that has grown on me. As someone who seeks out flat courses and fast times I like Crystal Palace parkrun more than I should. 🙂
Because the inclines and descents around the course are so significant there is little opportunity to settle into a particular pace and so the fact that I am still without my Garmin was always going to be less significant here than on a flatter course. In any case, as I’ve been discovering recently, I am actually able to pace my training runs and races quite well without information on my wrist anyway. I set out with a target of 20 minutes and an idea that my course best of 19:45 might be within reach given my recent form and that I am now distinctly lighter, 67kg as opposed to 71.5kg, than I was when I last ran Crystal Palace parkrun competitively just under a year ago.
Holding my starting position until the end of the avenue I carefully picked my way through a handful of runners into relatively open space as I headed East. Passing the eventual finish point there were a dozen or more runners ahead of me and I stayed comfortable and relaxed anticipating the steep section just beyond the approaching left turn into the trees. Working just hard enough I reached the high point of the course in the North corner of the park and relaxed into the beginning of the downhill section. Though this is currently a little slippery in places due to wet Autumn leaves, it is a great place to stretch out and enjoy a sensation of lightness and speed. A couple of gentle curves later the course turns right to meet itself and down the steepest descent, already traversed uphill earlier in the lap, which needs careful handling particularly given the almost 90 degree left turn, with a coincident surface change from tarmac to path, at the bottom. Passing runners earlier in their first lap on the short two way section of the course is brief respite on relatively level ground before the course drops away again down the path along the East side of the park. A couple of roller coaster like dips later I found myself at the Southern most point of the course and contemplating the start again. I glanced at my watch and it showed 9 minutes. I realised that if I could reach the finish point within 2 minutes that a further full lap from there taking another 9 minutes would put me close to my 20 minute target. In the event it took only around 1:50 to reach the finish area and I felt confident I could complete the final lap in 9 minutes or better.
Another lap of the course and I pushed for the line, stopped my watch as I crossed and glanced at it briefly before being handed finish token 11. Seeing 19:42.77 on my watch I allowed myself a discreet, manly fist clench and assumed the post parkrun position; hands on knees, panting hard. I like the finish funnel position at Crystal Palace; it makes for great finishing experiences and I enjoyed cheering several groups of runners over the line as I recovered further. A first timer at Crystal Palace parkrun struck up conversation saying that he’d seen my Beckenham RC top and decided to follow me on the assumption that I’d know my way around. Which was nice. He finished a couple of places ahead of me and we chatted, as one does, about parkrun PBs, flat courses, marathons and such. Which was also nice. 🙂
Thanking the volunteers I set off for home and the official results subsequently confirmed today’s time as 19:43; an improvement on my previous course best, set in the already mentioned run last November, of 2 seconds.
This post has been brought to you by the numbers 213, 10, 38, 50, 67, almost 90, 11 and 2.
* Photograph of Crystal Palace Park used under Creative Commons licence. Original image and license details can be found within the Wikipedia article Crystal Palace Park.