One of the fragments of running knowledge I have acquired is that I do know the difference between a 5000m / ‘five thousand metres’ and a 5k / ‘five kay’ – the first is five kilometres raced on a track and the second is the same distance run on the road. A little over a week ago I ran only my second 5000m race.

The event was part of an open meeting at Highgate Harriers‘ Parliament Hill track. It was the first open meeting with a full programme that I have attended – there were four field events and the 5000m was the last and longest of six track events. All but one of the track events was organised as two or more independent races grouped by ability; the 5000m was divided into two races and I was in the second of those. I arrived early enough to relax and watch several of the earlier events before needing to prepare for my own. I particularly enjoyed the second of the three 800m races and watched with a broad grin as runners of all ages from pre-teenage girls to men approaching my own age, with age and gender representatives of most groups in between, raced in close competition and crossed the finish line within seconds of each other.

I arrived at the meeting with a target of 18:50 for my race; the same optimistic target I set for my last two 5k parkruns. I had fleetingly considered that a track should be more conducive to speed than road and hoped that I might set a 5000m best faster than my current 5k PB of 18:53. But I hadn’t considered how much better. Whilst getting changed into my race kit I chatted with another runner who suggested, in an encouraging way, that the track might be worth 25 seconds or so over a road 5k! I hadn’t considered it might be quite that much, but didn’t reflect further at the time; my 18:50 target was pretty optimistic anyway.

By the time I lined up at the start for my race (8:43pm according to my Garmin) it was dark beyond the floodlights of the track and I was feeling just a little tired – I was about to start a race around twelve hours later than I typically do! I had also warmed up anticipating an 8.20pm start … But enough excuses already, I was still excited enough to start quickly and glancing at my watch just after we passed the finish line for the first time confirmed just how fast. My pace was well inside 3:40/km and knowing my 18:50 goal required an average of 3:46/km I needed to slow down. I only wanted to slow down a little, but running in such close proximity to the others – I was in the middle of the 13 starters as we traversed the second bend – I wanted to be sure I didn’t compromise anyone else’s race. I quite enjoyed the sensation of looking around to make myself aware of the runner on my shoulder and those just behind me and then carefully modifying my pace on the second straight. Several runners took their cue and passed me before the next bend.

By the time I reached the finish line again, and saw the 11 laps to go board, I had settled in and a lap later finished the first kilometre in 3:47. By this time I think I was already in thirteenth place and focussed on running my goal pace. I completed the second kilometre in 3:48 and already knew I was not going to be able to achieve my goal pace for the entire race. I modified my goal to sub 19:00. There was a slight, but still significant, wind in the back straight and running unprotected by other runners it had some effect on me. I completed the third kilometre in 3:54. I could still see the runner in twelfth place, within 100m of me, and tried to avoid being dropped further. The rest of the field though were out of sight – I was glad I’d asked before the start about the etiquette should I be lapped. I think it was during the next kilometre that the twelfth place runner slowed down and we swapped places – it was definitely him slowing; I completed kilometre four in 3:53.

Running essentially alone I found the decreasing laps to go board something to aim for and having seen it showing two laps to go I was on the final bend when I became aware, at first from the cheering of the crowd and shortly after from the noise of the runners themselves, that the lead runners were completing their final lap and in so doing were catching me up. Quite quickly. I didn’t look round, but accelerated slightly as I approached the one lap to go board to ensure I didn’t get in the way of the finish. And to make sure I didn’t get lapped. 😉

This, and my own finishing push in the final 150m or so, helped to ensure that I completed the final kilometre in 3:39. My official time was 19:01.53. I was initially disappointed not to run inside 19:00, but reflected that I had run my fastest five kilometres of the year so far and in so doing had beaten my two competitively paced parkruns of the year – 19:15 run at Dulwich eleven days earlier and 19:04 in Poole just four days, and twelve hours, before the race.


So, hypothetically, how much is a track worth over a road at this distance? A 5000m time of 19:01.53 produces an age grade, for me, of 75.21% which in turn equates to a 19:27.39 5k. Or, from another perspective, my 18:53 5k PB produces an age grade of 77.49% which equates to a 5000m time of 18:27.97. Both of which seem to make last week’s performance look less positive. Ah well.

Perhaps I’m not in the most positive frame of my mind right now; last week I joined in a track session for the first time in about a year and had to abort the main workout when I strained a muscle in my right calf. It has now been five days since I last ran.


Shorter and sweeter

Yesterday I visited the Brighton Marathon Expo where all this year’s entrants were collecting their race numbers for tomorrow’s race. I had been anticipating a day out in Brighton with my most running sister for several months and our first stop once inside was to the entry desk for next year’s race. 17 April 2016 is now inked in to my diary as the date of my first marathon. My most running sister kept her promise to her husband and didn’t enter too.

Tomorrow I will be watching my step-father running Bournemouth Bay Run Half Marathon his second ever race at 70 following his first at the Bournemouth Supersonic 10k last year.

Today I ran Poole parkrun with my brother-in-law with a target, as last week, of 18:50. Although I was somewhat disappointed not to run sub 19 I did record 19:04 which, like this post, is shorter and sweeter than last week. 😉

Short and sweet

A couple of days ago I decided to run at Dulwich parkrun this weekend. My race at last weekend’s Paddock Wood Half was very hard from half way and initially – both during the race and for some time afterwards – I had been somewhat disappointed with my inability to produce the performance I was looking for. Yesterday I read some feedback from a clubmate to the effect that many runners had struggled with the windy conditions in the latter stages of the race and the consensus of opinion was that this had added about one and half minutes to the times recorded. This encouraged me considerably – I finished in a time 1:27 slower than my target – and, although I realised it was a little too soon to expect a fast performance, I set myself an optimistic target of 18:50 for this morning – a 3 second PB if achieved. I was more circumspect on Twitter:

2015-04-04 11.40.13

I was almost the first person to ‘the parkrun bench’ where Dulwich parkrunners meet. The lone runner already sitting on the bench and I chatted about the parkrun phenomenon of everyone arriving just in time. As an habitual late arriver to races I like that arriving a similar time before a parkrun is almost outrageously early. Within another group of early arrivers I saw a face I knew; I had run with Neil, from South London Harriers, at Track Coulsdon in late 2013 when he had paced me to the first of my 800m PBs set during that period. Having renewed our acquaintance he set off for a warm up with his clubmates and few moments later, once I’d woken up my Garmin, I did the same.

I luxuriated in my earliness with a 10 minute warm up including a few hundred metres at race pace and some final dynamic stretches and then took shelter from the light, but cold, wind in the now substantial pre run briefing crowd. A warm welcome later I removed my final layers as we were directed to the start line. I had just tucked in a few runners back from the front when, with a concise “ready, set, go!”, we were off. Dulwich parkrun consists of three essentially equal laps and there is usually a volunteer calling splits at each pass of the start/finish. A call of “6:15” allowed me to retain my optimism for another 1600m or so, until I heard “12:50” and acknowledged my reality. I was re-passed in the final kilometre by a runner who, for little reason beyond that he was wearing a similar black top and haircut, I thought might be my sometime rival from Paddock Wood. The briefest of breathless conversations after we crossed the line – him still in front despite my final sprint – confirmed that actually he was not.

I was handed finish token number 17 and, once I had recovered sufficiently, I removed my personal barcode tag from my shoe and handed both gratefully to one of the volunteers on scanning duty. I checked my watch to find I had run 19:15 – not quite as short or sweet as I had hoped – and then spent the next 20 minutes or so watching and cheering the remaining runners as they arrived. I love sprint finishers, friends arriving in parallel, children leaving parents in their wake. I watched as regular Run Director Jenny crossed the line with her daughter “It’s her first, full 5k!”. I chatted again with Neil and we exchanged our unofficial finish times “I hope I might be just inside 17:00”! (My exclamation point.) Fortunately, at parkrun, everyone is amazing.

The start/finish was being packed away and most of the runners had already left for home. I started a conversation with a runner whom I recognised from a previous Dulwich parkrun post run coffee. I remembered him particularly because he is one of the few runners who always finishes well ahead of me within my age group. I was hopeful that when I move up to VM50-54 later this year I would leave him behind and so have an opportunity to record a first finish within my age group … It turned out that he moves up to VM50-54 a few months before I do! Ah well. We spoke of running, injury, cadence and form before joining the results processing team and helping to sort the finish tokens. This may even have helped ensure that my result text was already on my phone when I got back to my car 🙂

2015-04-04 11.19.01

I had run 19:15 – not quite as short, or sweet, as I had hoped.

Thank you parkrun. [I really like the recent (?) tweak to the notification text to include acknowledgement of volunteers.]

My pleasure.