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