As I’m tapering, I’ve had an easy week mileage wise. The miles were also down because I was away in Scotland on business for a couple of days. My trip included a visit to Cappielow Park to watch Greenock Morton beat Dundee United 2-1 to reach the Scottish League cup semi-finals.
This was my third visit to see Morton in just over a year and I’m becoming a bit of a fan. The football is honest and wholesome, a World away from the narcissistic millionaire cheats that inhabit the Premier League, it’s refreshing.
With the bulk of the marathon training miles done, I can focus on sharpening up a bit and I did two hard efforts this week – at the hilly Roundhay parkrun on Saturday and then at the Northern 6 stage road relays at Sport City in Manchester on Sunday.
Valley Striders entered two men’s teams of 6, I was in the B team. The start/finish was on the athletics track next to the Etihad stadium. Not being used to running in front of anything approaching a ‘crowd’, initially, it felt a little intimidating:
There were lots of very fast and very skinny runners, and with my 11st bulk, I felt a bit of a porker. With nearly all the top athletics clubs in the North attending, the standard was very high.
However, the event had a semblance of amateurish barely managed chaos, with people and marshals everywhere and a twisty course that was hard to discern, though it was OK once I was running.
Each leg was approximately 5.5km long and I was allocated leg 4, which meant about an hour’s wait after the racing started. I realised how high the standard was when our very best runner, the flying machine John Hobbs, finished leg 1 in 28th place in a time which would equate to a sub 15:30 5K. He was nearly a minute and a half behind the leaders…
As I waited in the holding pen for my leg, I tried to quell the nerves and focus my mind, to get myself truly in the moment so I could channel my effort intelligently without blowing up. Running for a team in an essentially individual sport really makes one want to give everything.
I’ve been reading Chris Boardman’s excellent autobiography this week and he wrote a brilliant passage about how crushingly nervous he was waiting for the Olympic 4000m pursuit final in 1992.
As an unemployed carpenter with four kids, he knew his whole life could change in 4 minutes. He was flooded with negative thoughts and he was so nervous that he could barely swing his leg over the bike.
Just before the race, he realised that all he could control was his own effort. He decided simply to just do his best and see what that got him…
I realise that it is ridiculous to compare my effort to an Olympic final, but we need to think big and I guess the psychology is the same.
My incoming teammate Gwil came into the finish and the starter released me for my leg.
The first 300m were on the track. Despite there being 125 teams, by this time, understandably, runners were well spread around the course. I set off with a small group of three, including a lad from Rochdale Harriers who sprinted away, I followed him. After 250 metres I looked at my Garmin and my km pace was showing 3:10…much too fast!
I calmed down and let the Rochdale lad go. The first km was run in just over 3:20 (i.e. 16:40 5K pace – a minute faster than my PB). I tried to settle down and find my true absolute threshold pace, a speed I could just hold to the end without blowing up.
Unsurprising, I slowed slightly over kms 2 and 3 – 3:35 then 3:34. It was hard, my heart rate was up, the breathing was heavy and my chest was hurting, but I dug as deep as I could and then tried to increase my pace.
Others started to flag, I passed a few runners, though in the chaos it was hard to tell if they were on the same leg as me. I caught the Rochdale Harrier, who had totally shot his bolt – he’d gone off too fast.
My fourth km was covered in 3:23 and then it was just a case of enduring the pain and getting back into the stadium as fast as possible and getting it all out for the final 300m on the track.
Luckily, as I entered the stadium there was a young lady runner about 30m in front of me that I used as a mark, swooping past her on the final bend as I unleashed my best sprint for the line and collapsed on the infield.
I ran my leg in 19:36, which equates to 17:26 5K pace – which would have been a big 5K PB. I was happy with my effort and loved the competition. When the results came out, I saw that I’d improved the team position by eight places on my leg, which was very satisfying.
The Valley teams did well – the A team just missing out on qualification for the National road relays (top 25) with 31st place and the B team finished a respectable 50th. Quite a few teams were disqualified, most I think where a runner had run too few laps…
I really fancy having a go at my 5K PB…if the weather is calm at the flat York parkrun next week, I think I’ll give it a shot.
Yorkshire marathon -2 weeks
33.4 miles, longest run 10 miles
Weight 11st 3lb
parkrun (Roundhay) 18:29, 3rd