Pulling A Fast One


Standing in the crowds at two minutes to nine, I have very lumpen legs and I’m wondering if I have enough energy to pull me around the 5K Parkrun distance, never mind in a good time.

But it’s a beautiful day, with the deciduous leaves glistening like fire in the sun, and crackling underfoot. There’s barely a breeze, and there’s a terrific crowd of almost 500, ready to go.

The problem with registering a smoking 28:42, as I did in July, is that I now need to try and emulate it. But I don’t think that was a normal day. Some days you go out, and you’re flying, for no reason you can put your finger on. Since that high point, I seem to have gone slower and slower. But I have to trust the training.

I’m half way through my 10K training, and I have been attempting to do speed work.

It’s never been a systematic part of my training before, but then, to be honest, I’ve never been systematic about training at all before. It has always been a case of getting out for a canter and gradually building up the mileage of the long run to somewhere in the ball park of the race that I was aiming for.

My mate Gary, a fellow Pensby Runner, has offered to run with me as he’s a bit injured. I attempt, with mixed success, to get him to follow the warm-up routine that I’ve learnt on Nigel’s Running Movement Course. He happily does a slow jog for a few hundred yards, but he looks at me dubiously as I bounce like a loon with my high knees fast jogging and butt kicks. And by the time I’m on the three-way lunges, he’s trying to ignore me as he chats to someone else.

I had picked up, partly because it’s a free online plan, and partly because I’d heard of his name, a Hal Higdon 8-week training block for the 10K. In it, he alternates, each week, between a tempo run, and intervals.

This Tuesday, I’d already done my intervals, 9 x 500 metres at just under 9 minute miles (my best 5K pace) with two minutes rest. I’m not sure what the people in Port Sunlight think of me when I am doing loops around their Cenotaph, but apparently this kind of effort wakes up something called the fast twitch fibres in your muscles. I would definitely like some of those to be woken up.

A crowd of people getting ready for parkrun
Game faces on people

Hal’s plan called for a 5K tester midway, hence why I’ve lined up this morning but this would also act as a good tempo run. I would normally be working my way towards the back of the starting crowd, but despite the tired legs I’m staying in the middle, so this time I actually get to hear the ‘3, 2 , 1, Go’ of the announcer.

Gary sticks with me, determined not to do any more damage to himself, even though I can see the competitiveness in his eyes. As I’m pumping my elbows and trying to pull in the oxygen as deeply as I can, he looks like he’s loping along serenely.

It feels like an effort all the way for me. There isn’t that feeling of ‘flying’ that I had the last good time, and I hope my huffing and puffing is worth it. I must be going quite fast for me though, as the chicanes in the middle of the route seem tough to turn through.

I hope, at least, to get below 30 minutes. That would be, psychologically, nice to see. The time beginning with a 2 rather than a 3. I manage to pick off a few people, and I realise that I’m in the thick of the crowd, rather than on its more spread out tail end. That’s a good sign, surely.

We go around the last bend for the final downhill stretch and I’ve got nothing in the tank for a sprint finish, which means I gave it my all. I pull out my phone as we go over the line, and my app says 28:32. Wow! I’ve potentially shaved around 10 seconds off my course record. Official time later was 28:31 so that is amazing.

It looks like the speed work is paying off, alongside Nigel’s course, and some of those fast-twitch muscle fibres have woken up.  I just need to keep them from nodding off again before my 10K.

My plan said that I should be doing a long slow run this morning. But instead I shared a bottle of wine last night with Anne, and some supermarket pizza to celebrate. The weather is pants this morning so it was a good call.

5 thoughts on “Pulling A Fast One

  1. Bravo. Odd how it’s there some days and not others – I think it’s best to celebrate the former and ignore the latter. Like you, I’d got into a bit of a plod as my normal pace – it seems that I needed some speed work to reassure me that I could run faster.

  2. good stuff on the warm up, it’s painful trying to get my groups to do their ABCs….then when we do do them, they compain about not being co-ordinated….well, if they’d done them before every run right?……even just a few body weight squats helps

    1. I’ve realised that for the runs that I’m trying to go fast (for me!) the warm up is key to a good performance. Plus you’re more likely to stay injury free, especially as you get older!

  3. Back in the day when I was running 5Ks, I’d walk for 10 minutes and do stretches prior to the run. It always seemed to help me. There were also times in the run where I would also walk for about a minute before continuing to run. There are so many variables that can affect your running performance. You are showing up and doing the work, and I think that’s commendable.

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