I love parkrun, its amazing.
My home parkrun is at Gunnersbury Park in Ealing. It’s a big one – now regularly attracting over 400 runners every week. I sometimes volunteer, but for the last couple of months I’ve been chasing down a sub-28 minute PB and have been focusing on running it as quickly as I can.
I’ve written about the effects of the current damp muggy heatwave on running, and how I find my speed badly affected by this. For a good few weeks I’ve had frustrating run after frustrating, sweat drenched run, feeling like I’m trying to move through treacle and getting nowhere.
I really didn’t want to spend the entire summer trudging along at snail’s pace every time my training plan calls for a tempo run, so this week I decided it was about time I just pulled my socks up and tried to run through it.
I went out for a 5 mile tempo run on Wednesday night and pulled a 60 second PB out of somewhere for that distance, and knowing I had earmarked today to really seriously try for that parkrun PB this was encouraging (although I was worried I might have peaked too soon in the week!).
With that in mind, I asked Mr. Duff to pace me to as close to 28 minutes as we could get. He reached his own milestone of sub-20 last week in spectacular fashion so was due a bit of a relax, and sub-28 is roughly his easy long run pace so it seemed a good plan.
It worked. We covered the first mile relatively comfortably almost bang on 9 minutes, and although I fell back a bit in the second mile (where the hills and grassy bits are!) I definitely kept closer to the pace than I usually would. The final mile seemed to tick by quite quickly, we reached 4k before I knew it despite the number of times I’ve run this route before meaning I know exactly where that 4k marker is!
Just after 4k I noticed my form had dropped ever so slightly around the shoulders and corrected myself, but realised that usually I would be slumping from halfway – this to me is proof that all the strength and technique work I’ve been doing both in club sessions and at home is starting to pay off. For a while I have been telling myself that I will start to notice a difference soon, and I really felt the benefits today. My core is stronger, my legs are stronger, my arm swing and knee lift is so much better and all that really does help,
It’ll be interesting to see if this improvement shows on the event photos and whether I look more a streamlined whippet than my usual hyperventilating spaniel act, I’m not convinced it will but I certainly felt cooler!
Coming up to the final grassy uphill, which usually I hate with a real passion, I dug my heels in and switched to a one pace breathing pattern to kick for home and drive as hard as I could. I actually passed a guy on the home straight which is really rare for me.
I managed to cross the line in a Garmin time of 27:58:43 – sub-28 at last!
All the extra work is definitely paying off and I would encourage anyone looking to speed up to consider strength training. I’m four weeks into Jeff Horowitz’s Quick Strength for Runners which is brilliant if you need a structure to these things, and as I’ve said I can already feel the change in the way I’m carrying myself when I run. Even better, although I was pushing as hard as I could today, the relative speed seemed slower than I would have expected which I think has a lot to do with feeling stronger for longer when on the move. I’m taking that as a sign that actually, with the right attitude, I can absolutely keep getting faster.
There’s more to it than biomechanics though. At a meeting about the upcoming September Ealing Half Marathon after my fast 5-miler on Wednesday, my coach spoke to the group about how running is a self fulfilling prophecy; he told us that the way to look at achieving the pace you want is not ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’, but ‘I’ll see it when I believe it’.
After Wednesday and with the weather a touch less humid I decided to change my mindset from ‘can’t’ to ‘can’ this week, and I’ve got two new PB’s to show for it.