My year started off working on improving my long distance running and for a while I considered entering the Milton Keynes Marathon for May. Eventually though I decided that many marathons in so short a space of time would be ridiculous and instead it’d be a good time to do some shorter, faster races again (I did change my mind and realise I should do it, but it was too late by this point). Due to this I decided to enter my very first 5K race – the “Rocket 5K” in Milton Keynes.
This race is billed as being mostly down hill so I decided ahead of race day that I couldn’t really clash any result from this as a personal best, but might be fun to do. Whatever I could set here could then be a goal for future parkruns. My current parkrun set PB was 19:34 so I hoped that even if my legs were still tired from Brighton Marathon that they’d be able to at least hit that, though secretly I hoped I could get sub-19.
Recovery from the marathons was hard and I never really got to practice any fast runs beforehand – even though there had been the opportunity for a parkrun visit the week before. My hope was that the couple of low mileage weeks would help my legs get some speed back. Though by race day I still hadn’t gotten rid of the cold I’d caught just before Brighton so decided I would adopt the same strategy as the Greater Manchester Marathon – set three goals and aim for the middle one. As before these goals were named such that they were positive, though there were only 3 minutes between them:
Gold: 18 minutes
Silver: 19 minutes 30 seconds
Bronze: 21 minutes
The numbers for this race weren’t posted out beforehand and they advised that they should be collected in the days before the race. With it being about an hour drive to Milton Keynes I had no intention of doing this, so instead had to arrive early enough on Sunday to pick it up from the Race HQ (a Wetherspoons next to the start line).
On the morning of the race I was on the road by 07:00 and arrived in Milton Keynes around 08:10 but spent a bit of time finding the best place to park. The first place I found was going to charge £10 for the day, even though I only needed a few hours so decided to park near Xscape where the Half Marathon had taken place earlier in the year. This meant I’d got about a mile to walk to the start and would act as a nice warm-up… though I thought it was feeling a little chilly out so made sure I was wearing a compression layer underneath my #UKRunChat #OneTeam technical tee.
At Race HQ I immediately joined the queue for the toilets – they were using the ones inside Wetherspoons, so was slow moving, but it was still better than the ladies who were queueing all the way around the pub and to the front door. After collecting my number I headed outside to wait for the start. I stood around waiting for my watch to get a signal to start with, and the longer it took, the more nervous I got that it wasn’t going to find one in time. Fortunately as the (quiet) horn blew to signal the start it had moments before connected and I was able to start my watch as I crossed the start line.
For the first 0.4 miles up to a crossroad it was uphill, and at a gradient that was enough to mean I could gain a few places as people around me took the hill slower. This made me decide that whatever time I got should probably count as it wouldn’t have been that different to other 5Ks as it turned out. After the turn this was then followed by a quick descent which gave my legs time to recover from the extra effort put into not slowing down for the hill. This soon flattened out and for the rest of the race any gradient wasn’t really noticeable.
Due to this being a 5K it meant the markers were every kilometre which was something I hadn’t really thought about beforehand. Although I’d wanted my watch tracking the run, at the same time I didn’t want to look at my watch either so was trying to use the kilometre markers as a guideline for what effort I should be putting in. It was getting warm though and by the 2nd kilometre I was already regretting that compression layer – my mouth was going dry and I felt like I needed some water. I did realise though that I’d not had anything to drink for 3 hours when I’d had a cup of tea with my breakfast – possibly a mistake.
I kept on going and soon lost track of where I was as I paid more attention to the runners around me than to the signs. It felt like I was going slow though and as time went on I realised that I’d got no chance of getting the PB I wanted – but I wasn’t about to give up. From parkruns I know this is a distance where you just have to keep pushing yourself though with how warm I’d gotten I decided I needed a quick rest to cool down. I think I’d just passed the 4km and I let myself slow to a walk.
I’ve driven for over an hour to get to this race for what I’d guessed would be approximately 20 minutes of running. This is silly.
As I started to think about this I also thought how in a marathon 20 minutes isn’t really that much, and when I started to think more about it I realised if I just kept going at a slower pace then I could at least finish and maybe my time wouldn’t be too bad. Having walked for about 20 or so metres I started to run again.
After the road crossed a dual carriageway the MK Dons stadium was in sight. This was the end – if I just kept running then it wouldn’t be so bad that I’d walked for some of it. After the route turned into the car park I could then see the finish line at the end of a long straight. I decided it wasn’t worth sprinting for, but I would at least pick up the pace a little.
As I crossed the line I stopped my watch and was handed a medal and a bottle of water. I sat down on the curb and took a look at my watch for the first time since before the race – 19:06. Somehow I’d managed to get a personal best still, even though I’d walked and hadn’t bothered to sprint to the finish. Being that close to sub-19 was a little disheartening, but Strava estimated my 5K time as 18:55. Officially I’d finished with a chip time of 19:03 in an overall position of 41 out of 1243 finishers (which puts me in the first 3.3%).
Perhaps that wasn’t too bad really – I feel now that perhaps I could manage sub-19 – but I’d need to keep pushing myself. Having gotten so close to sub-19, one of my goals for 2016, it’s likely that I’ll now try to achieve this at a parkrun later in the year. It felt like this might have been good preparation for the Run For All Nottingham 10K which was now only two weeks away. This was something I started to think about as I gently ran the 5K back to my car.