Week 8 – The Power of ParkRun and Pressure of Pacing

Earlier on this week I stumbled across an article explaining how running friends could be the greatest friends you will ever have. I must say, I am very lucky to be surrounded by some amazing people. My best friends are the same group of girls I made friends with back in the first few weeks of secondary school. But I am also very grateful for the number of inspirational people I’ve met through my running. I had a lot to relate with in this article such as using runs to de-stress, sharing the good and bad runs with friends, no judgements being passed if you’re having an off day, creating memories together at races and no social barriers being held. These friends have even turned into people I hang out with socially 😉 it’s great we also have other things non-running related in common.
This morning I went along to my local ParkRun at Willen Lake in Milton Keynes. ParkRun is a timed 5km every Saturday morning at 9am. It’s completely free and all you need to do before hand is pre-register and bring along your unique and personal barcode.  ParkRun’s are held not only all across the UK but also internationally. I must add ‘completing an abroad ParkRun’ to my bucket list. Personally I feel it’s a great way to start my weekend! Many people I know also visit other local ParkRun’s if they’re away for the weekend, a change of scenery and a new course is always good. As I turned up to the start earlier on today, I said hello to a few people from the club and got myself into a good position close to the front, but not too far forward with all of the elites!
I set no expectation today, but I was feeling good. I pushed myself but also made sure I took in the sights and people around me. Willen Lake is a beautiful setting for this run, being outdoors and in the sunshine on a Saturday morning, you really can’t beat it. As I crossed the line, I looked down at my watch – a new PB – 22:38, 10 seconds off of last week’s time. Although that it a slight lie, I was constantly checking my watching…seeing how far off I was from a PB. Today was another achievement to add to this process and has left me an even bigger smile on my  face. After I collected my token and got my time recorded I stopped by the finish funnel to say hello to a friend Paul who had been marshalling. As I watched everyone else pass by the funnel, it hit me what an affect such a simple sport can have.
I stood there and watched individuals from a broad range of ages pass the line, including various running club T-Shirts, people who have clearly travelled to experience the MK ParkRun, Andy, the MK Marathon Director celebrating his 100th ParkRun, Spencer recently winning Chef of the Year and his friends behind him, all in home-made T-Shirts. It’s truly amazing how a sport can bring people together and the beauty of watching it all. Minus the sweat of course!!
Straight after ParkRun I headed to the gym for some strength and core work. Whilst in the gym, I said not a single word to anyone. I put my headphones on and carried out my planned workout before heading home again. On reflection, I got way more enjoyment out of the run and the social element than I did working out in the gym. I did really enjoy my session but the run was a lot more fun.
This week has been a challenging one, trying to balance work and training. On Monday I did a brutal legs workout in the gym and by Tuesday my legs were in pieces from the day before and all of the running and walking throughout the weekend. On Tuesday’s run my legs were heavy and I was thankful for my weekly yoga session. Towards the back end of the week, work quite hectic and I took two unplanned rest days on Wednesday and Friday. It obviously did not affect me too much with today’s PB J
Tomorrow I plan to complete a long run, around 10 – 12 miles and with my club. The club run is slightly different this week, seeing as it’s a paced run. There will be a number of people ‘pacing’ a particular time per mile and it’s your own choice as to which group you choose.
Pacing is one of those things which I think myself and many others have yet to master. It’s all about maintaining the same speed over a chosen distance. Whenever I begin a run or start a race, I have an ideal pace that I would like to maintain already decided, however, there are so many other factors that can affect this that it often doesn’t work out that way.
After looking at recent runs, where I’ve achieved a new PB or felt good throughout, it’s been when I’ve gone into it with no expectations. The pressure of trying to hit a certain pace or time may sometimes be too much?
A few examples of where this has not been the case:

  • The London Marathon – I deleted my running app moments before starting, having to run purely at my own speed and with what felt comfortable. I finished in 3 hours 54, maintaining the same pace of 1:57 for each half. This feels like it was some sort of fluke, I wonder if I’ll experience anything like this again?
  • My now ‘old’ 5K PB last week – I missed ParkRun and went out on my own. No pressure and I stormed home in 22:48. Ecstatic.
  • My recent 10K PB – Back in January I ran at the Winter 10K in London with my Uncle and Mum’s cousin. After recently returning from injury and wanting to purely enjoy it, I again just ran with how I felt. It definitely felt good to get a PB that day.
  • Running for 10 miles at an 8 min/per mile pace – A few Sunday’s back I headed out for my long run. I had not set a time for this run, purely that I wanted to get to around 10 or 11 miles. I was in shock as the miles flew by and I was able to hold a consistent pace.

It also shows how I am able to achieve good results not only from within a race setting and I can honestly say I am now a little apprehensive about tomorrow. I will make sure I pick my group wisely and only do what I can. I must remember I’m doing this for fun and enjoyment!
4 weeks till the St Albans Half Marathon, let the countdown begin.