I had a post in draft for a few days, and I finished it off the other night. It was heading close to 11pm, so I decided to post it the next day; my proofreading skills were probably going to be more accurate at 6am than at 11pm, so I scheduled it to post at 7am. I was pretty happy with it, but I always seem to publish a blogpost and then 15 minutes later spot where I’ve used the same word three times in the one sentence. I guessed the extra hour would allow me to proof read it one last time.
I hit save, and that appeared to work. There was no spinny wheel of death. I scheduled the post to publish at 7am the next morning, and there was a spinny wheel of death. Unthinkingly I refreshed the browser to fix it, and then saved again. I hit preview, and realised that all my careful edits and additions from that evening had disappeared. I was not amused. I went to bed, and figured I’d rewrite it on the weekend.
The post was all about my progression with my running. This week’s Marathon Talk podcast mentioned the “sweet spot in running where to PB all you have to do is put your shoes on.” I’d written about how I’d gone from taking 45 minutes to run 5km in May 2012 to being injured and not able to run through to my first ever parkrun in October 2012 where I finished in 33:09. When I really picked up the running I went from a parkrun PB of 30:18 to a PB of 26:55 in the space of 2 weeks. My most recent overall parkrun PB was 25:18 claimed at Claisebrook Cove parkrun last Christmas Day.
I distinctly remember running that 26:55 parkrun. I had asked Jeremy to pace me round to a sub-30, and preferably to sub 28:30, which was around the PB of a specific nine year old boy at Claisebrook Cove parkrun. I wore my watch – I always wear my Garmin watch – but I started it and then didn’t look at it again until I’d finished. I just ran.
I trusted Jeremy to pace me at a speed that I could sustain and enable me to reach my goals. I think he must have built in some “slowing down time” in his pacing; assuming that I would slow down in kilometres 3 and 4 so that he had a buffer to get us over the line in time. As it was, I don’t think we’d used any of the slowing down time. I remember not really being able to speak, and making neanderthal-like grunts for most of the run, only speaking to ask him to count me in when we hit the cove, “500m to go, 400m to go…” up to the Heartbreak Hill finish line.
When I crossed the line, I hit stop on my Garmin, looked down and saw my time: 26:55. I semi-collapsed, chest still heaving and I’m pretty sure I sobbed. I didn’t have enough energy to walk it off around the finish area, I just hit the deck. I was asked by Paul if I was OK, and I think I said something along the lines of “Yes, I just took 2 minutes off my PB”, except I don’t think I was that succinct, and I’m certain it didn’t all come out in one sentence; there would have been pauses for breathing.
When you look at my recent results at parkrun, particularly the 22 that I’ve done at Pioneer, you would see some serious variation; my times run from 25:26 to 1:02:46. There is one that was 59:59, that was a spectacularly noisy stopwatch failure, but the rest are accurate times. I’ve run the course hard, run the course easy, walked the course and on a few occasions (including the 1:02:46) I was Run Director and then ran the course chasing the tail walker after Jeremy finished his run and took over RD duties; my official parkrun time will be 54:21, but Garmin will say 30:22.
So while I train for Six Inch I haven’t really had the progress markers that I have had in the past. I can’t really track specific parkrundays and say “There, that’s where the stopwatch noticed I got faster.” I’ve got one personal best (PB) time for Pioneer; 25:26 and just to mess with my chi I have the precise same PB time at Canning River. Considering the courses are completely chalk and cheese – Pioneer is the only hilly Perth metropolitan area parkrun course and Canning River is so flat it is considered to be prime PB territory, you can appreciate my annoyance. It isn’t really a surprise, as I remember at Canning River just heading out for a run with no real ambition beyond enjoying my first parkrun at Canning River in ten months. Still, getting 25:26 was a bit galling, even if it did knock almost 40 seconds off my previous PB there.
On Tuesday nights a group of us meet up to do intervals and then afterwards we run a freedom run on the Canning River parkrun course, looping back after each kilometre marker to collect up the other runners so that no one is left behind in the dark. It’s nicknamed darkrun. It started at the beginning of winter and has just grown from there. Like parkrun, you don’t have to turn up every week, but you know that every week we’ll be there, sweating as we run our intervals up and down the path, fast and slow, jog and sprint.
This past Tuesday during the freedom run I ran for a while with a guy who hadn’t been to Canning River before and didn’t know the course. We were coming up to the 4.3km point on the parkrun course (it really is the only hill, and a small one at that), and because we’d been doubling back to collect runners I realised he wouldn’t have known that he was 700m from home. That 4.3km point is roughly where people start to pick up the pace to give it a good sprint finish, so as we went up the hill I was giving him directions, telling him to stay on the path until he came to a T junction, to go left at the T junction and to stay on the path and not turn from it. I told him that the bitumen path would become wooden boardwalk, and then a long metal bridge, and when he ran off the other side of the metal bridge to keep to the right and the finish line was an enormous shoulder height boulder alongside the path.
Halfway through this monologue my brain registered that here I was, giving it a reasonable amount of welly (really, I was doing about 5 minute kilometre pace at that point) going up the teeny tiny hill, and giving someone coherent instructions. It was mindblowing. I had a new ‘chat pace’. And it was fast!
Two days later on Thursday, Kat, Jeremy and I ran the Cool Night Classic, a 5km fundraiser run from the Belltower to the South Perth foreshore. Kat had done the run leg in a team at the Mandurah 70.3 in 36.C heat on the Sunday prior, so when at the half way mark she said she was just going to try and hang on to me, I told her to tuck in away from the headwind and we ran together. My Garmin had died before we started (massive lack of battery charge, despite having fully charged it), so I relied on her to tell me how far we had to go. There was a bloke with an official sign on the side of the path advising us that the finish was around the corner, and as we ran in I was encouraging Kat “You can see the arch! It’s just there!” and we belted home in 25:56. I had felt really quite strong, and we were both really proud of our time, considering that we’d started in the fourth wave and had therefore had to navigate and zigzag around people.
As I finished up my post I noted that although I hadn’t managed to crack my 25:18 PB from Christmas Day, I wasn’t unhappy. I said that it probably helps to have the desire to get a PB; that most of the time I don’t set out to try for a PB, I just set out to enjoy my run, and as long as I enjoy it, it is a successful run. When I began running my goal was just to manage 5km. When I reached that goal, it became to run the whole 5km. When I ran the whole thing, it was to do it faster, and after my first parkrun and 33:09, it was to go under 30 minutes. Once I was regularly running parkrun in under 30 minutes, I was starting to run 10k races, then half marathons, and getting a speedy parkrun time wasn’t as big a deal for me. Yes, it was welcome – very welcome indeed, but it was enough for me to be able to run relatively swiftly and just enjoy myself.
This morning’s parkrun was a slightly different affair. We had a 9.30am wedding at Caversham House we were due at, and Jeremy’s plan was to run Aveley parkrun which was about 15 minutes drive from Caversham House. We rocked up ready for the 8am parkrun start time with our wedding clothes in the back of the car along with deodorant, a couple of very large towels, 4 litres of water and a jumbo pack of babywipes. If we ran 30 minutes at parkrun, we wouldn’t be too sweaty to then find a secluded road (it’s an area with a fair bit of bushland surrounding it), quickly clean up and change, and then head to the wedding. When we got there, Jon and Julie Storey were there with their children Cameron and Jennifer. They’d had the same idea, but had got access to some showers around the corner from Aveley parkrun, so Jeremy and my plans improved significantly. Cam and Jon are both fast enough that they could run and still make the wedding looking suitably tidy, but Julie and Jennifer didn’t think that they’d manage it in time, and were going to spectate instead.
We started parkrun, and as per usual, I hit start on my Garmin and just ran. I had Jeremy in my sights almost the whole way. He was ‘taking it easy’ which meant he ran around 24 minutes. I knew that the more time we had at the other end the neater my hair would look at the wedding, so I just hammered along behind Jon, Jeremy and Jon’s son Cameron. At the 4km mark Cam started to slacken the pace a bit, so I yelled out encouragement, and as we rounded the lake I was making inroads on the (nearly) 11 year old. At 100 metres to go I passed Cameron and was bolting for the finish line. As I crossed the line, I hit stop on my watch, grabbed my finish token and looked down at my time.
OK. Getting a new overall parkrun PB is still a big deal.
*parkrun official time is 24:59. I’m still VERY happy with that.