I am sure many a keen parkrunner has sat and contemplated what they need to do in order to get a new parkrun PB. They have probably researched and scanned through training plans targeted at a 5k distance, and maybe even tried some of the suggested workouts. I am not saying this approach will not work – I have personally never progressed from the Google search stage! – but I think I have found my own solution.
Earlier this year I remember commenting on Twitter that my chances of a parkrun PB were going to be slim with two marathons to train for. Someone replied, telling me that they had achieved their parkrun PB whilst marathon training and that I should not rule it out. During my training for the Manchester Marathon in Spring this year my parkrun times got almost progressively slower, leading to me concluding a tired body, racking up heavy mileage weeks was never going to run a rapid 5k. My twitter friend must have been wrong.
However, my current Berlin Marathon training has truly challenged my assumption. After a few weeks lingering in the ‘not that amazing’ time region, my past three parkruns have seen me record a new PB each time and this is despite me being in the highest mileage weeks of my marathon training plan. I have gone from a year low of 25:28 to a 21:34 PB. I have never run a sub 22 minute 5k before. I will admit being diagnosed as anaemic (see blog) and consequently addressing this has undoubtedly helped, and I can feel in my general wellbeing the impact this has made. But I now believe the person who ‘Tweeted’ me is right, in addition to the physical fitness gains, I think there is something in marathon training which supports a fast 5k:
1) It’s Only 3.1 Miles
A short run during marathon training does not really exist – six miles on the plan suddenly feels like a quick run out. The prospect of running 3.1 miles therefore seems like bliss. 3.1 miles, give it your all, and you are finished before you even know it. It’s a mentality which you can often crave when pounding the streets for miles on end, and I have certainly embraced it.
2) What is Tiredness?
During marathon training you learn to run through fatigue. Heavy legs and soreness becomes accepted, and the pain of a fast 5k is somehow more bearable than before. Running fast at parkrun does still hurt, but I have thought about the intervals, the tempo runs, the hill repeats and the long runs I have completed, which all hurt at the time, but which I have managed. I have remembered how I have found that drive to keep my pace and hit my marathon training targets, and I have drawn upon it as I take on parkrun.
You will not get through marathon training without those runs when you just want to stop and give up. You cannot imagine running a single step more let alone another nine miles. But you find that strength. A parkrun does not require you to mentally commit for as long as some marathon training runs do, but it does require you to be focused if you want to get that PB. The occasions I have run my parkrun PB have been when I have believed I can do it. I have drawn on the confidence my marathon training has given me, what it has shown me my body can do, and I have utilised it to believe what I am capable of over a 5k distance.
Marathon training can be quite solitary; hours out on your own, running on empty streets, with only your Garmin watch for company. Suddenly at parkrun you are thrown into an environment with hundreds of runners around you. It lifts you, it inspires you and it drives you. I have parkrunners who I know if I can keep up with I will run a good time, and those I watch in admiration and can only dream of finishing near. It’s the benefit of the parkrun community, which when marathon training you really relish that little bit more.
To conclude, I am not saying every single parkrunner out there should train for a marathon – that would be ridiculous! But I guess what I have realised is that marathon training does not necessarily equate to ruling that new 5k PB out.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...