Since the start of 2016 I have been running a lot slower than my parkrun times from the latter end of 2015, which were in the 22 minute time zone. I started the year thinking I would get back into it quickly, then marathon training came along and I slowed down still. After the Manchester Marathon was complete I thought I had an optimal window to regain my speed before I began my Berlin Marathon training, and thus set myself the quest of returning to running a 22 minute time. Since I set this challenge I have however still languished in the 24 minute area, sometimes getting close to going sub 24 minutes, and other weeks being back to square one. I have patiently persevered in my quest though, rather than get annoyed with myself I have just kept at, and this week I completely unexpectedly achieved my goal.
After a Friday night tempo run in which I managed to run a sub 24 minute time for a three mile distance, I headed to Lincoln parkrun with the belief I could repeat this feat - which would be a positive start in my 22 minute quest. I believed it so strongly I was in fact nervous as I stood waiting to start. I was not dreaming of entering 22 minute territory at all, I just wanted to run something in the 23 minutes. The start was congested, I didn't let this bother me though, it instead just made me smile at how many people now regularly take part in our Lincoln event. I darted in between runners jostling for some free running space without even considering my pace. It wasn't until the runners had thinned out a bit that I spotted my friend a few metres in front of me. My friend is a consistent 22 minute park-runner, which means this year I have been completely out of touch with her. I was shocked to see her, but I felt strong so didn't let this impact my running. As I turned into a wooded section of the course I found myself running closely behind another female runner who I have been trying to keep up with for weeks, knowing she usually finishes around 23 minutes. I was on her heels and found myself holding back. A brief debate went on in my head - do I slow down, keep with her and hope to secure my 23 minute time? Or do I overtake and run faster as I feel I could?
I went for the overtake, which on the first lap of the three loop course was a brave move. If she caught me up later I knew this would knock me and possible throw any time out the window. There was absolutely no choice now but to keep running hard. I didn't really look at my watch from here in, only when the mile markers ticked over. I knew things were going well by the sheer fact my friend was in my sight still. On a section of the course where you double back on yourself and can see other runners I guessed I must have been about 20/30 seconds behind her - which was more than good enough for me!
The second lap flew by and I entered the third a little nervously. I was sure to collapse now. My legs held though, and I ran with a power in my stride that I had not felt in a long time. As I hit the final sections of the course I glanced at my watch and saw I had a minute until 23 minutes was reached; my goal posts suddenly changed and I sprinted as fast as I could to the finish.
The clocked stopped at 22.58. My quest was complete, but I was in total disbelief. I almost felt like it could not be true. I had expected that when I finally hit 22 minutes again that I would be ecstatic and uncontrollably pleased with myself. Instead I was literally in shock. I felt like I had to wait until I received my official parkrun text/email to fully acknowledge the time was true. When the email hit my inbox it was only then the joy hit me and I actually jumped up and down on the spot! Somehow I had managed it, and I was in fact only 20 seconds away from my PB of 22.37.
So why this week? The weather was cooler which definitely helped. I felt confident too, not 22 minute level confident, but assured I could do better than 24 minutes. Other than that I literally cannot pin point the sudden change. Will it last is the real question! Regardless, I shall certainly enjoy this moment for now. It has been disappointing running in my eyes so poorly at parkrun this year, but I have never given up and I have also never not enjoyed a trip to parkrun. So perhaps that's the formula - a combination of determination and enjoyment will eventually lead to success.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...