Getting to the point at Parkrun

Parkrun on Saturday was a mixed affair. I’d started with running to the park as my warm up, which was a good idea. When the run proper started, I was feeling good and I made it around about 3/4 of the first lap pacing myself just behind someone who runs within my PB time but better than the times I’ve been running of late.

Unfortunately, as we came up the first of two significant hills I managed to persuade myself that I needed the loo. So I ducked into the toilet behind the cafe. I’m sure I could have waited, I’ve felt worse before and carried on. But I’ve also got into this habit where sometimes I stop mid-Parkrun and use the loo. Usually when I’m running much slower, so this was in itself a first.

When I re-emerged I was much further down the field. I set off and soon found a rhythm I could keep with, which was a little faster than those around me so I made up some ground. One thing that tends to keep me going is thinking of the men’s points table. I don’t have any chance of making it to the top, but a nice way of keeping my focus on a better time is to see the men ahead of me and think about the extra point I get for each man that I finish ahead of. The first placed person of each gender gets 100 points at Hilly Fields Parkrun, second gets 99 and so on down through the field. It doesn’t mean anything in the end really, but it is a helpful way to keep me motivated through the course.

As I ran I made a note of who was ahead of me and noted the men as extra points. There were mostly women immediately ahead of me so there weren’t many immediate points on offer. On the start of the third lap I saw one of the chaps ahead of me cutting off a bit of a corner. I don’t have a problem with this as Parkrun is all about our own integrity and I sometimes cut a corner off a bit if I’ve gone long somewhere else. And I recall some blog advice I read recently suggesting that if you take the tightest line you can through Parkrun you’ll run 5,000 metres and not 5,050 metres, which could help your time.

But there weren’t many points on offer ahead of me so I decided to pass this guy if I could. Only he was going at a decent pace himself. When I got to climbing Vicars Hill (the first of the two big hills, where I had persuaded myself to go to the loo 2 laps earlier) I put a lot of effort in and passed this guy. I decided to put enough distance between him and me that I could perhaps lay off the pace a little.

After the hill there’s some flat and then a big down hill. Sometimes I let my legs fly down there and other times I try and keep my pace together. This time I went for it. As I turned slightly at the bench at the bottom of the hill I looked back and the guy I had passed was not far behind me, also sprinting down the hill.

Usually, as I come to the last hill, it’s really hard and steep and I go relatively slow to save a little for the final stretch. But not this time. I decided to see off this guy properly. I charged up the hill. But as I turned off the grass and onto the tarmac path at the top of the hill the guy was right on my shoulder. He had caught up!

Again, by this time I would normally hold off before making a final sprint for the line but now all I cared about was this single bloody point. I pushed on again, sprinting to the right around the runners immediately ahead. My nemesis went left. After my first burst he was still there with me. So, from somewhere, I don’t really know where, I found the energy and effort to push on again.

When I next dared look round there was space between me and him. A guy who had already finished shouted encouragement from the bench. I wasn’t leaving this to chance. I ran my long legs as hard as I could all the way to the finish.

I came through about a couple of seconds ahead of the other guy and as he came through we briefly connected with handshake fist bump thing. In acknowledgment of the battle, perhaps. But what really mattered was that I had got the point. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I spent the next few minutes lying in the mud trying to get my breath back.

Later when I got my time from the Parkrun website I saw my time – 27:07. Still 2 minutes off my best. The other fellow came through in 27:12, some way off his best of 19:00. 19:00! No wonder he had the legs to push me all the way to the end.

Thanks to the other guy’s efforts I was only 4 seconds off my time from two weeks ago (when I didn’t stop for the loo part way round). Maybe next time I’ll forgo the comfort break and put the effort into a faster time of my own accord. I know I can get back to my PB time, I just need to keep on trying.

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