This week’s running – 18th to 24th of April 2016


Normal service still didn’t resume…

Still disrupted, but I began getting closer to some semblance of training normality.

5x 800m at 5k pace

This session was earmarked for Tuesday, but after two whole days of working a tradeshow, neither my body nor mind were ready for such a suffer-fest. I didn’t actually run this session until Thursday when I finally felt ready for it.

The previous week surprised me by how natural the 800m reps felt in spite of the several months’ long absence from structured speed development. The ambition here was to up the count to 5x reps whilst keeping the recovery generous at 2 minutes to facilitate completion of the session; decreasing the recovery will come in time whilst the final rep count also rises to 6x.

Conditions weren’t nearly as favourable as they were compared to last week, with an 8mph headwind and crosswind to contend with (the park is a rectangular shape), which resulted in an off-kilter opening split. Things got back on track with reps 3 to 5 clocking in at, or just a teensy bit faster than target (2:59):

  1. 3:03
  2. 2:59
  3. 2:57
  4. 2:57
  5. 2:56

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Pacing Darryll Thomas to his PB last week, I was taken aback by how strong I felt over the 5k distance and had an inkling that a breakout performance couldn’t have been far away.

Due to parking issues at home, I had to promptly move the car at 8am before being ticketed; I arrived at Cannon Hill Park before even the British Military Fitness guys! With so much time on my hands, I indulged in a stress-free warm-up, though definitely didn’t feel as fresh as last week…

With the London Marathon and other races on the next day, attendance looked like it was down on numbers from where I was stood, but it was later revealed that some 50 odd additional runners helped to smash the record for 804 officially (word on the street suggests as many as 820 may have actually been present)!

Speaking with Steve Dunsby beforehand, we both agreed once more that fast 5ks for us mere mortals have to be run with a swift start to bank some time away for that awkward middle portion. With those thoughts in mind, I positioned myself just behind the front row on the start line; the field actually looked loaded with faster runners all around me, which boded well for people to work with towards a 5k PB attempt.

Hooter hooted, I went off in a fast, yet controlled manner, and unusually sidestepped away from the manic swell so as not to get caught up in it prematurely. Wearing my new ultra minimal racing flats (4mm heel drop!), my slightly fatigued legs were not thanking me and returned the favour by giving me an awkward running gait to work with that had no bounce. I was cautious not to become boxed in running alongside the lake and nimbly navigated around runners to make it back on to the main path unscathed with a 3:41 opening split.

I was now running straight into a headwind and caught up to Ben Frost from Sparkhill Harriers; I advised him to take shelter behind some of the taller runners ahead of us and duly followed up on my own advice with a short surge to latch on to somebody in front. The surge did little to no harm to my effort levels, and I concluded I had a few more of those inside me to call upon if the wind returned, or if the field became strung out and I needed a group to work with. The second km split came in quite a bit off target for 3:53; no doubt down to the slight rise back to the bandstand.

Passing the MAC, the guys around me were starting to tire based on their paces slowing and their breathing rates speeding up. I decisively pushed on to ditch them and joined the group 15m or so in front. They proved to be far more reliable and barely deviated from target pace; simply staying with them required a few surges to nicely pull me along. The third km clocked in with 3:47, so back on target for PB contention.

In and out of the triangle, the group splintered and some slowed due to the pace change, whilst others charged on into the headwind. I promptly decided to go with those that hadn’t given up and tucked in behind them for some protection from Mother Nature’s elements. Almost back on the main path of the park, the group disintegrated and left me at the front to chase the next pack ahead. The fourth km clocked in for 3:45 to remain on target whilst running at PB effort.


Look at that concentration to stay afloat in the air – photo by Geoff Hughes

The final km was a tough nut to crack. Fully exposed to the headwind and with nobody ahead for maybe 30m, I was firmly in no-man’s land but refused to let up. Time and time again in the past, I’ve usually been able to pull out a swift final split from my bag of tricks, so I continued pressing. A few groans escaped from me, which were welcome artefacts from PB effort runs past. Passing the MAC for the final time, a peek at my Garmin showed 16:30 on the elapsed time to widen my eyes – we were definitely in PB country and by quite a margin! The turbocharger was fired up and my next target to stalk was none other than Paul Shackleton. As I passed him, I uttered a few words to encourage him in the hope that we could push each other to something faster; Paul was at the end of his tether and urged me on instead.

A few spectators cheered as I charged up the final hill, including Ben Frost, who must have dropped out partway through the run. At the top, only a couple more metres stood between victory and me… Crossing the line, I let out a few audible cries; those around me must’ve thought, “If you’re going to die, die quietly!” My Garmin proudly reported 18:31 had been achieved – where did that come from??? It was a near 15 second improvement on my PB from back in January set at the ultra-fast and flat Cardiff Parkrun, which coincidentally, I will find myself at this coming Saturday for another crack at this before the lack of training catches up to me!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles – to Solihull and back

Over a post-Parkrun coffee, Simon Bull and I discussed possibly venturing out for a joint Sunday long run; he’d spied my route from last week to Solihull and remarked on how favourable it looked with the start not far at all from his home.

So, the stage was set for a 1pm start on Sunday after the bulk of the London Marathon TV coverage. 1pm came and went. I gave Simon around 15 minutes and then had to start due to the rain coming down and the wind blowing that left me feeling rather cold!

Halfway into the run after switching back, I saw none other than Simon heading towards me. He must have been only 2 to 3 minutes behind after I started, so I turned around and regrouped with him to tackle the second half together.

Unlike running with Dave Burton where we’re of a reasonably similar ability, there was a much wider divide between Simon and me. He had to push a touch harder and I dialled back a bit more than normal so as to meet in the middle, pace-wise. I purposely tried to avoid asking him questions in conversation so as to give him a chance to catch his breath!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.


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