It's taken 32 months, but I finally did it.
December 13, 2014
In April 2012, I ran 5k in 25:08. It was 14th April – a week before my first marathon. Afterwards, I was so broken that I struggled to run well for months. Since then I’ve only run 5k in under 26 minutes 6 times, with only two of those being this year.
I’ve tried everything I could think of – speed work at the track, focusing on my diet, attempting to lose weight, every variation of breakfast (including none), pacers, all of my trainers, a running coach – but nothing seemed to help me get close to my goal, but suddenly everything has started to come together.
I’ve tried to identify the secret to success. This year, I’ve done a lot more cycling and swimming, so there has been less stress on my legs. I’ve also recently started going to strength and conditioning classes with SUTRI. I trained with RunCamp for most of the year, have been going to track sessions led by Huw from Southampton Tri Club and I’ve started going back to Lordshill Road Runners training on Monday nights. I also had a successful training camp with Embrace Sports in November. However, I think the big turning point for me has been getting my asthma under control, combined with the fact that I like running in cold weather.
Last week, I ran really well, so I decided that I would aim for a PB this week. I’ve tried hard to eat well all week and I chose not to swim last night as I was feeling tired and thought an early night would be better for more than more exercise. Also, I wanted to get a PB before the end of 2014 and there are not many chances left for me.
Fortunately, the weather was on my side. It was cold (just above freezing), but completely still and dry. This meant that I was able to wear shorts and my lucky Team SOAS vest… although I paired these with some compress sport calf guards and a Bondi band headband, to ensure that I didn’t get too cold before I started. There weren’t many other people with vests on… most of the women seemed to have tights, jackets and gloves on.
My first challenge was that when I tried to turn my Garmin on, it beeped, but the screen was blank. It hadn’t been charged. I panicked a little, but there was nothing to do, but run naked.
Teri convinced me to start a little closer to the front than I normally would, and I knew from recent runs that I needed to make sure that I didn’t set off too quickly. Teri’s original plan had been to aim for a PB, but after a night out, she just wanted to go for a steady run, which would be close to 25 minutes for her, so she suggested that I tried to keep her in sight, with the closing phrase, “What could go wrong?”
James from LRR and STC was running today, so he said that he’d be happy to pace me. Unfortunately, just a short way into the run, he had to answer a phone call, so I continued on my own. The route is a loop that has to be run twice, with a long hill. On the second hill, Stu and I drew level, so he started encouraging me, and a short while later James caught up with us. At 3k, James told me that I’d done it in 15:06. This made me panic as I worried that I was running too slowly, so I tried to run faster.
Eventually, I got to the top of the hill, but I knew that I couldn’t relax. I tried to pick up the pace going downhill. I didn’t want to feel frustrated that I narrowly missed out on a PB by not trying hard enough. I got down the hill and turned the corner, so that I could see the finish. Stu encouraged me to keep pushing, so I did what I could to run faster even though I was breathing really heavily. I was so pleased to cross the finish line.
Today I finally got a PB. I knocked 29 seconds off my fastest time at Southampton parkrun, and 23 seconds off my fastest ever 5k time as well as going under 25 minutes for the first time. I feel so happy 😀
My friend Teri was also aiming for a PB today. She first went under 25 minutes almost two years ago and has managed it 13 times since then, but sub 24 minutes has eluded her. In recent weeks she has been tantalisingly close with 24:11, 24:07 and 24:02, so I was delighted for her that she managed to finish in 23:50 today.
I’ve got one more 5k run this year, so I’m going to see how well I can do at that. I now have a new goal – can I run 5k in under 24 minutes in 2015?
Update: 13th December 2015
Well, I haven’t managed to run 5k in under 24 minutes in 2015. I did manage to get another PB in March 2014, but I only ran under 25 minutes twice this year. If you’re interested in how I’m doing, you can view my latest parkrun results.