The first thing to state is that I’m very much aware that to post a parkrun report in Race Reports is something of a faux pas, the free to enter timed 5k run is very keen to stress that it is not a race – no matter how similar it may feel like being one from the moment you arrive at one to the text message you receive an hour or two after the event telling you your time and finishing position.
From the onset however mentally I was treating my participation at Peterborough parkrun, if not as a race, as a very serious time trial, a serious stab at beating my very old parkrun PB of 17:20, set at Coventry back in 2012. The week’s training had been moderately easy – an 80% effort at an intervals session on the Tuesday, which confirmed I was in good shape and the other session of note a 13.5 mile club run on the Thursday which saw us neck high in crops at one point and then tripping over a poorly dumped roadworks barrier late on in the run.
That last incident very nearly saw me not take part in the parkrun. The Friday saw the right shin quite sore and when that cleared up on Saturday morning I found myself limping a touch with a very tight quad. Thankfully some last minute foam rolling before setting off appeared to alleviate the limp. The drive down to Peterborough was rather blissful, the fact I had the sunroof open and windows down pointed at the temperatures already being warm.
I arrived a little later than planned, which meant after the customary call of nature I only had chance to do a short 1.5 mile or so warm up – which was one loop of the course. The legs felt a bit stiff and the sun pretty warm, but in the last minutes of the warm up I felt the body loosen off and feel ready for the assault.
After the customary parkrun briefing we headed to the start and I made my way to the front, having a final brief chat / excuses tick off with fellow GRC runner Rob. A couple of minutes late and we were on our way. I was pleased to have just in front of me a couple of runners who were willing to take the early pace, and another runner just behind as we eased away from the field. I felt comfortable sitting in third as we completed a mini lap of the lake and headed off on the first of two larger laps. I was chopping the stride slightly but there was none of the inadvertent tripping I was doing at the recent Solstice.
We went through the first mile in 5:10, which is one of my fastest ever miles but felt comfortable – especially as I’d covered 800m earlier in the week during intervals at sub 4:40 pace. We then went over the only real climb on the course in the form of a pedestrian bridge. The climb is just a few seconds but it was enough to cause a slowing on the descent. I decided that this was the moment to push and I took the lead and didn’t look back. We were already passing backmarkers, who had been instructed to keep to the right. Most did but there were occasions when I did have to shout quite loud to get someone’s attention. Thankfully there were plenty of runners who were also shouting to others to keep right, so at no point was I held up.
If this wasn’t a race it still continued to feel like it. The Peterborough parkrun course is held on nigh on exactly the same course as the 5k race held there as part of a summer series, albeit I imagine the parkrun has significantly more crowd support, especially with the enthusiastic cheering of the Peterborough Sweatshop Community Runners, who risked wearing bright yellow t-shirts (And in so doing became a magnet for all sorts of insect life) to give the run a race like feel.
As I completed the first large lap and headed for the final tour, I worked out from the applause of spectators that I had a comfortable gap on the second placed runner – and it was now a time trial to the finish to try and get that PB. Mile two was covered in 5:19 and I still felt fairly fresh. I then hit an exposed bit in terms of the sunshine and wished I’d worn a vest rather than a t-shirt. It was over 20C (40 minutes later when I got in the car the temperature was 23C) and I was having to play mind games to convince the body it wasn’t hot.
The second climb of the bridge numbed the legs and the final mile began to feel like an awful long way. It was here the crowd support and the generous enthusiasm of lapped runners really helped me to the finish. As I took the final left hand bend and began the final 400 meters or so I glanced at my watch and saw it had only recently clocked 15 minutes. I knew a sub 17:20 was assured, it was now a question of how quick I could go. I didn’t register the third mile split at the time (it was a 5:15, but it felt slower) it was an all out effort to the finish chute.
I crossed the line and heard the official shout 16:36 which, to a tenth of a second, tallied with my Garmin time. The tiredness soon flushed out of the body with the elation of a big new PB – 44 seconds for parkrun and 19 seconds for 5k (the Peterborough parkrun course is certified as accurate, apparently).
The fact I finished first didn’t really matter at all – my effort was true to the parkrun ethos that it is a run against the clock and to better yourself rather than necessarily others. That said I couldn’t help feeling that I’d been to many races that felt less like a race than Peterborough parkrun, but today I wasn’t complaining over the rights and wrongs of parkrun. It was a good day.