Fairly fresh from the five mile race in Nottingham six days earlier, I lined up next to an athletics track near the Yarborough Leisure Centre in Lincoln about to take part in the third, of four, races of the Lincoln Wellington 5k Series. Before the five miler I’d not planned on racing here, but the day after I thought it would be good if I could squeeze another race in before my summer holidays and a search on Fetcheveryone produced this golden opportunity to have a stab at firstly beating my 5k PB and, more pertinently, going sub 17 for 5000 meters for the first time.
With that in mind my training was fairly easy post five mile race. The hamstrings took a couple of days for the pain to subside completely but they did. A long run with GRC on Thursday was followed by four consecutive easy paced and moderate mileage runs – the only real effort was put in on an attack on the Minnett’s Hill Strava segment which I was able to reclaim. The only real issues became a pair of blisters on each Achilles, a legacy of the new Lunar Racers worn on Wednesday (And a known issue apparently) and troublesome in certain pairs of my trainers.
I arrived in Lincoln a little later than planned and seemed to faff around for far too long getting ready to go for a warm up – the result of which it was only two miles instead of the planned three. The planned wearing of new Lunar Racers was also swiftly abandoned after just a few meters of running, the Achilles’ blisters far too sore. Thankfully at the last minute I’d packed my old Nike Frees which would be more than adequate for the race. The warm up at least did allow me to recce the course, which would be a small lap of playing fields next to an Athletics track followed by three large laps of two playing fields. The course was near pancake fat, the corners not too tight. All nearly ideal save for a strengthening wind after a warm, cloudy day, which would be direct into our faces for half of each lap.
A small but fairly competitive field lined up at 7:30pm for the start of the race. I placed myself on the front row, but as the whistle blew at the off, I made a steady start to sit somewhere just outside the top 15 after the opening short lap. I planned to race in a similar manner to last week, speeding up through the race and picking off the field all the way through to the finish. I’m no expert at 5k pacing – some like to go off really fast and hang on as best as possible. I tried that at Peterborough at a parkrun last year and found it one of the least enjoyable runs ever as I died a thousand deaths in the final mile. I’ll far rather sacrifice a second or two in the opening stages to ensure a stronger finish.
Steady pace was also a relative term for the Garmin indicated that the first half mile had been run at sub five minute mile pace. I thought, although running well, this was a bit bogus and queried the reliability, once again, of my 910XT. As we began the start of the first large lap I had other issues to contend with, namely the headwind. Feeling quite strong I worked my way to the front of a small group and pushed on, knowing that this would mean others behind me would be sheltering from the wind behind me. I felt I had no choice; if I wanted a quick time I’d have to do it the hard way.
Also with no km or mile markers I only had my Garmin to use to judge how well I was going. If I could trust it I was flying – the first mile covered in 5:05. Like last week, although working hard, it was feeling quite easy. The second mile was covered halfway through the second lap – Garmin said it took 5:11. As we began the final lap I knew that if I could hold it together a PB was assured. Again into the headwind, as I passed a couple of runners, I could feel them joining the queue behind be sheltering – doing less work than I. This spurred me on to push harder, trying to break the tow, which, save for one runners proved successful. Mile three flashed on the Garmin 5:12. Fantastic! I was on for a sub 16 minute run! A Kenilworth Runners’ club record beckoned!
It would have done were the finish just around the corner, which it wasn’t. It was around half a lap away. A quick look at the watch showed I had around 85 seconds to finish the race in sub 17 minutes. The post mortem of how the Garmin had added nearly 400m to the 5k course would come later, now I just had to run as fast as possible.
Thankfully I had two factors to help. After 20 seconds or so of headwind, the final stages were aided with a tailwind. Secondly a runner, who had been sheltering behind me, passed me and began an early kick for home. Sensing it was now or never I kicked on too and stuck with him, before passing him when I saw a painted mark on the path saying 200m which I assumed meant 200 meters to the finish.
I gave it everything sprinting too and past the finish line (the Garmin had me running the final 0.32 miles at 4:37 pace). I knew the PB was a formality, the sub 17 was close. I looked at the watch. 16:55! I did it! Sub 17 done and at a proper 5k, not a free-to-enter timed run that is the 5k that is parkrun. 49 seconds better than my previous 5k best (The 2012 BRAT 5k at Rowheath), 25 seconds quicker than my parkrun PB also set in 2012).
I finished eighth, 35 seconds behind the winner, and the first, as far as I could tell, to not collapse into an exhausted heap at the finish. I couldn’t decide whether this is because I am in pretty good condition at the moment or I just didn’t try as hard as the others (I imagine it is a bit of both). I jogged back down the course to cheer home club runner Ben, who also knocked a great chunk off his 5km best.
So a fair journey for a short race, but a successful trip. As someone from GRC pointed out, from October last year to now, I have broken PBs at every distance raced with the exception of the half marathon. That will hopefully come in late September at Nottingham. It’s Project Sub 1:16:47!