I feel that now we’re getting to know each other a bit better, I should share with you the fact that I am NOT a morning person, let alone a morning exerciser. So while I think the nationwide Parkrun organisation is utterly brilliant, it’s a bit of battle for me to get up before 8am on a Saturday to drive 25 minutes to Milton and make my legs work properly for a start time of 9am. In fact the last time I did this was terrifyingly more than three years ago, where I got a time of 24:20. But inspired by my friend Pete (more about him in a minute) I got up, fed the cat, threw on some (bright, obvs) running gear and grabbed a banana and a pack of oat biscuits. When Pete arrived to pick me up I apologised for looking like a character from Fraggle Rock (I hadn’t even combed my hair) and to the dulcet tones of Taylor Swift we head off.
Two slightly demented runners.
Now, the thing about Pete is that he’s like me – he also started running around the age-30 mark. In fact, when I did that first Parkrun in January 2012, Pete came with me and got a time of around 27 minutes. Fast forward to April 25th 2015, and he was psyching himself up to aim for a sub 20 minute 5km. Now to me, this is utterly immense. Pete’s natural talent for running is awesome, and he’s got some amazing expertise in the shape of his friends Nick and Claire Jellema (both elite runners) to call on for advice. This combined with his training efforts has clearly worked wonders, and he’s now a bit of a speed demon.
Another way Pete is like me, is with his pre-run jitters. Any time there’s any kind of race element (i.e. there are other people around and you’ll get an official time out of it) we both get stupidly nervous. For example, this morning I ummed and ahhed about whether or not to run with water (I sweat a lot (lovely) and dehydrate easily) and at about 8:56 am Pete patiently trotted back to the car with me so that I could take my water after all. It doesn’t matter that we’ve both run the distance dozens of times before – we both always want to perform well, and that pressure can make you nervous.
Photo courtesy of the Cambridge Parkrun Facebook page
So I left Pete at the front of the group and settled myself in amongst the 23 minute hopefuls. Having only recently recovered from a strained tendon in my foot I thought that might have been a tad optimistic, but I figured I might as well try and push myself. I also happened to bump into Neil Costello, the Chair of Cambridge & Coleridge Athletic Club. I know Neil as he’s a member of the Sports Centre where I work, and we chatted a bit about my running future, with him telling me that he reckoned I had another 10 years in me before my speed would start to plateau and decline. He got a 17 minute-odd 5km in his early 40s, so that was really encouraging to hear. As we set off, he shouted “go on Lauren, get up in front!” as I scuttled my way past some people to find my comfortable pace.
The course itself is relatively twisty, and involves a loop off to the right of the park, followed by two loops to the left. Luckily it’s relatively flat with just a few small inclines to tackle, and the wet weather from the night before hadn’t churned up the course too much. I felt pretty good all the way around and even managed something of a sprint finish. I then met up with Pete at the finish line, and his watch showed he had comfortably beaten his PB by more than 20 seconds (ridiculous!), coming in at around 19:50. I thought I was around the 22:40 mark, so we both took our chips to be scanned alongside our printed personal barcodes (which you’re assigned when you sign up to the Parkrun online), and went for a swift post-run celebratory coffee.
As we enjoyed our drinks, we both pondered what might have been if we had both discovered long distance running a bit earlier in life. I’m not sure how receptive I would have been to being pushed into cross country at school when I was younger, but I don’t remember opportunities for long-distance running being that readily available either. I get the impression that Pete was always pretty sporty, but for whatever reason running just didn’t appeal to him either. But we’re both giving it a hell of a go now, and it feels awesome. Plus the good news – Pete got his PB of 19:51 confirmed, and was the 35th male (37th overall). I finished in 22:40 and was the 12th female (112th overall). Naturally I now want top 10 female and top 100 finisher next time.
Two thumbs up for a sub 20 minute 5k!
The thing I love about the Parkrun, is that it’s completely free for anyone who wants to give it a go. It doesn’t matter how fit you think you are, anyone can give it a bash, and we saw runners of all levels today. It’s run by volunteers who willingly give up their Saturday lie-ins to cheer on people they don’t know, and it’s run so efficiently. I’m definitely going to add my name to the volunteer roster, and even though I can’t make the next two Saturdays, I’m going to make an effort to do a lot more of these. Now, who’s with me?