Four weeks on from my last blog and I’m three races closer to Berlin. I wouldn’t usually run so many in such a short period but one of the three was a free offer that I couldn’t turn down.
The objective at this stage is mostly to build mental racing sharpness but the performances give me a good indication of my level compared to previous marathon build-ups. This far out from London I was running 10km in about 34’45 which is the yardstick for this season. Though the type of fitness required to run well in a 10km is different to a marathon so there is only so much you can read into the performance. You may ask what is the point in running shorter distances if the main focus is the marathon? Well in the long run (literally), speed and stamina over distance become important. The best marathon runners are capable of running 10km in under 30mins. And this ability to be able to run much faster than marathon pace, relatively speaking makes a marathon feel slower. Physically and psychologically, this is key.
www.mcmillanrunning.com – useful link to a calculator that works out the time you might expect to complete a certain distance given your performance in other distances. Bear in mind though that the calculations are fairly crude and as I said, there are big differences between what is required to run for example a 5km in comparison to a marathon.
Back to the races and first up was the Andover parkrun. This was a bit of a harsh lesson because I felt that I could turn up and smash my 5km PB (currently 16’35) and run around some random park in 16mins just because my marathon PB had come down considerably. I quickly found out that starting at that suicidal pace is very different to the brisk but steady pace of a marathon. After I’d managed to get clear of the Andover masses including a very pacey dog and its reluctant owner, I was off on my own at the front. However, after a first kilometre in just over 3mins, I could feel the lactic acid building in my legs and my body’s response was to take the foot off the gas. Luckily I held a pace of about 3’30/km for the remainder of the race but that is quite a collapse and not how to handle a race. I crossed the line in 17’05.
What have I learnt? 5km racing is a completely different discipline and if I want to get better right now, I’d have to sacrifice my marathon training and that’s not something I’m prepared to do. The longer build up to London Marathon 2018 at the end of this year will give me the chance to work on my 5km.
Great Newham 10km
Two weeks later and onto a 10km which it’s fair to say is a bit more like a marathon – albeit still 32 kilometres shorter! I’d had a longer build up to this year’s London Marathon to focus on my 10km and so I was expecting to carry some of that fitness over. And bearing in mind the yardstick, I was hoping to run under 34’45 and if possible get closer to 34’ – around 3’24/km. It was 26 degrees at race start so this was probably a bit ambitious.
I started well and resisted the urge to burst to the front. A clear front-runner started moving away and I decided to stay with the chasing pack of five. The beauty of running in a pack is that you can benefit from the slipstream and windbreak. Around the third km, two runners broke away from the pack and I decided not to up my pace and go with them because I wasn’t confident I could finish the race strongly if I went any quicker at this stage. With hindsight, I’d made the wrong decision but you learn! The pack eventually broke up and I found myself battling it out with another runner who I was faster than up the hills, but slower down them.
He eventually started to move away and I was left in 5th place thinking that I was going to have one of those days. I started to struggle at this point – I’m not sure whether it was the heat, the undulating course or that I was trying to maintain a pace that my 10km fitness level couldn’t handle. But about 7km into the race, the lead female (Lauren Deadman, an accomplished GB cross-country runner) caught up with me and said “come with me!”. This was exactly what I needed at this point – someone to chase so I hung with Lauren for a while which didn’t feel comfortable. Yet, as I’ve found so often with running it’s the getting into a higher gear that physically and mentally is so challenging and once you are in it, the bad feelings fade. The trick is to remember that when you start thinking of reasons why you can’t up it.
It wasn’t long before we were catching up with 4th place who I made sure I moved past fast enough that he couldn’t fight back. I ran the final 2km as if I’d never had the slump and running together had ensured that Lauren stayed ahead in her race and I only finished 15” behind 3rd place in 34’35.
To anyone looking for a summertime 10km in London, I’d highly recommend the Great Newham Run (http://www.greatrun.org/great-newham-london-run). Well organised as you’d expect from a Great Run series event and it finishes in the Olympic Stadium.
Virgin Sport British 10km
A frantic few weeks of racing concluded with the British 10km the Sunday before last. This time I really wanted to put right my decision not to hang onto the slightly faster runners ahead of me. At the start of the race I thought, actually I should aim to win this. The winning time last year was around 32mins which is faster than I’m capable of at the moment but if it were to be a bit slower this year, I could see what was going on around me and try and get up the front. However, these dreams were soon dashed when I looked to my right on the start line and there was GB marathon Olympian, Scott Overall! And the temperature on the start line didn’t make me feel any more optimistic!
Even after a few kms, there was a group of around 15 of us all alongside Scott. It didn’t take too long for him to stretch the race after this though. Similar to Great Newham, I had a few decisions to make – should I go with these runners who are travelling slightly faster than my target pace? A few that started moving off were too quick but I managed to keep two of them in my sights and I just aimed to maintain the distance between us. About halfway I found myself in a battle with a runner. By 8km on the familiar Embankment stretch towards Big Ben, I managed to get the better of him and held him off for the remainder of the race.
But in focusing on keeping ahead of him on the final straight, another runner came out of nowhere and outsprinted me. Nevermind – I finished in 12th in 34’22 which at 30” off my best is pretty good for this time of the season and in the heat. Next stop is the San Francisco Half Marathon on Sunday and a generously offered elite starting place!