Bit of a long way to go for a 5k, I hear you say. Trust me I was thinking the exact same thing at 5pm on a Friday after a long week at work, especially after opening the fridge and seeing the beer. However one of my targets for 2021 was to try and run a sub 20 minute 5k, something I always thought was maybe beyond my capability after years of running 5k races. Since joining the club in 2017, I have ran a variety of different races ranging from 5k to 60 mile Ultras, but I have never solely targeted a 5k ‘time’. This year though I have been running well, already getting 10k and half marathon PB’s, and so I was on the lookout for a 5k chip timed race to go for a PB. Redcar running festival clashed with one of the Hardmoors half marathon’s, of which I am in the series, and other than York, I think my next chance wouldn’t be until spring 2022. So I made a decision and off I went on a one hour and twenty minute car journey to give it a go.
The course was a cycle track at York Sports Village, 5 laps of 1k. This was the 7th race in the Evensplits York 5k series, and looking at past results, there were a lot of quick runners taking part. There were 3 starting waves, organised by your predicted time you gave when entering. I was in wave 2 after putting a predicted time of 19:30 – a time that I would be over the moon with – my current 5k PB was 20:34 – but I put a quick time to make sure I was in a group with runners that I knew would be running sub 20, the idea being that I could use them to pace me around. Start time was 7.40pm and after collecting my number I did a quick 2k warm up, trying to get a good look at the cycle track. One of the issues with racing on a track is that the distance is measured on the ‘racing line’ therefore you need to make sure you follow this as best as you can to avoid adding extra distance. The first wave finished and we were called onto the track. It’s not going to be a nice drive home if I mess this up.
Off we went, I started myself a few rows back from the front and was hoping to get in a good group that I could keep a decent pace with. After the usual frantic start to any race, I settled to a nice pace behind a few people but it felt too slow. A quick look down to my watch would settle me down as it said my pace was 3.30 – ok maybe I’m out of my depth here, can I keep this up? Might as well see how it goes I thought. First lap was done before I knew it, my watch 1k lap buzzing at 3:36, however quite short of the line, which I expected but thought I might be a bit closer. Second kilometre I went through 3:33, watch buzzing even shorter than the lap. So at this point I knew it was going to measure long on my watch, but my pace was good and I was on for sub 20 if I could keep it up. As I went onto the third lap I found myself running with one other person and a big gap to the next in front, I stayed with them for half the lap but felt good and wanted to push on so I gave myself the target of closing the gap to the next runner. Third kilometre 3:42, that’s ok, two to go, even 4 minute kilometres now should get me to my sub 20. Fourth kilometre 3:46. Last lap, this is where I started praying my splits we’re pretty accurate and all I needed to do was hope when my watch buzzed at 5k, I had enough time to get to the finish line under 20 minutes. I was still about 270m short of the line when 5 kilometres flashed up on my watch, but it read 18:18 – after seeing that it was a nice push to the finish, knowing I’d completed my main target. Over the line in 19:14. Wow, I did not expect that. It was all worth it. A time I always thought was beyond me, but thanks to some great training sessions with the club recently, targeting speed work especially, I had done it.
The journey home was done with a smile on my face and I strolled back in the house around 9.30pm. Straight to the fridge for that beer I had seen earlier, and the kids leftover hot dogs awaiting (see photo). Not bad for my little legs. Sub 19 anyone…..
Something to take from the race – your watch isn’t always accurate, use it as a guide more than gospel. Looking back at my Strava, and comparing to other competitors Strava, my GPS may have been a bit off that night. Maybe I need a new watch, just don’t tell the Mrs.
Author: Shaun Flewker-Barker