I wanted to cash in on my recent half-marathon shape. Any flat 5 or 10k was going to be OK for me, I figured I should be able to get a PR in either distance. I just so happened to have a weekend trip to London planned, so figured I would do a parkrun there. In the past I have done the Beckton parkrun, but I recalled a lot of it being on uneven grass. Instead, I decided on the Victoria Dock parkrun. It is in the same general area, but has a stronger crowd show up and, most of all, has no grassy patches.
The course is a sort of horseshoe along the Victoria Dock. You start on the west end of the water and run eastwards along the north edge till a turning point. You run back to the start area, go to the south side of the water and run eastwards on that side. You reach a turning point again and run back to the start area. After a small loop in that start area (which I did not know about), you arrive at the finish. All of it is roady, though some parts have (mostly alright) cobbles, which is always less nice.
No need to repeat what I said in my half-marathon report, just check there really. Since then I have had one week of recovery (~55 km) and then parkrun race week (aiming for ~70 km total with about 50 km before Saturday). I had to reshuffle the race week some to accommodate the race: I ended up with no days off, but all of it pretty easy.
Goals and Strategy
My 5 km PR was 18:01 from December 2015. Quite a while ago. This would be the first time I would take a real shot at breaking it on a flat course since then. I had hoped to have a go at it back in Dublin in September. However, no competition showed up for that parkrun and, lacking the motivation to Time Trial, I just ran it as a Threshold workout of sorts. The goal for this parkrun was going to be simple: break the PR. Aim for 17:55, see what happens. Pacing wise, that is 3:35 per kilometre.
The girlfriend and I arrived in London on Friday evening. We had some Indian food with friends of hers. I had a glass of bubbles, but no other alcohol. The next morning I felt the spiciness a little (I will let you fill in the details), but nothing debilitating. I had no breakfast, just water. The girlfriend and I jogged on over, had trouble understanding the parkrun race director’s explanation, and lined up for the start.
The start is rather wide, so I had no trouble starting on the front line. I would have had no qualms about lining up there regardless: going by results from previous weeks, a top five finish should be manageable. As we start, I immediately am in third position together with a taller guy. Ahead of us are a shorter guy and a guy in tights. I have no clue where to go, I do not recall seeing any markings, but it seems at least one of the two guys in front of us does. I just follow them, though a few metre behind.
After 500 or so metre, I find it going a tad too fast for me and I let the tall guy go. Soon, a guy in a JP Morgan shirt passes me. I decide to follow him to keep the pace going. Not long after that, an Asian guy in an orange singlet also gets ahead of me and we form a little group of ours.
GPS Lap 1 in 3:31.
Orange singlet takes the lead in our group, JPM shirt is in second position, and I am in third. We pass the guy in tights who briefly took the lead at the start, he is fading hard. About 1.5 km into the race, we reach the end of this side of the dock. Right before reaching the π turn, I sneak into second place. Looking back at it, I am not really sure why, but I think I might have wanted to play it somewhat safe: if I had trouble restarting after the turn, at least there was someone else to still run with. Turning goes alright, though I start feeling the area right below my left butt cheek a little bit.
Our group sticks together and on the way back to the start/finish area, we cross the girlfriend. She goes through the trouble of stopping just to take my picture. How nice of her 😍
GPS Lap 2 in 3:33.
On the way back, we run a bit closer to the water than on the way out. No issues there, except that there are four stairs of 3 long steps each. None of us feels like circling around them, so we just jump down each set, avoiding weird steps. I feel like I do this slightly less efficient than the others. JPM shirt takes the opportunity to make a move. He passes me and orange singlet and takes first spot of our group by the end of the last stairs. Near the start/finish area, he pushes the pace further and creates a bit of a gap. Neither orange singlet or I move to close it, but I do lose a few metre on orange singlet. I gather some willpower and push to stay on his tail.
GPS Lap 3 in 3:38.
We move away again from the start/finish area, but now on the other side of the water. I can see JPM shirt 10-20 metre ahead of my duo-group, with taller guy again that distance ahead of him, and shorter guy yet again that distance in front of tall guy. Halfway on this out stretch, I feel like orange singlet and I are going a bit too slow. I push past orange singlet and take over leading. We reach the turnaround point at about 3.7 km. I take it a bit too wide to my liking, but immediately push the pace again. I feel like I have lost orange singlet, so place four is secure. JPM shirt up ahead looks like too big of a gap to bridge though. Guess I will just need to focus on myself now.
GPS Lap 4 in 3:40.
I manage alright in keeping the pace up. Looking at the GPS after the race tells me I noticeably sped up after the second turnaround point. As I reach the start/finish area, I notice the gap on JPM is only fiveish metre any more. I figure this is the last 100 metre or so and decide to just go balls to the wall and see if I can pass him. This works out right around passing the start line, but then I notice we have a little bit more to go than I thought. I did not realise at the time how much exactly (200ish metre it turns out), just that I did not see how we were going to reach the finish line exactly. Gulp.
I hope I did not get myself to blow up with my little manoeuvre and try to make out what is still in store in this race. A hidden π turn, it turns out! I make the turn and internally yell at the legs to kick me back into speed. At least I can see the finish now: 100ish metre of pain to go. I do not know how close JPM is behind me. Fifty metre further, I manage to glance into the windows of a building on the side. I do not see him close behind me and know my third spot is safe. I have lost track of my time by this point, but am assuming that should work out.
Finally, a brief moment of confusion as I pass the line. I had followed the first and second guy on a rightish turn, while we should have gone straight ahead for the finish chute. After realising my race is done, I press my stop button and go have my time registered. Both guys in front of me and the guy behind me were also confused with the finish, so it is all good.
The results peg me at 17:16 (3:27 pace). Strava says 17:19 due to my delayed stopping at the end. That… went well. Sub-18 goal = crushed. The Garmin stopped at 4.88 km, which implies I was actually going at a slightly higher pace than the splits indicated at face value. The first guy finished in 17:05, second guy in 17:11, JPM shirt in 17:19, and orange singlet in 17:34.
The girlfriend decided to slightly speed up throughout the race. She finished third female still in 22:43, the first female came in in 21:20.
I had half a mind of also setting my 10 km PR the week after this one, but finally decided against it. I think my mind, body, and planning would like a break from the racing and a brief return to the normality of base building scheduling. Besides that: I need a spring goal!