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Sunday, 13 February 2011

Two targets for 2011 ticked off

Two targets for 2011 ticked off, and just three more (of the original 5) to go!

As I wrote only last weekend, I had 5 big targets for parkrun for this year. And now only three remain. This weekend I have ticked off both the first and second of my targets. Those being:

1) a PB before the end of February, tick
2) sub 18:00 before the end of April, tick

In fact I was only 5 seconds away from my third and final PB target for the year, that being:
3) sub 17:45 by the end of the year.

I think it may be a few weeks before I even think about going for that kind of time again. But its just great to know that it is a realistic possibility. When I gave myself these challenges at the turn of the year, I really thought I could get close to 18:00, but I thought I would have to struggle all year for the 17:45. Perhaps I will still, perhaps I'll never get there, but it doesn't feel that way today. Today it feels like I could go faster still.

By winning my first parkrun event I have also ticked off one of my general aims for the year. Winning depends almost entirely on who turns up on the day and I think this win was largely due to a large contingent of club runners missing parkrun due to the big cross country event in the afternoon. But at least I took the chance when it was there to be had.

So with targets ticked of left right and centre its a good job I now have two 10km races to look forward to in April and June. That will give me a chance to have a go at some of my other targets for 2011.

My 10km target for this year is 38:00. Considering my 10km PB (at my one and only 10km event to date) is 39:58, this still sounds like a tough challenge. But I can't wait to have a go!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Coventry parkrun 12 February 2011

That hurt!

A massive parkrun PB!

Well I just can't believe it. I have been plotting an attempt on my parkrun PB today for the last couple of days, but I really didn't expect the result I had.

The last time I approached a parkrun with this kind of determination to get a PB was when my birthday happened to fall on a Saturday in October last year. On that occasion I managed to take 13 seconds of my PB, which I rightly considered to be a huge chunk. That PB has stood at 18:14 since then and I have only been near to that time on 2 occasions since and it has felt quite a way off for a while.

The the time limit for the first of my targets for parkrun for this year is due to expire at the end of February. That target was to get a PB by the end of February. This week I have found out that I cannot make it to parkrun next week. This left me with only two possible attempts at my PB before the end of February. With that in mind I have been determined to give it a really good go at my PB today.

I was hoping to chip a couple of seconds off my PB today, but I knew that even that would be tough. Luckily Clark Roberts was there today and he clearly wanted to run very slightly faster than I did. The encouraging thing for me was that his pace felt just about right for me today. On the first lap it actually felt relatively comfortable to stay alongside Clark. Surprising considering that pace resulted in my fastest first lap by 10 seconds!

During the second lap Clark very slowly opened up a gap of maybe 5 to 10 metres on me. Somehow I managed to dig deep and keep that gap to a minimum. At the point where I would normally expect to take less than 2 minutes to the finish, the gap was at about 5 metres. At this point I decided that I had to try to make a break for it. I stormed past Clark at the start of the final uphill stretch, but very quickly he responded and my lead was short lived. He went past me as quickly as I had gone past him and very quickly opened up the 5 metres lead again, seemingly at will. With about 100 metres to go, and as we reached the final straight, Clark noticeably started his sprint finish. I wasn't sure whether or not I could respond, but I had to give it a go. I don't get many chances to win and I may not get another. That's what went through my head as I almost closed my eyes and gritted my teeth.

I think this is the point where I realised how much my hill and interval training has helped. My sprint finish really surprised me. Somehow I managed to catch him, overtake him and keep going right to the line. Amazingly I had finished first in a parkrun event for the first time!

Now this was great, and it was one of my general aims for the year, to win a parkrun event, but this was not the important thing for me. I looked down at my stopwatch and I simply couldn't believe the time. It read 17:49! I had knocked 25 seconds off my previous PB. Not only had I achieved the PB I craved, but I had totally blown it away!

Now that kind of jump in performance is not to be sniffed at. Lets face it, I am highly unlikely ever to take that kind of time off in one chunk ever again at a parkrun event. I may never take another 25 seconds off this new PB over the course of all the parkrun events I run in the future. I'll try to, but that would mean sub 17:30 and I am just not sure my body is capable of that. So I think I need to really enjoy the fact that I have knocked 25 seconds off my PB in one go. Days like this may never come again!

To come home first was great, but its the PB that really pleases and amazes me the most.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

2011 Targets: Progress so far...

At the turn of the year, I made a list of my parkrun targets for 2011. These were as follows:
1) Get a new PB before the end of February.
2) Take my PB below 18 minutes before the end of April.
3) Take my PB below 17:45 before the end of 2011.
4) Finish in the top 5 of the male points table.
5) Finish in the top 10 in at least 75% of events attended.

Well, unsurprisingly, I haven't managed to achieve any of these targets as yet this year. But to be fair to myself, I have only run 3 parkrun events, missing the last two by marshaling the first and being sidelined with illness yesterday. I was very disappointed with my first two parkruns of the year, but the third, at 18:20 (only 6 seconds outside my PB), was pleasing and showed a lot of promise. For the first time it actually made me think that not only was my first target likely, but also that the second seemed within the realms of possibility. Its just a shame that I haven't been able to have another go since.

So I am left with time running out to achieve the first of my targets for the year. That being to get a new PB before the end of February. I am now left with just 3 more possible parkrun events to achieve this target. Its actually very likely that I may have to miss one of those events. This basically means I need to give it my best go each chance that I get. Fingers crossed that I am well and that the conditions are suitable for an attempt next weekend. I certainly don't want to fail so early on in the year with the challenge that I consider to be the easiest of the 5!

Just one week into the new parkrun "season" (as far as the points table goes), and I already find myself 90+ points behind many of the Coventry parkrun regulars. Those being the people most likely to turn up week after week and keep picking up the points. So target number 4 has already seen me left in the starting blocks!

One area where I have started the year very promisingly is in training. Last year I upped my training distance from 400 miles in 2009 to 600 miles in 2010. This year I am hoping for more like 800 miles or more. In January I managed my highest monthly mileage ever, recording 113 miles. That is at least 25 miles further than I have ever run in a month before. I managed to run 17 times during January, very close to 4 times a week and averaging well over 6.5 miles per run. I'm not sure how long I will be able to keep up this level of running, but I feel confident that I will see the benefits soon if I manage to keep it up.

My training so far this year has been concentrated on interval training and hills rather than attempting to beat my timed training targets. Those being:
- Single park lap: 9:30
- Three park laps: 31:00
- Freedom parkrun: 18:30

But I think that I may have a go at the timed freedom parkrun target sometime soon. At the very least I would like to beat my freedom parkrun PB of 18:54 in the next few weeks.

That's all for this update on my targets for 2011. Hopefully I will be able to post about achieving one of these targets sometime soon.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Coventry parkrun: The 1st Anniversary

Coventry parkrun celebrated its first anniversary/birthday today in fine style with a record attendance and parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt there to share it with us. A total of 202 runners took us beyond the 200 mark for the first time, a perfect tribute for the anniversary run. 25 first timers (yet again in the 20's), only goes to show that the parkrun message is still spreading its way around Coventry and the local area and suggests that the attendance figures may continue to build for some time to come.

Fortunately the runners only had to suffer strong winds as the predicted rain didn't turn up. A few had put some real effort into their outfits for the occasion, running dressed as: presents, a birthday cake, a champagne bottle and scooby doo amongst others. Many more were wearing party hats. And many more than that had answered the call to bring and share party food. It looked as though there would be plenty left over!

The atmosphere at and after every Coventry parkrun event is always positive and friendly, but today that was even more obvious, with many parkrunners hanging around to enjoy the food and chat with new friends and friendly rivals made over the past year.

Personally, I had been ill (completely wiped out really) for the previous day and a half, with what can be more pleasantly described as "stomach flu". But such is the drag of parkrun, that there was never any doubt in my mind that I would turn up today. In the end it was only as a supporter, even though, only hours before the start I was still adamant that I would be able to run, even after no food and with severe dehydration. Well, quite sensibly in the end, I realised that it was best that I didn't run this week. I actually surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the event without taking part. Probably just because I was glad to be there and not missing out. I still got a similar buzz seeing everyone else taking part and enjoying themselves and I certainly felt part of the celebrations and was as pleased as ever when I heard that we had set the new attendance record.

I also had the fortune of having a couple of conversations with parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt. Its clear to see how much parkrun means to him and the buzz he gets from running with and chatting to all the parkrunners about their park run experiences. The odd casual glance saw him enjoying many conversations of how much parkrun means to many of the people that wanted share their story with him. I hope he realises how much parkrun means to all us regular parkrunners.

I was very pleased to hear that Paul thinks we should easily see parkrun grow by another 70 or 80 events this year, especially if many of the international projects take off. Having only ever attended the Coventry event, I sometimes find myself wondering why this growth is so important to me, but I think its purely and simply because I love parkrun so much that I think everyone should have one. Can you imagine not having a parkrun event on your doorstep each week, I certainly can't. The thought of being able to attend another event on a weekend away one day also fills me with great excitement.

Hopefully my stomach will allow me to get back to full fitness and out running again in the next few days. With any luck I will be back to have a go at the PB (I had planned for today) next Saturday.

So Coventry parkrun is 1 year old. I can only hope that it continues to be the success that it has been so far and that we can celebrate many more Coventry parkrun birthdays in the comming years.