This week has been one of those weeks. Nothing has been really really bad. But lots of little things going not quite right, combined with feeling more tired every day, have made things generally a struggle. The one big positive in my week was starting a Couch to 5k group at my work, which is the sort of thing I’ve wanted to do for so long. The buzz afterwards made me determined to get out running myself, but sure enough being tired and feeling a bit meh ended up winning again.
So far this year we’ve managed a fair bit of parkrun tourism, and while it’s been fantastic it’s not always that good for our energy levels or domestic productivity. This, combined with our kids having a party invite for Saturday lunchtime, meant we reluctantly postponed our planned trip to Henstridge Airfield in favour of a more normal Saturday morning. Whatever one of those is. Naturally, this meant I had no motivation to actually get up and run. After confirming I didn’t want to go to Longrun Meadow (not feeling the puddles today), Ben told me to get my running kit on and head to Burnham.
Burnham and Highbridge parkrun is my second most-run event (after Longrun), and perhaps unsurprisingly my second closest (no prizes). We went to the inaugural back in 2015 (don’t go to those), and got what at the time was my second fastest time (27:12). Since then I’ve returned for my first fully run parkrun after our son was born (following a spell of run/walking), early last year to prove to myself how fast I could go (sub-30, it turned out), and later last year for a normal run.
Driving over I was thinking about the blog post I intended to write this afternoon. With it just being a normal run, I wouldn’t need to write about the run itself, and so instead could finally write my 2019 goals post, with my one key goal for the year and several sub-goals. With my indecision first thing, I was cutting the timing a bit tight and so the car park was already full, and I ended up parked way down a side road. As I got out the car I saw a text from one of my friend’s who’s in the Couch to 5k group, saying she’d just completed run 2. Talk about a much needed boost!
As I walked over towards the park, I could see that the runners were already gathered at the start and that the run brief in progress. However, the PA system was so good I could hear the run brief while waiting to cross the road. I heard that there were pacers, which meant when I reached the mass of runners I made sure to get further forward than the 30 bib. Because I swear 30 minute pacers are the hardest things to get past in all of parkrun.
The loud and clear PA system and countdown meant I started my watch bang on time. Being familiar with the course, I knew the start would be congested due to the narrower paths. But I also knew not to worry too much about this. I wasn’t able to weave around people as much as on my previous visit, as the grass to the side of the path was sodden, but I could still make up a bit of ground. I caught the 29 minute pacer near the play park. Thankfully he didn’t have too many followers, and so I got past relatively easily.
I started to wonder what I was doing, trying to make up so much pace when I haven’t been training lately. But then I remembered the text I’d received, and thought that if they’d managed to get themselves out to run then I should be able to put some effort in as well. I dialled in and as I reached the riverside path was fully focused on tracking down the 28 minute pacer. This is where goals start to snowball. I got the idea that maybe I could get a Burnham PB. But then I realised that 27:12 isn’t all that far off 26:49, my PSBPB (post-second baby personal best), and so maybe I could go for that instead?
The self-critical part of me was, of course, gleefully pointing out that I still had 2 miles in which to collapse, or at least drop off the pace entirely. But then something strange happened. I saw the 28 minute pacer… and then about 10 people ahead of him I saw the 26 minute pacer. Clearly one of them was in the wrong place. As I slowly caught up to the 28 bib I did some rough calculations from my watch, and determined that we were closer to 26. With that in mind, I made sure to overtake the 26 bib as well, and then gave myself the single goal of staying ahead of him the rest of the run. Which is funny, because of course if I achieved this goal I would have no idea how close or far behind me he was.
The esplanade section of the course is always a highlight. Sadly the tide was out, but the views were still good, the path was still solid and wide, and there was still the camaraderie of runners going in different directions. I even got to say hi to Al, one of our parkrun friends, when I saw him run past the opposite way. I realised while looping round and heading back down the other way that I was being a lot quieter than my usual cheering self. But I decided that actually sometimes it’s ok just to run for yourself instead of with the community.
As we headed back into the park I, somehow, still hadn’t completely collapsed. I felt pretty good considering how hard I was working myself. There were a few nervous watch checks as I tried to ignore the photographer, rounded the lake, and tried desperately to remember how far it was to the finish line. Approaching the line, the people in front of me came to a halt to allow plenty of space in the funnel. They were pretty understanding about my shout to keep moving…
Stopping my watch, collecting my token (position 100!), and walking all the way round to the scanning area was a bit of a daze. Had that really happened? I’m not properly in shape. I haven’t been training. There’s no way that can be right. I headed back to my car, and on the way home started to cry a little as the wave of emotion hit me. You see..
My Burnham and Highbridge parkrun PB was 27:12. And I beat that.
My post-second baby PB was 26:49. And I beat that.
But this, this was special. You see, 3 years, 3 months and 9 days ago I ran a time that has been etched into my brain ever since. 25:54. 3 years, 3 months and 9 days this has stood as a reminder of what I can do, but also a taunt of how I am not as good as I once was.
Because today didn’t need the clarifying as a course PB, or even as a PSBPB. Today I completed a parkrun in 25 minutes and 45 seconds, and I still can’t quite believe it.
Sure, it’s somewhat ruined my 2019 goals blog post, what with having completed my main goal for the year already. But the really nice thing is that I’m pretty sure it won’t be another 3 years, 3 months and 9 days until my next PB.