Saturday, 7 May 2011

How Not To Parkrun

Parkrun is a brilliant scheme that sees free 5k runs organised and run by volunteers every Saturday morning in various parks all over the country. I had been keen to try one for ages and whilst arranging a bit of a girls night in Basingstoke the idea was thrown out to have a few drinks on Friday and then do the Basingstoke Parkrun at 9am on Saturday morning. Ideal. 

Well, it would have been ideal had it not been for some hefty Pimms consumption followed up with a good dose of sparkly stuff. I had set the alarm for 07:45 and awoke - ever so slightly fuzzily - to the sound of bucketing rain and thunder. I cheerily woke up the girls with cups of tea but they definitely weren't as keen as I was to go ahead with the run.

A last minute decision was made that we would indeed go, but the girls would be cheering me on from the sidelines and not actively participating this time around. We piled into the car and headed over, arriving a couple of minutes before the race was due to begin.

I was seriously lacking breakfast and adequate hydration but decided that a 5k was short enough for me to get away with it. Jess tried to explain the route to me several times before giving up and just telling me I would be fine if I just followed everyone else. She was right, with 142 other runners I definitely wouldn't get lost. 

My warm-up involved walking to the start line and so when I started running my heart rate shot up like a rocket. The adrenaline was flowing and for the first few minutes I picked my way closer to the front, feeling marvellously fit and fast. When I hit the 1k marker I realised I had set off way too fast and would absolutely not be able to maintain this pace; in fact my heart was starting to hurt and I felt the palpitations coming on. I tried to control the breathing but I was struggling to slow down as I was just so excited and in race mode. 

It all started to go wrong when I suddenly got a very strong toilet-related urge and on glancing at my watch I realised I had only been going for 10 minutes. The remainder of the run was going to be risky as I tried desperately to keep the previous nights BBQ in. 

In the next 7 or 8 minutes I went through a whole range of emotions. First of all I hated myself for not eating breakfast or drinking any water, little bursts of new enthusiasm washed over me as I caught up to others and little moments of despair hit me as big, sweaty, grunting men swooped past. You pass the 'spectator area' twice and each time I was spurred on by the whoops from the girls and the fact that I tried to look cool and un-knackered whenever I ran past.

The final kilometre was so hard as I battled with feeling completely sick through physical exertion and wanting so much to get a pb. The last section through the trees went on forever and I had pushed so hard that I couldn't manage anything resembling a sprint finish as I approached the end.

You get given a little barcode to give to a man to scan and then later in the day your times and all the relevant stats get emailed to you. I was absolutely ecstatic to see that I'd run a 24:28, a whole minute and six seconds faster than the last 5k I ran in August. I'd come 51st overall, 11th lady and 1st in my age group; not bad under the circumstances!

I reckon with breakfast, water, a warm up and without a hangover that sub-24-minute 5k is in sight!

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