If you will it, it is no dream
Sub 20, sub bloody 20! It’s been a long time in the arriving but it finally occurred on Saturday 22nd October 2018 a shade before 9:25am. Actually I lie as in truth I’d already broke through the 5km glass ceiling and chalked it up on two previous occasions. The first was at Sale Sizzler #2 (19:55) in the summer and then at The Wammy parkrun (19:51) a few weeks previous however this time was most special being on a hilly course and, most importantly, at my home parkrun.
Ever since I first ambled down to Heaton parkrun on St Patrick’s Day 2012 the place has been fundamental to my running progress. It’s a great place and the venue, the facilities and, most importantly, the people provide a perfect mix. I’ve clocked up 46 other parkrun venues so can speak with a wee bit of experience.
Back to the run then. It was my first opportunity to attack the new/old course as the previous two weekends I had put on the pacing bib (24 and 22 minutes) due to either nursing an injury or a hangover respectively. The Dublin Marathon training plan that I was very loosely following called for a 4 mile time trial that day so a parkrun fits that somewhat if a bit short on the mileage.
After discarding the ‘24 minute stand behind this sign’ placard that has somehow become my own in recent weeks I moved further up the thronged mass of people and stood just behind the very quick people brimming with an unusual thing called confidence. I was up for a sub 20, I just needed my body to do the rest. Not an easy ask after all the recent marathon training lately as my body feels like Paul McGrath’s used to in the old days.
When Duncan shouted ‘Go!’ I was off, together with 686 others. I didn’t heed his warning in the run brief about running through leaves as in the wooded area before 1k (the old 2k point) I moved left along the border of the path to overtake someone and hit a leaf-obscured depression that turned my ankle a bit. I feared the very worst and my running life flashed before my eyes but after 10 seconds I knew it was fine.
I love the new/old loop whereby runners go through the finish area in the first 1.5k as the support you get from the volunteers, even the cheeky ones, really spurs you on to attack the impending Angina Hill. After a quick salute to ‘Man with Brush’ I attacked it, the hill not the brush, with vigour and arrived at the Lions (halfway) only 15 seconds outside pace time. Knowing that the long downhill section was to come this was a good thing.
I knew that I was going well as I was running in and about people that I never usually run with. It could’ve been disconcerting but I wasn’t in that frame of mind, I was determined to not leave anything out there. Near the toilet block after 3k a runner passed me and left me in the backdraft of the most opulent eau de toilette. Although he smelled fantastic I had to get back in front of him as it distracted me somewhat.
Having the long downhill section near the end of the run certainly helps the tiring legs so a quick time check at 4k told me that all I had to do was keep it going. The finish loop around the lake reminds me of that scene in Apollo 13 where the stricken spacecraft has to do a slingshot around the moon to gain speed. Although I did gain a bit of speed the more seasoned quicker runners whom I’d passed on the downhill, including eau de toilette guy, overtook me. I wasn’t too bothered about position though as time is what I was after.
The left turn to the finish arrived and with as much pace as I could muster from the ‘200m to go’ sign I eventually crossed the line in 19:57. Absolutely elated, but absolutely knackered. I was also happy when another runner whom I know quite well sneaked sub 20 for the first time right behind me.
Heaton parkrun is a very special place alright but even more special when you achieve a target