Setting and reaching goals

Tomorrow is the last Saturday in the month, and that means it’s the day I’m intending to try to beat my PB (personal best time) at parkrun.

Part of the strategy is to set myself up mentally as well as physically for the effort, as I’ve discovered before now that a lot of the battle is in the mind. This is why I’m making my plans public.

I tried this strategy before, which is when the current PB was set – but that was one sunny day in June, on my favourite route, after two weeks of hard training. I cunningly volunteered for one run, trained during the weeks, and then went for it.

Now it’s my favourite route again, but at this time of year it partly consists of 400 m of sticky, slippery mud and another section that we’re cheerfully told could be under about 5cm of water (at least that part washes off the mud from the previous part!).

I’ve been running at around 37 minutes for the past few runs. My PB is 34:21. That’s a very big ask, to knock off so much. I have been training during the week, in fact for the past three weeks I’ve been going out regularly as part of the Jantastic challenge. I deliberately haven’t pushed myself hard for the past few parkruns either, so this will be the big challenge: can I make enough of a difference in my speed and pace to beat my target?

I’m really not sure I can actually beat that time yet, especially when you consider the difference in conditions underfoot for that one section. But I should at least be able to set a decent time (which I would consider as 36 mins or less) and set myself up for next weekend when I’m signed up for a 10k run.

At least the extra training I’ve done has been over slightly longer distances, so that 5k is beginning to feel like a shortish run rather than a long one, and all that effort has to produce some results, right?

And if I don’t make a new PB this time – there’s always the end of next month. And the month after.



Bananas good, cereal bad – or how I learned I’m completely crazy

I had a bad start to parkrun this morning. Following an article I read on fuelling before a run, I’ve tried eating a banana beforehand – that went fairly well – so this morning I tried with a very small bowl of cereal.

Big mistake.

I’d forgotten how my body occasionally plays nasty tricks on me if I take in too much fluid in the mornings (and I don’t mean excessive amounts either!). Despite visiting the conveniences right before we went down to the start, as we set off I realised I needed them again in a hurry. Luckily the route we were taking meant that I didn’t actually need to run back to them – it was just a large sidestep, with a steep slope up off the course and then another steep slope down again afterwards.

By the time I was heading back down the slope, the pack was disappearing in the distance. I briefly considered giving up, but then I decided that I could manage part of the run, anyway. The route is 2k along the seafront, round a big 1k loop that’s very muddy for part of it and concrete path but likely to be slightly under water for the rest, and then back along the seafront again. I figured that I could probably get to the loop by the time everyone was finishing it, and could run back with them – I’d do 4k instead of 5, but at least I’ll have got some exercise.

By the time I reached the start of the loop I’d had lots of encouragement from the front runners who were already on their way back, and I could see the last few not too far ahead of me – a couple of minutes, maybe, but still definitely in sight.

I found I hated the idea of missing out the muddy/wet part of the course, where I can usually gain time because some others gingerly pick their way through the easiest bits while I just plough through, so I gamely entered the loop. At this point I decided I was thoroughly crazy when the thought crossed my mind about how fun it would be to slip in the mud and return completely caked!

Loop completed, there was just the run back to do. I could see the next few runners not too far ahead, and over the next section I did actually manage to gain on them, finishing at the back but by no more than a minute or so of others – and I’d run up that steep slope twice, not once!

So although my time was a horrendous 40 mins 29 seconds, that did include a detour, and even though I fully expected to finish well behind I kept going. I’m very concerned at the fact that I was disappointed to finish only slightly damp and muddy, and not to have been thoroughly soaked and caked in mud. I do think I’m completely crazy.

And just for the record, that first k with the detour was only half a minute slower than the k round the loop with all the mud and water – although it is usually around two mins faster, being right at the start.

So I’ve learned not to have cereal or any other extra fluids before a run, and I’ve learned that starting late is not necessarily a disaster. And I’ve learned that I apparently have some secret wish to complete an assault course where I get soaked and muddy.