Indeed. A race. One of those things where you put your abilities on the line and try to go as fast as you can and beat other people in the process.
So Wednesday revealed a foul-weathered evening which wasn’t going to stop me going out after a relatively hectic Tuesday stopped the action I had planned. And out I went. A 4 mile route around a few lanes and the local housing estate (never far from one of those in Ashford) in case I had problems and needed a shortcut.
And I didn’t. No looking at my Garmin at all produced a set of mile splits that were fantastically encouraging in that they were quicker than I imagined as well as being within 4 seconds over any half mile consistent.
So I got changed and iced my leg again to make sure that if the ice works it gets a chance to and waited for Thursday morning.
Which arrived with no pain at all. Marvellous.
So a plan to run on Friday also evapourated, which I thought might be a truly bad thing for my plans. I was being encouraged to jog around the Stelling Minnis 10k with a few lads from work but didn’t know if I’d be safe for 6 miles. Despite a wish to do it (it’s my favourite race route) in the knowledge that if I stuck with them it would be a nice slow pace.
So instead I headed out early Saturday (I say early. It was for me. I hate morning runs, so it was really around 10.30) on the pushbike for a paper, did the 6 mile extended route as a warm up and headed out for a test run pretty much immediately after.
My 4.7 mile loop around the lanes with no pressure on pace but a desire to run cleanly and assess leg health. And with a bit of ice on my return again, all seemed perfect.
So I committed to the race.
And arrived on the startline this morning intending to plod around with the boys and assess things at mile 5 to see if a spirited mile was going to be done to put the leg to the test.
Well the course is undulating to say the least. There are 3 significant hills. None of them mountain climbs, but they are a test. So the boys were a bit slow but I was delighted to be running a race, probably annoying plenty of people by chatting well and making a pig of the fact that I could enjoy the weather (sunny spells, little breeze), chat to the marshalls (had to explain to one why I looked so fresh and not trying!) and encourage Michael and Aaron (Geoff was already, at 8.15 per mile, dropping back) on.
It wasn’t so much a race as a test. But the big hill at 4 miles slowed everyone around to a walk. Michael got around two thirds of the way up and stopped, which made me think again about the last mile. I jogged up to two girls at the top of the hill, had a chat, let them know it was flat from there, glanced at my Garmin to see 4.85 miles and started running.
I had one tiny twinge from the shin at 3 miles but otherwise it was perfect which was what spurred me on to going for a decent finish. I made a point of not looking at the Garmin again, simply running a pace I could maintain all the way home while focusing on clean footstrikes and structured running.
I relatively flew, it must be said. The quarter mile splits improved the one where I got going to an 8 minute dead followed by 6.40; 6.44; 6.33; 6.48 and 6.37. A last whole mile average of 6.41 after 11 miles of running this weekend and without feeling puffed.
I think, if I never allow myself to give running advice, I may well offer advice on how to stay fit during injury.
It was an odd last mile, pacing past people, but almost enjoyable. At the finish the chairman of my employer was waiting with his son in law who won overall in a little under 35 minutes (his first 5k split was 17.17) which was humbling but I was delighted to be pain free. And accelerating when I did saw my average pace tumble to 7.59/mile which flatters the other slow ones but isn’t a disgrace, especially considering it’s 20 seconds better than the same race last time I ran it after injury.
A little ice on returning to the car seems to have freshened things up and I really don’t feel like I’ve run more this weekend than I have since January at all.
Time to start proper training again and see if I can convert some sub-6 minute miles into consistent times for a race or two.