A race report for a 5K is going to be pretty short, and boring isn't it? Well, you might be right, but it's surprising how much can still go through your head in such a short time. So far this year training has not gone to plan - I've done far fewer miles than I wanted. You've probably seen me mention this before. Somehow I still managed to get a PB at both half marathon and marathon distances. Following that marathon I've done three back-to-back weekends of races with the distance getting progressively shorter.
The Rocket 5K is one I've done twice before. The first year I ran this race, it was a PB. Last year was a warmer but windier day, but was also the day before I did the Rocket 5K. It didn't go to plan and I actually finished 2 seconds slower than the year before. It was suggested that I'd plateaued and it's just one of those things.
I don't like that. I don't like the idea of limits. As I said last year, Bruce Lee once said:
If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.
As always, Bruce Lee is right. So I entered this race again with the hope that just maybe I could do better than before. I arrived an hour before the race, having parked up relatively close to race HQ, and collected my number. I genuinely believed that just as back in December, I'd be looking at another 19:20-ish sort of time. I wasn't sure why I was there. Before getting in my car I'd contemplated just running locally and not starting a race I'm not ready for. If I'd not gone then I probably wouldn't have made it out for a run at all. It's easy to give in. I don't like to miss races if I can help it though, and that's motivation enough to have got me there. At any rate, it'd be good practice, and would remove any questions of “what if”.
Even by 08:30 it was getting warm - I knew the heat would be making this race difficult. Stephanie, a fellow #TeamBlack member from #visorclub was there, so we spoke for a while before the race before speaking to another we spotted - Richard. As the start time was approaching I made my way to the start, a few metres back from the front so there'd be plenty of people in front of me. The race did however start late, meaning that we got to roast in the sun for a little longer before starting.
Moments after the race satrted I noticed my mouth was going dry. By the time I reached the turn for Saxon Gate it felt like I was already overheating. My mouth was now completely dry, so much so that I couldn't swallow and it felt like I was choking. The first downhill bit came as a relief as I could at least take my mind off the heat for a while. I was trying to stick to the shade where possible, but so much of it was completely exposed to the sun.
At the end of the first mile I looked at my watch for the first time. 5:45. Not too bad, if my speed tapers off like it did last year then perhaps I can just about get the same as last year. I could feel my head getting hotter and hotter, and my mouth was starting to forget what moisture was like. Even my tongue had dried up. I needed water desperately.
I got to mile 2, and was relieved to have got there. It had been hard work getting that far and although my legs felt fine, my head did not. I glanced at my watch for the second time, and found it was another sub-6 minute mile. I've not done that before - a 2 mile PB!
Irrationally, I started thinking about the runner that died during the London Marathon just a couple of weeks ago. Had it been the heat that had got him? Had he suffered from dehydration and didn't ease off? I felt I needed to cool down somehow, so just after the 2 mile point I started to walk and did so for almost a minute. When I got going again I quickly got back up to sub-6 minute mile pace, and started to claw my way back to where I wanted to be. I'd struggled through two miles so far; I just needed to get another mile done. One mile is nothing, yet at the same time seemed so far away.
I started overheating again too quickly, so walked once more to cool down again, and half a minute later was back running again. This time I kept the pace slightly slower - not wanting to overdo it. I could see the golden arches of McDonalds in the distance and I knew that meant the MK Dons stadium was near. Sadly I walked one more time, for just a few seconds, before starting to build the speed back up one last time.
As I rounded the corner I quickly asked myself if I should sprint what was left like I normally do. Could I risk it though? If I put everything I've got into what's left, although I didn't feel that way at the time, I thought maybe it'd be enough to make me vomit. It wouldn't be a good thing to do when already short on fluids. Instead I just increased my pace slowly and took it easy crossing the finish line.
I'd done it. I finished a race whilst feeling dehydrated, but not only that - I got sub-19.
My official time was 18:34 in position 50 of 1,910 finishers - putting me into that first 2.6%. It felt good to have finally done it. A 27 second PB, and my fourth PB of the year if I included that 2 mile PB having already PB'd at half marathon and marathon. Just a 10K to go to complete the set.
As I was handed a medal, a bottle of water, and a pain au chocolat I waited for the SMS to arrive to confirm my time. Just to be sure. It didn't come through before I was ready to run again, but I realised that 26 seconds under was enough to be sure that even with my official time I'd have done it too. I then ran back to my car, getting lost along the way, but getting an extra 5 miles done for #MilesForMind.
I think today was good practice for my next race - the Malawi marathon. At some point after that I'll have to start training for another 5K to see if it's possible for me to get sub-18. Maybe one day.