I don't do 5Ks often, and as the Rocket 5K in Milton Keynes always falls close to my birthday it's kind of like a present to myself - a bit of fun seeing how fast I can go. When I did Leicester's Big 10K last weekend, I went for about 90% effort to help with recovery for this weekend. This was the race that was more important to me because I'd be driving for just over an hour for what should be less than twenty minutes of running. Seems silly really; but I enjoy it.
In the last few years of running this I've had 19:03, 19:03, and 18:34. That last one had been quite a surprise which I'd never expected to achieve. Since then some races have gone quite well, others not so much. That's the way it is though - not every race can go the way you'd like - there's lessons to learn when they don't. Since messing up my spring marathon I didn't know what I'd be doing next - my plans had been based on that going well. When I'd booked Rocket 5K for 2019 I thought that maybe I could really push and get a sub-18 though after the last few weeks I wasn't so sure. Could I even run sub-20?
The previous race felt good, and it was the happiest I'd been in a while. So even though I'd reassessed my goals, and decided I'd be happy with 18:30, I still wanted that sub-18 time.
On the day of the race it was off to a chilly start; though potentially good for the race. Parking wasn't so much fun as I found the machine wouldn't accept payment until after 08:30 (though I later found the clock was 10 minutes slow - so even later!). Whilst I waited I went to the Whetherspoons to collect my race number; but they couldn't find it! They gave me a replacement number, and I headed back to pay for parking whilst attaching my race number.
At the race start I saw Nikki, a #TeamWhite visor club member whom I'd seen at Manchester, and then saw Keith - the same guy I'd shared a tent with back in Nepal. Unlike this year the start was split in two - one start line either side of the road; but positioned to ensure they'd cover the exact same distance.
When the race started I found myself out towards the front of this group fairly quickly - overtaking many that had misjudged their starting position within the first hundred or so metres. In previous years it'd slowed me down at the start; but this year I planned ahead and made sure I was starting to the side so I could run on the outside quickly if I needed to. It had paid off!
On the up-hill stretch I'd started quickly; but let the incline control my pace. By the time I'd reached the top I'd slowed to just 6:34/mi which was far slower than I'd have liked. It was okay though - I knew that what would follow would be a net downhill, even though there are a few 'bumps' along the way. We then joined the runners from the other start, and from then on there'd be no more turns.
Time passes quickly in a 5K, and before I knew it I'd done the first mile in 5:39. I remembered that last year I'd done the first mile in 5:40, so was about right - hopefully I could do the next two miles a little quicker than I'd done them last year. I'd switched my watch to show estimated lap time rather than current pace, and it was predicting my second mile would be in 6:20. I'd have to do something about that.
My throat was also feeling really dry, though nowhere near as bad as it had been in 2018. I guess a lesson to learn here was to have a sip of water before the race. I think this time it didn't do any harm though - it didn't cause me to slow down. I thought about how it'd made me walk last year, and the idea of a walking break was appealing; but I knew that I'd be disappointed in myself if I did. So I pushed on. Heh, is that the lead vehicle I can see disappearing in the distance?
I figured that to claw back some time I'd speed up a little for a short burst whenever I felt I could. In this race there are kilometre markers rather than mile markers, and I completely missed the 2KM one - I must have zoned out for a little while. I did however get through the second mile in 5:49. So far so good. If I wanted a 5:55/mi average then I could risk slowing down in the last mile by 22 seconds. My legs were starting to tire and I decided my idea of running the last half mile as quickly as I could was a terrible plan. It felt like I was actually getting slower and slower instead.
As the MK Dons stadium came into view, it was a relief. I'd got about a quarter of a mile left to go and was now ready to pick up a bit of speed. I couldn't remember how far into the car park the finish was normally, so I held back from sprinting. Though I think part of me perhaps couldn't be bothered - when I saw the finish line I still didn't sprint even though my legs still had it in them. Whether or not it's true, it felt that by holding back a little towards the end it was making up for this being a mostly down hill race. Hopefully whatever I was about to do would be a similar time if I was to finally get another parkrun done.
I crossed the finish line 36th out of 2,055 runners. I'd done it in 17:52. I couldn't believe it. 17 minutes 52 seconds. How on Earth had that happened?! I'd thought I was going to miss getting a new PB; but had somehow managed my main goal. My thoughts then turned to what's next - a 10K race on Thursday and hopefully another PB attempt. What I'll aim for next with the 5K distance, I don't know.
I'd enjoyed the day, and have to congratulate the organisers for putting on another fun event. It's amazing how much it's grown over these last few years.
Over on Instagram, be sure to check out Ben Lumley's shots from the day!