I’m not sure there would be too many people who manage to run the same time at the same race in two consecutive years, but that’s more or less what happened to me yesterday.
The Highland Park Run in the Park 5k is the run that launched me into running 3 years ago. I’d never considered being a runner before then and I’m not sure what made me decide to do it, but afterwards I decided to start running for exercise. I was fit from cycling so thought I would just give it a try and a month later I was out buying new running shoes.
My times over the years have improved, at first significantly – after all I hadn’t run at all before that first one where I did 24:29 – the second year, after actually running pretty regularly, I managed to improve to 21:40. Last year was an amazing race for me and it gave me my best 5k time ever of 19:29.1 (the .1 is important here as you’ll see in a minute) – a time that I didn’t quite get close to again for the whole of the year.
Yesterday my official time was 19:28.6 – a personal best by exactly half a second (if you count the tenths – although I think it counts as a 1 second PR).
My theory on why I can run this particular course so fast is that it starts with a more or less completely downhill first mile. It does then head back up, but I don’t seem to lose as much time going up hills as I gain from going down them, so ultimately it works out well for me (I haven’t been that fast on pretty much flat courses which I feel proves my point).
My splits this year were a little different from last year, and I think it maybe shows a difference in my training. I have been mainly focusing on distance, so my speed may have suffered (although only very slightly, if at all) but it seems I can maintain the speed for longer, so even though I wasn’t as fast in that downhill first mile, I was able to make up the time on the rest of the course.
So, two weekends and two personal records (again – this is exactly what happened last year in the same two races), although I can only count a single second improvement (or half a second if you want to go down to the tenths in the official time).
One annoying thing is that this race had 10 year age groups (it tends to happen at smaller races, whereas the larger races do them in 5 year increments), so, being 39, I was in the 30-39 age group and despite being 6th overall, I was only second in age group, because the 5th place person was 30 years old. Still, I shouldn’t feel bad because the 4 ahead of him were all of ages ranging from 14 to 21.
One thing I will likely post more about soon is that I’ve gone back to running in my Vibram Fivefinger Bikilas – these were my very first minimalist shoe just over 2 and a half years ago, and they’d sort of been pushed to the side when all these other options became available, but in the last month I have found them again, and I love them. My 5k and 10k PRs from the last week and a half were both in these shoes – I like them in the rain because they fit perfectly without socks and I don’t like wet socks. I’m still worried about the possibility they may cause me blisters over longer distances, but I will be testing that out sometime in the next week or so and will report back.
One extra useful thing to note – last year I always made sure I didn’t drink alcohol the day before a race (or even 2 days at times). This year I haven’t bothered with that rule and it doesn’t seem to have made a difference – with a party on Saturday afternoon and one on Saturday night, I didn’t drink excessively, but still had a total of 4 beers over about 5 or 6 hours before going to bed.