Well let's just say that this morning's easy training session of around 45 minutes didn't go as planned. There I was halfway through my standard loop around Muswell Hill (taking in Coldfall Woods, Alexandra Palace and the like) when a guy running down the other side of the road shouted across to ask if I'd ever heard of Park Run. Well, yes I said of course I have; they seem like a great idea but I've never actually managed to get my stuff together and run one. Ah, he said, well a new one started up at Ally Pally last December and I'm jogging to it right now - and it starts in 20 minutes!
So like the convivial fellow I am I decided to tag along with Nigel, for that was his name, down to the start just to gauge the lie of the land. No pressure of course, says he, but since the whole point of Park Run is that you can just turn up and race then maybe I'd like to? Now at this point my calves felt a little sore, courtesy of my new shoes, but I figured that there was no reason to bring this up as an excuse so early; I could always keep it in the bag for later. And that's why I found myself standing at the start line with 20 or 30 other runners (young, old, fit and not so fit). Honestly it is!
It's been a while since I last raced a 5K so at the beginning I decided to play it cool - especially as I had no idea of the course apart from the fact that it might be muddy! However it's easier said than done to hold back and about a km in, when a group had moved off the front, I figured that it was worth using them as a motivational tool and see what my legs were capable of. Initially this approach went swimmingly and by the start of the second lap I was in around 6th place and looking to reel in the veteran in front; on the downhill he had a good turn of pace but on the flat or the uphill I had the edge, I thought, and so it proved.
From hereon it was a case of stretching out my advantage, trying to avoid killing my calves too much and possibly reeling in 4th place if he faltered. For a time it seemed as if this might be the case as I seemed to be drawing him closer, although the distraction of non-racing joggers made it hard to tell, but when we reached the steep downhill section he pulled away decisively - the one thing that these Brooks shoes don't seem to do well is going down and my legs aren't strong enough to go hell for leather just yet.
As a result I crossed the line a solid 5th in around 20.42 (although I don't appear in the results) and considering that an hour before I hadn't even known about the race then that seems acceptable! So thanks very much Park Run organisers! Up till now this has always been one of my to-do list items that never seemed to struggle into life but now that I've done a Park Run I'm hooked. In fact the timing couldn't be better as yesterday my car was condemned to the scrap-heap by the garage and so I can't easily drive to races any more; maybe it's fate but I can see how my Saturday mornings will play out from now on...
Distance: 8.3 miles
Time: 1h 07m 01s