On the day before the first anniversary of my starting C25k I set a parkrun PB of 25:41 at Killerton parkrun. Where this came from I have no idea, since it was forty seconds faster than my previous PB. I said at the time that it would probably be a long time until I bettered it. That was June 7th last year.
The intervening year has seen me injure my achilles and suffer (what seems like) the same cough that Danzargo has been battling with for months. However, I am pretty much up to speed again now and over the last couple of months I came within five seconds of that PB on two occasions, but it remained frustratingly out of reach, despite my avowed intent to beat it this summer.
Killerton parkrun is basically a cross country course through parkland, woodland tracks and grassy fields, with plenty of hills, but in fact a nett descent, since the finish line is below the start line. We are lucky enough to also have Exeter Riverside parkrun just about the same distance from us, although, until today, we have never run there. Exeter Riverside is a completely different kettle of fish. It is dead flat, apart from the bridge over the river and is mainly tarmac and about 1.5k on grass around the perimeter of the University playing fields.
Today happened to be the first anniversary of Exeter Riverside parkrun and they had, unknown to us, decided on a beach theme to go along with the cakes on offer to all and sundry. The British summer provided typical beach weather....overcast with with occasional spits of rain and a cool but gentle breeze......perfect for running, if not for beaches.
Madame Truffe et moi were both determined to get PBs on this pancake course and so we did not run together. I had hoped to keep the 24 minute pace setter in sight for as long as possible, but managed to lose sight of him before we crossed the start line. Out of sheer habit I set off knowingly too fast. At Killerton this is worthwhile as the numbers can reach 250 or more and there is a gateway to negotiate within 20 metres of the start, whereas at Exeter there were only 160 runners and no constrictions to deal with. I cannot read the current pace on my watch, so never bother looking at it, but I knew that I could not sustain the pace for long. At about halfway the 24 minute man came past me, and there was no way I could stay in his wake. Looking at my splits afterwards I saw that I did a stupidly fast 4:34 for my first kilometre and then it settled to a remarkably consistent 5:21 for three kilometres, although number four surprisingly came out at 5:15. The arithmetically adept amongst you, dear readers, will have already worked out that my 5k time was 25:32........at last.....a new PB!
What I found hardest about this run was the lack of hills. Hills are bread and butter. Hills are grit and perspiration. Hills are en route challenges, where you have to knuckle down to get to the top and then have the joy and exhilaration of descending on the other side. Exeter Riverside gives non of this mid run variety and encourages a steady and sustained pace....hence the splits, I suppose.
So having conquered the foothills of C25k, I arrived in June last year, on a plateau bereft of PBs on which there rises the molehill of today's achievement, of which I am still proud, but somehow I expected the flat course to deliver something more than a nine second improvement over my Killerton best. Still, I now have two PBs to work on, after I have despatched my next target of a full HM distance.
The most notable accomplishment of today's run was however not mine, but that of my other half, the indefatigable Madame Truffe. Normally I seem to have quite a wait for her after I finish.....not today.....she came steaming in, strong to the last, smashing her PB and doing her first sub 30 minute 5k, (29:55) exactly two years to the day since she started C25k. What's more, she beat me on age graded score too, for the first time, with a score of 63%, so we have some gentle personal rivalry to look forward to in the future.
If you had told us two years ago that we would be celebrating 5k PBs in our sixtieth year, neither of us would have believed it, nor the fact there is the amazing network of runners that make up the very wonderful organisation that is parkrun.........all that could only exist in some kind of Nirvana........which is probably somewhere over a hill.
Keep running, keep smiling.