Monday – runch
With my sub-40 10k pacing commitment around the corner and my legs fully recovered, I thought it necessary just to test my capability. There was a time I’d knock out sub-40 quite casually, but with everything that’s gone on with my lack of training and whatnot I was concerned I’d either struggle or not manage at all.
Short of time, best I could do was squeeze a 5 miler into lunchtime! A good number of runners were out on the canal (most in groups, me seemingly always solo), my guess being they were preparing for the 10k as well. An ego-boosting moment came when I zipped past a group of ladies, who exclaimed “Ooh la la!”
Aiming for my target 6:20 min/mile, the splits came in steady and nicely with little exertion. Yet I finished 5.2 miles in 32:50. That would leave a massive 7:10 for the last mile! Puzzled, I couldn’t figure out why hitting the target pace left me with so much time, particularly as adding in my cool down mile still got me a sub-40! It wasn’t until I tinkered around on Excel that I realised my error; that was supposed to have been my marathon pace!
Mental note: figure out what pace I’m actually supposed to be pacing at!
Wednesday – runcommute
T-shirt. Shorts. Socks. Trainers. Sunglasses? Actually, I better check the weather. A 40% chance of rain at the time I’m running, with a high chance just before! The t-shirt was quickly swapped for a long sleeve!
Typically, the weather was fine as I ran, and I lamented wearing the long sleeve. And then 5 miles in… the heavens opened! Already past the point of no return, I had no shorter route home than to continue with the remaining 4 miles. It didn’t faze me at all though; I quite enjoyed it!
I was sure it was 9:30, but the more I thought about it the more my spider-sense went crazy as I considered what time I was supposed to drop my daughter off at school. Calling my wife at just after 8am yielded no answer. 8:30 came and went, and my phone buzzed at 8:40. My daughter was due at school at 8:55!
Half-dragging, quarter-piggybacking, quarter-stresswalking, we made it to the school at 9:05.
“Oh, she’s never late,” the receptionist helpfully said.
“Yeah, thanks.” Just what I needed to hear.
Saturday – Kingsbury Water parkrun
Looking to take it easy, my wife asked if I could pace her to a PB at Kingsbury parkrun. As I
was looking to take it easy and had nothing better to do like to encourage her to excel, I was more than happy to help!
Bearing in mind the £2 car park fee (which I couldn’t find info about on their website our Facebook page, only a throwaway comment from a participant) which causes long vehicle queuing, we made sure to arrive with generous time. The pre-run briefing was… well, brief, and we set off with minimal fuss.
Though the start was crowded for the first half mile or so, we eventually managed to settle into a good stride, comfortably below 8:00 min/mile. Getting Kerry to focus on certain runners ahead of us enabled us to increase the pace gently, and she kept strong despite the exertion.
When she saw the finish line, incredibly she acquired my ability; the kick! With a momentary sub-6 min/mile burst she flew towards the finish line, requiring me to take it up a gear to keep up! She managed a time of 23:25, a PB by a whopping 34 seconds!
Sunday – Simplyhealth Birmingham 10k
When I run, it’s always been about me. How fast can I go? How far? Who can I beat? This was the first time where I was running for others – runners looking for a PB, a major battery company and race organizer – and I would receive nothing of real substance other than knowing I paced a sub-40 10k. Which is why I was more nervous about this run than I was about the recent London marathon, despite being less than a quarter of the distance!
I was put slightly at ease meeting a few familiar faces before the start – some I’ve known personally for a while, some only through social media – as I made attempts to be encouraging and imparting some experience to them. I also got to talk to a few runners who would look to me to get them to the finish in the time they wanted. How do I get myself into these situations? Oh yeah, I volunteered.
Running for Duracell, other than a flag on my back displaying what pace I’d run at and an orange t-shirt, I was to also wear a set of bunny ears, bowtie and cotton tail! If you don’t know me, in person I am not a front-and-centre guy, I’m very much a happily behind-the-scenes man. Discreet, in a corner, hidden. Wearing that ever-so-conspicuous ensemble in a massive crowd was nightmarish! Worse was when I got my flag caught in a tree, having to wiggle loose, then trying to casually sit on a post which then nearly collapsed! While everyone watched!
Chatting with a runner in the start pen, he remarked he felt like a novice. My secret; so do I! His fears were ill-founded, he later scored a sub-38 time! As I waited with another runner, he pointed out the calibre of runners in the “Challenger” wave, the first group to set out. Logically, normally, and sensibly, faster runners are in the first wave to leave, with successive waves containing slower runners. It was clear that the wave didn’t contain aforementioned fast runners and would likely cause a problem later on. The Challenger wave left, and my wave – Orange – would wait 2 minutes before setting out.
Instinctively defaulting to race mode, I was at 6:00 min/mile pace for a few seconds before I began reigning myself in. And as feared, despite a two minute head start, I passed runners at what I would guess to be 11:00 min/mile pace or slower. Nonetheless, I settled into 6:25 min/mile pace and maintained it nicely.
The first mile went by so quickly and easily I was genuinely concerned my GPS had gone haywire and was stating I’d gone further than I should have, thus saying I’d ran faster than target. Not helping was that there were no physical mile markers, only kilometre ones! Forced to use my time-elapsed display, I was thankfully on track at the second km marker at 8 minutes (10k in 40 minutes = 4 minutes per kilometre. That’s fast maths).
Is that…? Rival-Barry and his family had come out to spectate! It’s great having so many people around that I recognized, a perk of a run in my home town. Shortly after, my conspicuous attire came into play again as spectators would single me out for cheering, as well as the radio host alerting people to what I was doing as a pacer. Awkward!
The course eventually made its way to Cannon Hill park (thankfully cutting out a significant hill I was worried about) and I hit the 5k mark in 19:50. Sweet, 10 seconds to play around with at the end. Exiting the park, I was called by name; an ex-colleague of mine was cheering me on (causing a double-take) followed by one of the run directors of Perry Hall. When did I become Mr Popular?
Ignoring the water station (partly because I was fine, mainly because I thought it bad form for a pacer to show weakness), I nonetheless made use of a run-through shower which was leaps and bounds ahead of the “showers” that was at London Marathon. Coming to the last stages of the race, Barry’s family was now on the other side cheering, albeit without Barry. Weird, but meh.
A kilometre later, and it clicked; I saw Barry’s son running the race! Giving a check and quick pep talk, he was on for a PB and sounded confident doing so (spoiler alert; he got a PB of 44 minutes!). And then came the bit I feared… the final hill. It lasts for about a third of a mile, gently gaining in altitude, and was the main reason I wanted 10 seconds to play around. Taking it easy, I reached the top with no extra exertion.
By this point you may have wondered, “he’s a pacer. Why hasn’t he mentioned the people he was running with?” Though I was initially assigned to be in the first wave (notably, where a number of the sub-40 hopefuls I knew were placed), I was instructed to start in the second. There was perhaps one runner who had approached me about wanting to be paced, but no-one else had made themselves known to me. Thus, I ran it alone, having made a commitment to the companies to run my target pace regardless. I’d planned to finish it in 39:47 (6:25 min/mile); my time was 39:46!
I walked to the goodie bag alone, my mission complete. Out of nowhere, a Bourneville Harrier gave me a tap on the shoulder; “perfect pacing! Thanks!” I can’t describe how chuffed I was in that one moment! Later on, it’s suggested there was a group with me; stupidly, I was so busy passing and weaving around runners it hadn’t even occurred to me to look back to see if there was anyone following!
It was a great experience overall, and one I’d look to do again. It was a valuable learning experience, plus a confidence boost with knowing how easily I can knock out a sub-40 10k on even the hottest of days (even with a flag on my back and bunny ears threatening to blow off!)