Parkrun comeback

Last May I shredded my calf fighting for third place in the 9th Main Beach parkrun. I didn’t get third but I got an 18:11 5km PB, …and months of recovery!! Today, 8 months and 33 parkruns later, I returned!

Parkruns are a nice casual affair: people trickle up to the start area as 7am approaches; there’s usually a quick chat/announcement; sometimes an instructor-led stretch/warmup; then it’s onto the start line and “Ready, Steady, Go!”.

I was determined to take it easy.

My calves are still sooks, and they’ve only been behaving for a few weeks. I was thinking 4:30 to 4:00 mins per km, an uncomfortable but not painful pace, which would mean 20-23 mins. My parkrun times to-date had been a steady improvement (19:39, 19:05, 18:32 and 18:11) so it was going to be a little sad to break the streak. But I’ve got to start somewhere.

Straight off the line people went out HARD. I fell from 5th to 15th to 30th place within 100m. My pace felt about right – fast but not pushing and not hurting. I checked my Garmin and it read 3:53 min/km as a few more surged past me. I grinned. I LOVE how people go out too fast and then I get to pick them off.

Today was no exception. I held a steady 4:05 min/km pace for the first three kilometres and, one by one, I reeled huffing and puffing folks in (I was huffing a bit too, but I’d hold it in, pass strongly and then suck in a huge breath).

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The relentless rain over the last week had left the course flooded in places, so it was changed to a slightly longer 5.7km course – 3 laps of 1 km out, 1km back – there’d be no PBs today! This meant I’d need to decide whether to surge for the virtual 5km finish line (and therefore a faster 5km split for my records only), or hold back and surge for the actual finish line.

As it turned out, my lack of run fitness caught up with me, and just holding the same pace became tough. I was now passing people who were almost running as quickly as me, and they were trying to go with me as I passed them. So I would try to pass them emphatically, with a little surge, and this was hurting me too. With one km to go I’d worked my way up to 9th, and that was as high as I’d get.

One of the guys I’d passed was sitting about 10m behind me and I heard him make his move with 100m to go.

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I was taking it easy, so I let him go past – NOT!

I put on the burners – my cadence jumped from 92 to 106, my pace from 4 min/km to 3 min/km (the fastest I’ve run in over a year – in fact, fast enough for me to question the accuracy of my footpod setup). He was past me, but not by much, and slowing. I had him!

And then my lungs screamed and my legs cried “No” and my brain said “Silly boy!”. I looked over my shoulder and coasted in, gasping for air and absolutely buzzing!

There are many stories like this at every parkrun, and many parkruns across the world. The parkrun founders (and volunteers) are responsible for so much joy, fitness and good times. Bloody legends!!

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