November 21, 2016
This weekend I ran the fastest 5K I have run in a while, a LONG while. In fact the last time I got anywhere close to this time was about a year ago when I was bang in the middle of my London Marathon training…and probably a stone or two lighter too.
Saturdays run was not the fastest I have ever run a 5k though, no that was back in 2014 off the back of the Brighton Marathon when I managed to get a 30.07 time at Hackney Marshes parkrun.
So as you can see there is a bit of correlation between marathon training and my speed…but I realise now it has little to do with marathon training specifically and simply more about how consistent you have to be with your running when you are attempting to run 26.2 miles….i.e running more than a few times a month.
I have always described myself as a slow runner…I am never going to set any records with my 5K times which over the years have ranged from almost 30 minutes, to almost an hour…it doesn’t really bother me, but occasionally I do wonder if I focussed on improving my speed by taking my training seriously could I do a sub 1 hour 10K, or a sub 30 minute 5K??
That is what my “Scream if you want to go FASTER” programme is all about.
The idea for this programme came to me a few years ago when I came up with 7 simple mindset techniques I believed would get me running faster, they were just my thoughts on how it might be done and so I tested them over an 8 week period with the goal of getting sub 30…
I failed…well kind of…I got 30.07…which I was hugely disappointed with at the time.
Looking back this was stupid…I didn’t fail at all.
But the thing is, I wanted to get the sub 30 to prove the programme worked, a programme which was going to form the basis of a book. A book which I had pretty much written…I was just waiting to get evidence of the improvement in speed…but sadly after that rather speedy parkrun back in May 2014 I got progressively slower, and I put the idea of the book on the back burner.
Until a few months ago that was.
In The Clubhouse our online running club a number of women were asking about how to improve their speed, many as they had just signed up for marathons and wanted a reasonable 5K baseline to kick things off with….and I thought…
What if I test the programme with these ladies and use them as case studies for the book
So at the end of August 100 women embarked on this crazy journey with me, and this weekend was the culmination of the programme.
And I am in a word CHUFFED with how it has gone!!
Over the next few weeks I will be analysing the results and feedback on the programme, and the case studies will indeed be included in the book which is due out in January, and trust me there have been some real successes…and a lot of lessons learned to be put into place for the next round of the programme, but for the purposes of this post I simply want to share with you how my run went yesterday.
So here goes…
I woke up at 7am before my alarm. Not sure if it was nerves of excitement. Lots of folk knew I was attempting to go sub 35 and this was a great deterrent from having a glass of wine the night before, and I even had an early night.
I had made sure my kit was all laid out…my best kit (This is one of the tips but don’t tell anyone I told you)
I had a bowl of porridge for breakfast at about 7.30 and then did a Facebook live broadcast about my attempt to run faster. This was about accountability…because I didn’t post it on my business page, I did it on my personal page instead…the embarrassment factor would have been a whole heap higher here…so somehow it made it more important to smash the goal.
So how did I set my goal?
I set myself a 5K baseline of 43.27 at the end of August…my fitness was lacking as I hadn’t really been doing much running through the summer.
My goal was to go sub 35 which would represent a 20% improvement (if my maths is right)…2 weeks ago I had done 36.27 at parkrun…so I knew I had already made improvements but which meant I would need to go a minute and a half faster to go sub 35…could I do it? Only time would tell.
It was a cold morning.
I was glad I brought gloves.
But a little worried about ditching my fleece at the start line.
I positioned myself further up the field in the starting area than normal, hoping that I would run with slightly faster runners right from the off.
This of course happened…a few minutes in to the run I glanced at my watch and saw a number 9 in the pace numbers…a NINE!!!! I am a double figures kind of girl so I know I was doing well.
Alison one of the lovely race directors at Hackney Marsh parkrun overtook me and said hello at about a mile in, I know she is faster than me so I tried to keep up with her, or at least keep her in my sights. This parkrun is an out and back, which means about a third of the distance in, the faster runners come steaming back in my direction…so I can always sense how fast I am by when they pass me…but I ran the whole snakey bit of the marshes (where this normally happens) and they were nowhere to be seen.
I was going really well.
But I was paying for it. My breathing was heavy and my legs were starting to hurt. Would I be able to keep up this pace?
I think I slowed down a bit as I approached the half way point, and when I looked at my watch and saw 16 minutes something I knew I was on target and would meet my goal if only I could keep running. But I was hurting and struggling to breathe.
I had to stop for a bit, and walked across the uneven grass…figuring this was a safety decision, a twisted ankle or fall would not be good…but really this was simply to catch my breath. I used my 60 second rule though, and was back running again as soon as I was on firm tarmac again.
I knew the hard bit was to come. My pace was back in double figures again. 13 minute miles. 14 minute miles. I would lose all of that earlier speed advantage if I wasn’t careful. So I thought back to the techniques I had been encouraging my ladies to use and used one of them myself by actually telling my legs to run faster.
I know, I know…it sounds bonkers…but it works!! Seriously the voice in my head was saying
Come on legs, get a move on, you have got this.
A lady who had passed me while I was walking was about 300 meters away and I thought she would make a good target to chase, and the voices switched to
You can get her, she will slow down, you can do it
But she maintained her pace and I didn’t make up any ground. I needed something else. Something to distract me from the fact this was really hard. Both physically and mentally…I kept glancing at my watch but not being able to do the maths to work out if I could beat my time. I couldn’t risk it, I needed to keep pushing….and I started repeating a new mantra in my head
You are strong, this is easy, you have got this in the bag
And seriously, this one was a winner…my stride lengthened, I felt instantly lighter and I found myself almost flying through the air rather than shuffling close to the ground which is often my go to running style.
The 500 meters to go sign appeared like a beacon of hope at exactly the right time, and I knew it had taken me 3 minutes to reach this point on the way out. A glance at my watch informed me that I was on 31.05…it would be close, surely I couldn’t run this last bit as fast? Or could I?
I took a deep breath, picked up my feet again and headed round the corner until I could finally see the finishing funnel and then I gave it my all, pumping my arms and moving my legs as fast as I possibly could.
I heard one of the volunteers say, and the lovely Sarah a friend from East London Runners (and volunteer on this day) passed me my finishing token with the biggest of grins. She asked if I was OK and I could barely speak…I think she even offered me a hug…but I was a little preoccupied.
I had stopped my watch but dare not look at it.
I got my barcode scanned in autopilot mode and headed to my car for a much needed drink of water and a sit down…and finally I drummed up the courage to looked at my watch.
I could not believe it…I had run my arse off (Well not literally) but I had absolutely put the effort in and seen the reward.
I wanted to cry
I wanted to laugh
But mostly I wanted to just lay down and go to sleep
I took a selfie to mark the occasion and updated all my social media accounts sat in my car, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone…not just to show off, but to give them hope and encouragement that if they put the effort in they can really make a difference to their speed too.
And by the time I got home, other women started posting their times, and I realised what this programme had achieved.
I can’t wait to update you all on the findings of this pilot (once I have collated them properly), and to get the book out there finally. Because ultimately I know what a difference improving your running speed even by the tiniest amount can make to women who struggle to see improvements.
Speed is Relative…and doesn’t really matter in the whole scheme of things….but of course it does kind of matter a bit…often it does. It can be the difference to someone going along to parkrun for the first time, or having the courage to join their local running club.
Jamie Jean Rodgers our lovely Runner of the Month from October fed back on Facebook yesterday
So here it is…my last run for the Scream if you want to go Faster program.
My baseline was 40:36.
Two weeks ago, I was able to finish at 36 even.
Today’s time was 37:40.
Here’s what I did accomplish since September 26th:
1. I was able to decrease my time by over 5% (by almost 1 minute). 2. I ran every week at least 3 times. 3. Although not a goal for this program, losing weight is a personal goal. I lost 5.5 pounds during the program. 4. I feel stronger. I feel like a runner. I may even stop using air quotes when I talk about my running. ? 5. I do most of my running on my treadmill at home. My husband commented last week that my form was better and I looked stronger and more confident while running. 6. I pushed myself! Today, mile 1 and mile 2 were my fastest during the program. I couldn’t hold the pace for mile 3…yet.
I am so so proud of Jamie, I am proud of all the other ladies who completed their final run today too, I’m even proud of the women who signed up to the programme but didn’t manage to complete it for one reason or another…but mostly I am proud of myself.
I struggle just like everyone else.
I don’t always train hard.
I can’t always get out to run.
Consistency pays off…but mostly ladies it is about mindset.
Believe you can do it and you probably will.
You just need to believe.
If you would like to join our next cohort of Scream if you want to go FASTER in January, sign up NOW.
There are only 100 places and they are already being snapped up. Imagine being able to knock 5%, 10%, or even 20% like I did from your current 5K time…what would that mean to you?
I will be doing the programme myself again but this time with the ambition to get under 30 minutes. There I said it…now it has to come true!!!!