Race Review – the RunThrough Victoria Park Half/10K/5K

2020 – the year of getting a fricking grip

I used to run halves. I used to run them all the time. It was my distance of choice for a couple of years. Just long enough to feel like you have had a workout, not long enough to leave you beaten. It is that ideal vanity distance you dream about.

A half was the first race I ever signed up for, the Amsterdam half. I ran that one in the sort of leg brace you ordinarily see on working horses after I injured myself at the Royal Parks Half a fortnight before. This was my first year of running and I already had an injury and had run an overseas race at the distance. I ran 7 halves in 2013, the following year, including two in the US, Paris, and RNR Edinburgh before it became the most popular distance I ran in 2014. I ran 11 halves that year including Luxembourg, and RNR Dublin, and worked my way along the south coast (Bexhill-on-Sea, Bournemouth, Hastings). But since starting marathons and ultras I have only run 4 or 5 halves a year, none of them taken too seriously, and they were mostly thought of as training for 26.2 or a laugh (at Bacchus). No, scratch that. I did take one seriously, the Guinness World Record attempt, but the less said about that the better.

How to deal with the elephant in the room?

My PB, technically, was the Brighton half of 2016. But that one measured short and, once the organisers admitted it, I have to strike that one off the list. Don’t I? The next best time was Eton Dorney lake 2015. That measured short for me, but the organisers never announced it was so I guess that is officially it. But since then I have never gotten close to it. My half times have therefore been, almost entirely, disappointing. But that is spilt milk under the bridge, and 2020 is my forward thinking year. I am going to get me some green on the heatmap of my races (Green good, going through yellowy greens to yellow, through the oranges where it starts going bad, to red when it has becomes very, very bad indeed). And, given my 5K and 10K times, it should be on.

And so to 2020, as I said, the year of looking forward. I want a marathon PB, and to get this, I think a half PB will help. And so, the year of halves looks like this:

VICTORIA PARK LONDON 21.2K 04/01/2020
VICTORIA PARK LONDON 21.2K 08/02/2020
HACKNEY LONDON 21.2K 17/05/2020
EALING LONDON 21.2K 27/09/2020

My plan is simple. The first race of the year, this one, is a marker. I will go for it, within acceptable agreed parameters, and in a month’s time I will get a chance to better it, and then again in May and then in September. With the Summer and Autumn races a long way off I am thinking I will be properly trained then and would have run several marathons too, so should be able to give it a go. These first two, the races at Victoria Park, were booked specifically because of the venue. Home of my 10K PB (thrice) and a close but no cigar 5K attempt, I know the course well, I know it is flat and I am ok with 6.5 laps. The venue for the first two lends itself to early season races when I am still 2/3rds mince pie and party food.

After this, I have 5 weeks to get in shape and focus on speed work and the gym, and then we shall really see if I am improving. And, yes, I want to beat that Brighton time too not just Eton Dorney.

The Race – And yes, 2531 is a Prime Number

All my halves and my only planned 10 are in London this year. It saves on money, travel, hotel and all that jazz. Still, for a 9.30 I do have to leave at 8. Victoria Park is 2 tubes away from me, and then from Mile End there is a bit of a hike to the opposite end of the park where Runthrough set up the Race HQ.  There is a burger tent, coffee, normally a sponsor is giving something away (it was Tenzing this time). They do a warm up for each of the waves (Half at 9.30, 10K at 10, and 5K at 10.05). And then you are off on the loops.

Who ate all the (mince) pies?

How I Did

Post-Holiday season pudge has not done me any favours, and nor has running two halves in the last 2 months of the year rather than the 2 marathons and 50K I had planned. But what can you do? Go back in time? You are a sum of the past, and I always had 2020 as a “work in progress” with plenty of room for improvement.

I had a time per KM to keep to if I were to collect a PB first run out and the first 3KM I was very much under it.  After that though, forgoing the water table on each of the laps, sweating with the long sleeved top over a tee, and having just a bagel in my belly, I started to feel tired near the end. The Brighton PB was out of reach within 14KM after a promising 5K and 10K time well under it. I was just tired and had to walk. But this did not dishearten me too much. I just knew I would wear the right layers next time, I would manage my nutrition better and would be fitter. So really, as I looped and looped, wading my way through the 10K and 5K runners until they all finished, and then running with the remaining half runners, I was in a good place. Everything was positive in my mind all the way to the finish.

Time, Gentlemen, Please

Despite the nutrition, and over heating, and walking I managed to get my 5th Fastest Half time. 4th if we discount the elephant in the room wearing a Brighton Half t-shirt. It was the fastest since running Herts Half 3 years ago, and then only a minute or 2 slower.

The Plan

And now onto the plan. I have 5 weeks to do better.  I can go to the gym every day in the week. I have exercises from PT Steve Bonthrone to try. Parkrun should make me faster, and I have 2 running tracks close by for speed work. If you think about it it is pretty easy.
  1. Train for 5 weeks
  2. Better nutrition on the day
  3. Better clothing choices
  4. Be a little lighter

and that “may”, fingers crossed, bring the result I need – being any sort of improvement. And if not, then it should double my focus for May and Hackney.

It is a new year. I know I have had some setbacks, and it is tempting to give up but that is not the way the new Darren rolls. You hear me? This isn’t lounging in bed til noon Darren. This isn’t gorging on 2 pints of Ben and Jerry’s and a whole spiral cut ham whilst watching not one but two Mama’s Family Reunions Darren. He has gone. See you in 5 weeks to attempt numero dos!

NEXT UP: THE VICTORIA PARK HALF (ooooh deja vu)

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