Joy Cann 5, 2016

It was the Joy Cann 5 (miles) last week, and I have to admit I felt a bit nervous as it approached. It would be my first race under half marathon distance since May 2014 (so very different pace to what I’m used to recently), and a first indicator on how my new training approach was progressing. I have expressed how happy I am with this approach in a number of posts recently, but this was mainly on the basis of how it made me feel emotionally and how it rekindled my love for running (which, in the run-up to my latest marathon was in danger of becoming a bit of a chore), and less in terms of performance in which it hadn’t as yet been tested.

(As a reminder, I have built my training around the approach set out in “80/20 Running”, which is what it says on the cover: lots of low intensity running (80% of total volume) and much less medium & high intensity running (20% of total)).

Happy as I was with my running in the three and a bit months that I have been following this approach, I would be lying if I was to say that I was untroubled by the niggling question I read somewhere: “doesn’t this just train me to run slow?” Then there was the obvious point that two years was a long time to stay away from 5km – 10km racing, and who knows by how much my performance at those distances has deteriorated?

At least by using Joy Cann 5, one of the two races organised by my club to find out, I would be spending the time before the start in a speed of Harriers (the collective noun for Huncote Harriers!), assuming of course there were members of the club left that I would know (yes, I have also not been attending training very regularly either)!

Before long the race started and we were off! Which is always a good way to start a race, I suppose. Even though the first mile starts as a gradual, and then a sharper downhill, I felt that most runners around me (who I used to be of a similar level to when I took part in club and county league races) had set off a bit too fast for me, and I was concerned that if I stuck with them I would regret it in the miles to come. It is not an easy course, with one decent hill about a third of the way through, and then undulations till about the last quarter which is gently downhill. And even though it was an evening race, the day was quite warm and the wind always seemed to come from straight ahead, no matter which direction you ran in!

So I controlled my pace a little bit and let the field settle to the pace each one was comfortable running in. I think at that stage I also stopped looking at my watch (a bad habit of mine, particularly in longer races where I am always worried about running too fast in the first half – and too slow in the second!), as the downhill of Huncote Rd, followed by the uphill of Hardwicke Rd make pacing your race by anything but feel quite pointless. I began recovering some places very tentatively on the hill and caught up with Stuart again (we were together at the start, but he had a fast first mile), with whom we stayed together for the rest of the race – but with him just ahead for almost all the way!

Battling it out with Stu; credit: Chris Upton photographyy

I think that’s the point where I started enjoying my race. The pace didn’t feel as hard as it would if I was running it in training (even over shorter distances, e.g. intervals, fast finish or tempo), and I enjoyed the fact that I was gradually getting past people. I managed to edge ahead of Stuart with about a km to go, although in the process I pushed a bit too hard so couldn’t really defend when I was overtaken by a lady from (I believe) Team Anstey. This is not to suggest that she only got passed me because I tired myself, as that would be nonsense: she was ahead all the way, I briefly went past her with a few hundred yards to go (so if I hadn’t pushed I wouldn’t be ahead in the first place), but she kicked at just the right time with just the right amount of effort to get and then stay ahead for the last 50 – 100m or so. Great move, which was justifiably cheered by the crowd. I think by writing this I was comparing myself to my fitter self, when I could dig deeper at the final sprint and find something there!

I finished the race 1’ 20’’ slower than my three-year old PB, which translates to 16’’ per mile or 10’’ per km slower. Considering that this was a much harder course than the one my PB was set on and that I’m at the relative beginning of my “get faster” journey, I think I’m quite happy with that! But even more with the way I ran the race I think, spreading my effort evenly throughout with just that little kick at the last half mile or so.

As ever, credit is due to everyone involved in planning this year’s race, the wonderful marshals and support people (another 0 incident race to be proud of!) and of course all spectators out cheering and turning a weekday evening into a real event! Thank you everyone!

As for my training… I think I’m on the right course , I just need to keep it up and shed some of that holiday fat now!

With thanks for the photos to Chris Upton Photography and the Huncote Harriers photographer who wished to remain anonymous!

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