BMC Grand Prix Oxford 5,000m -

23 July 2016

Over the past year I’ve taken my training to another level and alongside it I’m results.  I am now able to cover between 115 and 130km (71 and 80 miles) a week and keep getting quicker over pretty much all distances that I’ve competed in.

As most people know I love parkrun; I’ve almost done 100 parkruns (of which 40 of those are different ones!) and successfully cracked the 17 minute barrier almost a year ago.  I’ve since been getting closer to breaking 16 minutes (under 16.20 5 times including the Cottisford 5k) but no matter how flat a course I can find (Dulwich!) I still couldn’t do it.

There are a number of possible reasons for this 1) it’s a run not a race 2) there (obviously) aren’t any pacemakers 3) it takes place at 9am on a Saturday so I tend to have had a few beers the night before 4) lots of parkruns are held in beautiful hilly multi-terrain parks (such as Rushmere).

I searched high and low for quick 5k localish races and found out about the British Milers Club.  They claim to be Britain’s ‘Premier Middle Distance Athletics Club’.  They put on events at tracks around the country where generally to qualify you have to have stupidly fast times (14.45 is the cut off to be a member at 5k).  They also host ‘Grand Prix’ meetings a few times a year which give preference to their members, but also allow a few non-members to compete in.  I was lucky enough to be deemed quick enough based on recent results to get a place in the Oxford Grand Prix 5000m C race (yes there were 2 races quicker than mine).

As I was competing later in the day I took the chance to volunteer at my (now) local parkrun Linford Wood in the morning and drove over to Oxford just after lunchtime.  I arrived at the track just in time to hear over the loud speaker that Andy Baddeley had broken the 4 minute mile; this was a serious event.

BMC events are not known for their inclusiveness; you have to pay £5 just to enter the track (whether competing or watching), this is not the Night of the 10,000m PBs!  My parents and grand-parents once paid £20 between them to watch my brother run the 800m and he only took 1 minute and 57 seconds!  It also costs £10 to race as a non-member.  Saying that, they do have plenty of overheads to pay and I got a free massage 45 minutes before my race.

I’ve been doing more and more track work (I’m not sure the Beer Mile counts) recently, but as I watched the ‘A’ race (won by Adam Hickey in just over 14 minutes) I did begin to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew, could I really maintain sub 75 second laps for 12 and a half laps in almost 25 degree heat?  A big help was bumping into my brother’s coach Ken Pike from Kent AC who gave me some words of encouragement.

There were 18 men who lined up for the start and we set off bang on time and I was pleased to sit in the pack around 5th as we ran the first lap easily in about 72 seconds.  We clocked the first 2km in just over 6 minutes and all I was going to plan; I even wondered if I might break Rob Elmore’s LBAC record of 15.07, but that would be very tough indeed.  Then everything changed.  The pacemaker had done his job and stepped off the track, the front 3 created a bit of a gap and I didn’t know whether to risk going with them (and potentially being left in no man’s land) or using the 4th man as my pacer (but risk him slowing down).  As I was in unknown territory I stayed where I was and the gap to the front got bigger.  We were definitely slowing down but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.  Two others caught us and overtook us, so I followed, but couldn’t quite maintain the quicker pace.

With a mile to go I knew I had the PB in the bag, but it was starting to hurt more and more.  In truth I don’t remember much of the last 4 laps and just gave it everything I had.  I was exhausted, but was delighted to finish in 6th place in a huge PB of 15.25!

It took me about an hour to recover afterwards, but I was riding a massive high.  Stupidly I let the thought cross my mind…..could I go under 15 minutes one day?