Hercules Wimbledon AC 5,000m Festival Night

23 August 2017

I’ve done it; I’ve broken 15 minutes for 5k!  I ran a huge personal best and took the Leighton Buzzard AC record too. 


Quite a few people have asked me if it’s something I’ve always dreamed of, but in all honesty until a few months ago I didn’t even think it would be possible.  That all really changed when I finished 83rd at the National Cross Country Championships and beat a lot of very good runners. 


A couple of months later I did the London Marathon, but people I beat went straight to the track and laid down some very good times.  Mates from Bedford Alex Bellew (now of Leeds City) and Josh Lunn have had superb summers and have both cracked 14:xx twice which really made me believe I could do it too if I put the work in. 


I decided to really give it everything I had and purchased a track membership at Stantonbury.  I’ve been going at least once a week either with one of my MK Track Club training partners Paul Mizon, Jamie Seddon or Ryan Burling or on my own.  There isn’t a lot more character building than a track session on your own at 06.45 in the morning!  I know it’s not as good as being in a pack, but with a young daughter at home I have to fit in training where I can! 


I’ve had some really encouraging results and as you may know ran 8.54 twice this summer for 3000m to give me confidence that I could do sub 3s for each km and then I ran a big PB to go 15.11 at the BMC Grand Prix at Loughborough at the start of July.  I also had a great result breaking the club road 5k record last week at the Alchester Summer 5k in 15.37.  Despite being advertised as a road race it was actually 2.5k on road, 1k on farm track (that was flooded in places) and then 1.5k on road to finish.  Even though I was outkicked for the win by Matthieu Marshall of Southampton Uni I closed the race with a 2.52 last km! 


A key part of running quick times is having races that encourage quality fields and create an atmosphere to help fast times.  Highgate Harriers’ Night of the 10,000m PBs has inspired a few similar events that have really started creating a buzz around amateur athletics.  You’ve got to travel to them, but the effort is well worth it.  One such event that caught my eye was the Hercules Wimbledon AC 5,000m Festival Night. They had 7 races, upbeat music, bar/bbq and supporters in lane 4 right up close.  It was a bit of a struggle sorting logistics to get there and not have to take any time off work, but I got there in the end. 


I was very pleased to get in the A race (based on PBs), but was concerned by the 21.00 start time!  I’d been up at 5am feeding milk to my daughter and then had to travel to and from Swindon for work, not the ideal preparation! 


I got to the track at about 2 hours before and felt very sleepy.  I collected my number and got changed, but still didn’t feel up for it.  I sat on the bank on the back curve cheering on other runners, but still couldn’t help thinking ‘I’m normally getting ready for bed around now!’.  It was about then that my dad turned up, it was a huge boost that he’d made the journey up from the Isle of Wight to support me. 


Around 8 I started my warm up, I really felt relaxed as there were lots of friends around.  I did laps of the park with Alex Davy (Leeds City AC, but works in London) and Richard Gregory (Ranelagh).  Chatting and jogging suddenly I started to feel alert and ready to race. 


Alex and Richard were in the B race so I jogged back to the track to finish my preparations supporting them.  By then it was dark and the floodlights were on.  They were only a temporary fix as there had been a recent fire, it really did look hard to see as the lights were low and really not very bright.  Before my race Alex said that the darkness made it feel like he was running quicker than he actually was which was concerning. 


There were a lot of other friendly faces on the start line, it’s funny how I’ve started seeing the same people at races no matter where in the country we are racing.  I knew there was a few very quick lads led by Nick Torry (who ran for England in the Commenwealth Marathon in Glasgow) and Paul Martelletti (who has a marathon PB of 2.16!) but I also knew the rest of us were quite well matched.  The pacer was going to do laps of 68 seconds (just over 14 mins pace), so I planned to let the front boys go and relax the first km.


My dad was stood on the 200m mark and I’d asked him to shout lap times out, to run under 15 mins I needed to do 71/72s.  I’d been going really well in training and just last week did 15 x 400m all in 67s so knew there was a good chance I could do it.  After the first km we were bang on time, think we clocked about 2.57.  I got into a good group led by Chris Greenwood (Kent AC), a really nice bloke who currently sits 3rd in the V40 national rankings!  As we went round each lap the atmosphere really built . On the back straight were friends from the Battersea training group cheering us on, at 200m was my dad barking lap times (‘71’! came the cry again and again), Richard was at 300m always encouraging and the crowd/music on the home straight was awesome. 


We got to 3km on about 8.55 and I was really feeling good, I knew if I kept the consistency I’d make it.  Suddenly dad shouted out ‘73’, it panicked me a bit, if we slowed any more we’d be in trouble.  I didn’t need to worry, the group sensed the issue and managed to get back on pace, dad made me laugh that his next call was so precise ’71.7’!! 


With only 1km to go I didn’t know the time exactly, but knew it was going to be ok, I was starting to feel tired, but knew that my legs were strong enough.  I clocked a 69 for the penultimate lap and must have gone even quicker on the last lap.  We all went for it and gave everything we had.  I came past Chris with 300m to go, but he got me on the home straight. 


It didn’t matter, I didn’t care about my position.  What mattered was the time when I crossed the line……14.53!  Absolute dreamland.  Two other lads finished just behind, we’d all run PBs and celebrated together, what a feeling!  I thanked Chris and apologised for using him as pacer, but he was delighted to help; what a guy. 


14.53 really is a time to be proud of.  It’s the quickest time anyone from Leighton Buzzard AC has ever run (sorry to take your record Rob Elmore!) and it puts me into the top 200 in the whole of the UK. 


Other friends had really brilliant races too.  Freddie Slemick (Hecules Wimbledon), who I know from university days ran a PB of 14.47, but the standout performance was by Jonathan Escalante-Phillips of Cambridge & Coleridge.  He beat me at the Doug Anderson 5k last year, but I’ve beaten him a couple of times since.  He came past me after 4 laps, but I thought he was on for a similar time to me.  He kicked on and came an incredible 3rd place running 14.35, a huge 23 second PB, congratulations mate. 


In the A race 10 out of the 19 finishers ran personal bests with 7 running seasons bests, in the B race (won in 15.08 by Norman Shreeve of Cambridge Uni) the top 4 finishers all ran personal bests.  What an amazing event.  Huge thanks go to Hercules Wimbledon AC, in particular Ben Noad who made it happen. 


My attention now shifts to the road where I’ve got a really exciting autumn ahead.  It starts with the Leighton 10 on 17 September, it’s a superb race put on by my club.  Entries are still available, so get involved!  I’m then having a real crack at the half marathon in Cardiff on 1 October, Abbey Dash 10k on 5 November and finally the San Sebastian Marathon on 26 November.  I can’t wait! 


If you fancy following my journey you can follow me on twitter @RunningElliot and my training group are @MKTrackClub.

With a very proud dad after the race.  He was a huge help.