How to get your times down…
Commit to your training – if you’re happy running 23, 24, 25 minutes then you can close this article, as you were. If you want to break a serious barrier – which, in my case, was the 20min mark – you’ll need to add (at least) one run in the middle of the week. In order to go from 21:49 to 17:23 in a year, I added 3 (sometimes 5) mid-week sessions. A Monday easy run, a Wednesday long run, and a Thursday speed session (obviously, with some variation).
Skipping one isn’t always a bad thing – I had to sacrifice a Parkrun streak to get some proper training in. Sometimes, I did an easy run on a Thursday and shifted my speed session to a Friday, thereby sacrificing the Saturday morning Parkrun to get the training right. Aiming for a date further in future means you’re training smarter. Things don’t happen overnight.
Finding your pace – I knew, in order to break 20mins, I had to be able to run 5x 4min kms easily. I started doing this (or slightly less, sometimes I did 5x 800m at 4min/km instead) to get a feel for the pace, and how it felt in my legs and lungs. That way, when it came to Saturday morning, I didn’t have to rely on my GPS watch, my iPhone, or the timekeepers, or do complex maths in my head, I could just concentrate on going faster.
Run your race – My ‘thing’ has always been to go out fast and try and maintain that pace for as long as possible. Other people will run more evenly and have great results, personally, I like to be at the front and have always felt more comfortable in the leading group. I tried negative-splitting a Parkrun, it didn’t work for me.
Get some fast friends – If you’re committed to Parkrun, you will inevitably be sucked into the brutally kind and welcoming community of volunteers and runners that exists around every organised run. Find people faster than you, train with them, and them use them as a pace guide.
Smile for the cameras – I love that fact that Mike Lepps (run director at Harrow Parkrun) brings along his camera every week and snaps a few pictures. Not only does it make the run feel like an actual event, it means you can share your progress with your friends online. But, what I found most helpful, is that when the camera is in your face suddenly my form, my cadence, my style and my pace get tighter, and quicker.
I am, officially, offering myself up as a pacer (of sorts) for anyone wishing to break 20, 25, or 30 minutes for a Parkrun 5km. Get in touch.