With 400m to go I was still in the lead. I had one other runner for company, who looked fresher than I felt. The course had been a three lap affair, twisty and tight. I tried to use that to my advantage, pushing on after corners, but I couldn’t shake him.
I could see the finish. A finish line, when I was in with a chance of winning. Who would have thought? And then, the young chap I had been racing suddenly eased into a sprint that left me for dead. He had won, I had come second. Bah.
This happened at Bangor parkrun just over a week ago. Not my fastest 5k (18.57) but one of the most enjoyable and surprising. I had run 15.8miles in the traditional Northern Irish rain the day before as part of my second week back training, and my legs felt a little tired. I had intended on using the run was a ‘leg loosener’ with the aim of going sub 20minutes.
However, after a few miles warmup and chatting to some friends, the run started at a reasonably easy pace. So often in 5ks a huge proportion of the field surge off too quickly, only to fall apart after 2 or 3k. While a few clearly running beyond themselves, most of those at the front in Bangor seemed to be in control so I went with the flow.
At around the 1k mark I had a choice to make. Bridge a gap of around 15m to the lead pack of 6 runners or relax into my original plan of an easier run. Given the pace wasn’t crazy, I caught them up and started running at the front.
Now, this is not a usual position for me to find myself in. Nearly always there is a speedy youngster In the field who runs off into the distance leaving everyone behind. Leading changes your mindset immediately. Often when racing I am in a mental battle to stay focused on my target or even convince my brain and body to finish the run. However, when at the front there is no thought of giving up; it’s an opportunity average runners like me don’t get on a regular basis.
At the end of the first lap I was leading a pack of five, much to the surprise of my family who were meeting me at the park. This helped me stay focused and I was determined to give it a go. The mistake I made was not to push on. The pace was comfortable and while runners were dropping off the lead pack, which was made up of three of us, I felt within myself. In hindsight I should have put the hammer down there and then.
With just over 1k to go there were two of us left out front. The pace had picked up a little and we were clearly testing each other out. I surged a couple of times, but he stayed with me. And then, he put the hammer down and left me for dead. So near, so far.
If I am being realistic, I was delighted to have finished second. Particularly with my family there and it not being a run I had even known was on until 11pm the night before. However, I wonder what would have happened if I had pushed harder from further out. He certainly had more speed, but maybe I would have had more endurance?
I am already looking forward to my next trip to Northern Ireland. Bangor parkrun is a fabulous event. Great location and volunteers, and lots of post run cakes. If you don’t already attend a local parkrun, you are missing out. It doesn’t matter whether you run it in 20mins or walk it in 45mins, they are free, friendly events that leave you feeling good about your local community every time. Check out your local event and get down there this weekend.