Today was supposed to be a PB hunt for my 10km distance. My last 10km race was 4th November 2018, some six and a half months ago. My PB of 38:18 was set last May, so almost a year ago. Long overdue a rematch. But the last year has been focused on getting my marathon time down and getting my ultra-marathon distances up.
Then along came three weeks during which I had no races booked whatsoever. A mid-week race seemed in order. RunThrough are brilliant for these (and short to mid-distance races in general). They’re friendly, well organised and provide a mid-week break. Perfect.
Having signed up for the Hyde Park “Chase the Sun”, I headed over from work. My stomach had been cramping all afternoon and was sending spikes of pain through me as I walked across London. Not massively optimistic.
The race doesn’t start until 7pm but there wasn’t enough time to do anything between work and the race so I got there early and decided to chill in the park. Having collected my number, changed into my racing shoes (the Vaporflys were making an appearance) and handed in my bag, I got to chatting with some of the other runners.
The weather was brilliant, if a little hotter than would be ideal for racing. I did my own warmup (I can never bring myself to get involved in group warmups) and then made my way to the start line. My stomach was still cramping. The race was either 5km (2 laps) or 10km (4 laps) and you could decide on the distance during the race. Sometimes when you start running, issues fade away so I thought I’d see how the first lap went and make up my mind.
The timer counted down and off we went. Straight away, agony. My stomach hated every second. My body made the decision for me within the first few seconds. This was going to be a 5km – and even that seemed like it would be a struggle.
Nevertheless I’d started, so I was at least going to finish and given any running was going to prove painful I thought I may as well go all in. So I stuck with the front runners, letting my legs stretch out.
The park itself is a beautiful course, but fairly busy on a balmy summer’s day. Runners coming in the other direction, bikes zipping alongside. Looping around the main “road” through the park, before heading down through the pedestrian paths that dissect the grassy areas. Running by the many people lounging in the sun and getting a few calls and cheers from some.
Along the front of the lake, and back towards the band stand. Here the path branches, left to the finish (after the requisite laps) and right to carry on to the second lap. Right it was.
Back around the corner and I passed the 3 km marker. Never have I struggled so much with this distance. My legs were ok at this pace (around 3:40 per km) but the pain in my stomach was making it difficult to keep moving and to keep my breathing steady.
The Early Finish
By the time I made it back to the open park area, around 4km, I was done. Now it was about getting to the finish line and ending it. Despite the pain, I was still in third place for the 5km race. I let my pace drop, down to a 4 minute km.
Back along past the boating lake and on to the final straight that led to the finish line. One runner overtook me on the straight, pushing me down into fourth place. No matter. Any attempt at doing something special had fallen away at the start line.
I crossed the line with a chip time of 18:47. A 46 second PB but not one that meant too much to me. I’ve never really tried to set a 5km PB. The only 5km races I’ve ever run are ParkRuns and the majority of those were on hills, so this should always have been faster.
Despite that, I’d like to do a 5km race again, this time by actually preparing for it and on a day when my stomach isn’t tearing itself apart. On a good day, a sub-17:30 should be achievable.
My next races are part of a double weekend. An ultra marathon on Saturday 1st June and a marathon the following day on Sunday 2nd June.