Parkrun: Stretching the legs before a big race

I have a 10k race tomorrow and so would normally have rested for several days before to ensure my legs are 100%.

However… Steve (Doc) at Purbeck Runner swears by a stretch of the legs the day before a race and often does a slower tempo Parkrun the day before, so as an experiment (and to try out my new Newton MV3s properly!) I did a 5k Parkrun today.

Aiming to do it about a minute slower than full speed, we started at 4min k’s, but the Newtons wouldn’t let me go that slow for very long! They’re like running barefoot, on seesaws tipping you forward, begging you to speed up!

Finishing time was 19:47 which is about a minute slower than my PB. We’ll see tomorrow whether running today had a positive or negative effect on my 10k time.

So I did Parkrun yesterday and then did the 10k today. When I did the Parkrun I was raring to go and full of energy, hence doing it a lot faster than I intended. I did spend the rest of yesterday on my feet and when I woke up this morning, my legs felt like lead. I thought ‘oh no, I’ve ruined my legs for the race!’

I actually noticed that I got ‘in’ to the race a lot quicker than usual. Often it takes a good 1-2k for my body to realise ‘ah, you’re doing this running thing again are you, ok…’ But I was able to start quite fast. I ran the first 5k quicker than I run Parkrun sometimes, in 19:06. It was only towards the end, in the heat that my legs began to fail me…

Next Training
10k at Poole Festival of Running tomorrow.

Race: @Parkrun in Copenhagen

I’m very lucky to be able to go away for work occasionally and this weekend found myself in historic and beautiful Copenhagen. So what does a runner do when abroad? Search out the nearest Parkrun of course!

So after checking my map and loading up Google Maps on my phone I set off in the the city streets to find the Parkrun. Well… A bridge I needed to cross was shut, which sent me on a detour of 4km so by the time I reached the middle of the park where the run was, I’d run 7k! The Parkrun route itself was lovely – this really tranquil park land following a gravel path. There weren’t many participants; maybe 80, compared to the usual 600 at Parkrun Poole.

It was difficult to pace and I was shattered from racing 7km just to find it, but I was 4th in 19:14. Annoying to go over 19mins but a lovely run. Then 5k back to the hotel so around 17k in total!

Here’s some photos I took on the way:





Race: Poole Parkrun (5k) PB

Possibly the most painful race I’ve ever done!

Lining up at the start of the race there was a notable absence of the usual movers and shakers of the front row. I presume this was because there was a race the next day – the North Dorset Village Marathon I think.

So setting off at the beginning of the Parkrun, there were a lot fewer people at the front, so no jostling for position! I started off fast and, after 100 metres I thought too fast! But I managed to keep the pace up even though my lungs were begging me to slow down, and finished in 18:45 – a PB by 1 second!

Next Training
A 10k this evening and a longer run tomorrow as it’s a Bank Holiday

A Naked Parkrun!

Drink? Check. Sunglasses? Check. It was only on the start line for Saturday’s Parkrun that I realised I’d forgotten my Garmin! I actually felt at a loss without it, even though when I DO have it I only look at it once I’ve finished.

So round the two laps of the lake I went, having to guess at my pace using the position of other runners that I knew were roughly the same as me. Well I did the 5k in 19:18 which I didn’t mind, having not run much in the last few weeks.

Next Training
Easy long run of around 10 miles. Aiming to run 30-35 miles this week, including a speed session….

Weekend’s Running

A mixed bag of running this weekend – a tale of two halves if you will…

Saturday morning brought with it the early morning amassing of 627 people for Parkrun in Poole. This was a record turn out – and it felt like it! I usually love Parkrun and still enjoyed it this week but it just felt a little too massive – so many people in a small space! It was a week for fast runs too as I came in at 18:48 and was still 47th, this time would usually get me inside the top 20… Even the winner did a PB of 15:08. 15:08! Can you imagine! I may try one of the other local Parkruns soon as they are generally a little quieter.

Note to self: Buy some longer shorts and smile when I see a camera. This must have been the final lap ; )

Poole Parkrun

Poole Parkrun 5th April 2014 – Photo: Rob Steele

Then on the Sunday and The Long Run. It was my wife’s last weekend before doing the London Marathon next Sunday so she went out for a relatively short 10 mile run at 8:30am. When she returned I headed out into the rain, making the mistake of wearing my running jacket, a big mistake as I was boiling hot within 10 minutes! The worst thing however was my ankle, which began to twinge slightly 10 minutes in and by the time i’d run 4k was hurting so much I was limp-running – never a good thing. So frustratingly I had to limp-run back home and instead of my planned 90 minute run, I’d run for 20 minutes – not good!  I’m hoping it was a one-off thing and will try making up the mileage by doing 8-9 miles tonight but I don’t want to risk making my ankle worse.

Nike LunarGlide +5

My Nike LunarGlide+5 trainers

I have a theory that it’s because the foam in my Nike Lunarglides has stiffened. I used to have a dodgy ankle but found that Lunarglides negated whatever it was that was causing my pain so they have been my shoe of choice for the last couple of years. However, I’ve read that the foam can stiffen up if they’re dried too quickly after a wet run and goes after around six months of running anyway. I bought my latest pair in January 2014 but the weather has been so wet, that in 90% of my running they got soaked and were then dried under the radiator, damaging the foam slightly each time. Plus I’ve run around 400km in them! That’s the theory anyway!

A Week Off Running!

A Week of Not Running

Quelle horreur! A whole five days of not running, not swimming… not even really walking anywhere due to my sedentary, desk bound job. After the intense training (well intense for me!) I put in over the last couple of months to try and up my game and the onset of a cough/cold/virusy thing last week, I made a conscious decision to take a complete break until I was feeling better. I often talk about how hard it is to get out of the door for a run sometimes but when you shouldn’t run, it’s hard NOT to head out. I even had my gear on ready for running club on Wednesday evening, before my wife talked me out of it!

Back To It At Parkrun

So after the 10k race last Sunday I’ve done nothing for five days. I know from my previous blog post that five days off won’t make much difference to my fitness levels, so I intend on jumping straight back to it at Parkrun tomorrow. I will let you know my time, disastrous or otherwise!

Rob out.

Experiment: How Much Does a Warm Up Help in a 5k?

Poole Parkrun

Poole Parkrun

On Saturday it was time for Parkrun again – the weekly 5k in my local park. One of my longer term goals for this year is to run a sub-18 minute

5k/Parkrun although this will mean beating my PB by 47 seconds (doesn’t sound much but at 5k 47 secs is huge!).


Past Results

My recent Parkrun performances have been as follows:

Parkrun times

Parkrun times








I managed to duck under 19 minutes for the first time in early November 2013 and kept it that way for the rest of the year, finishing in my current PB of 18:46. So far this year I’m yet to break 19 minutes again!

The Warm Up

So this week at Parkrun, I wondered if my warmup routine might help improve my time. Everything I’ve read previously suggests that doing a warm up may help your time over a short distance like 5k. Think about it, if you’re running 5000 metres, there’s no point in spending the first 2000 metres getting into your running rhythm!

The Run

So it was with this in mind that I arrived at Parkrun 40 minutes early in lovely sunshine. I started off with some light stretching, before running a very slow 1k followed by another 1k of running which included dynamic stretches, bounds and a few sprints. I stopped and had a drink, retied my shoelaces and ran another 400 metres slowly to keep my heart pumping ready for the start. At the 3,2,1 countdown I already had a raised pulse but didn’t feel at all tired and off we all went.

I can tell you it didn’t make the blindest bit of difference and my time was actually slower than the previous week by 14 seconds. The previous week I’d done a cursory 400m metre warm up but mainly just stood around chatting to friends before the start.

Maybe it works for some people, but not for me on this occasion.


Training: A Saturday run @ParkrunPoole

Parkrun Poole

I cannot say enough good things about Parkrun, there is quite literally nothing bad to say about it. Firstly it’s a free, timed 5k run/race. Secondly, it has the best, most positive atmosphere of any race you’re likely to do. The volunteer marshals, the supporters around the course and of course the 511 runners all make it a special event. We even had a former 5000 metres world record holder in our midst with David Moorcroft taking part!

Enough advertising though!

I did Saturday’s Parkrun at about 90%, knowing that I was planning a long run for the next day. I was pleasantly surprised to finish in 19:03, 19th out of 511. Dad was aiming for sub 18 but came in at 18:12 (still amazing for a 60 year old!) It was a reverse course to usual which I actually preferred as it felt a but shorter, even though it’s not!

Next training:
Long 90 min run on Sunday


10 Ways to Run A Faster Parkrun

I’m no expert but I thought, when I first started running I would have loved to have a simple list of specific things I could do to improve my times. I started off as a 22 minute Parkrunner (a weekly, free timed run), currently on 18:46 PB and aiming for sub 18m this year.

Over the last two years, I have read the various running magazines, websites and blogs, umpteen books on running, I go to two running clubs and talk running with a lot of folk – this is my accumulated knowledge from these reads/conversations on how to improve your Parkrun/5k time:

1. Set yourself a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal)
When I was running a 22 minute Parkrun, mine was sub 19 minutes. Now it’s sub 17. It’s good to have a really big great goal to aim for. Just about realistic but something that if you ever achieved it would make you jump around in celebration!

2. Set yourself a series of realistic time improvements.
Gradual progression is what you’re after, in order to avoid injuries and make your training gains sustainable. I’m aiming to get under 18minutes at the moment which is an improvement of 46 seconds. This means I have to run each km 9 seconds quicker. Doesn’t sound a lot but when you’re at 5k pace that extra effort seems impossible! So instead i’m going to try and knock 9 seconds off each week. So next week 18:46 (I need to get back to that time as last week was a disastrous 19:24!), the following week, 18:37, next 18:28 etc etc. We’ll see how that goes…

3. Run More
If you want to run faster at a distance of 5k then a mixture of speed work and longer distance is required. You need to get a good ‘base’ of running down as this gets your body used to running – your muscles will get more efficient, your heart will get better at pumping blood around your body, the ligaments, tendons and muscles will get stronger and YOU will feel more confident and more like a ‘runner’.  Increase the number of miles you run per week by 10% a week. So if you run 15 miles a week, up that to 16.5 and so on. Again, gradual progression is key to avoid injury or illness. Mo Farah runs 100 miles a week, but there’s no need to go that far! I’m aiming for 25-30 p/w at the moment.

4. Run faster
There’s a saying that goes, ‘if you want to run faster, you need to run faster’! If you’ve only recently started running then just doing a 5k Parkrun every week will be enough to get a PB each week. However there will come a point where you need to get doing some speed work in order to get faster. For me this means a Tuesday night track session of which I’ve blogged about in detail previously. Basically you break down the 5000 metres in to a series of smaller, faster units. So it could be 5 x 1000m circuits, run at your target 5k pace with 2-3 minute rests in between. Or it could be a combination of 400mx800mx1000m, the important thing is that you’re running a total of 5k, FASTER than you would usually. This makes your heart work harder so improving it’s efficiency while also improving the lactic acid threshold for the muscles in your legs, meaning you’ll be able to run further and faster before your legs fail you.

It doesn’t have to be a track though. Fartleks allow you to run faster between streetlights for example or a tempo run means you gradually get faster throughout your run.

The Run Britain website has some good schedules and guides on this, for example this is their guide to running a sub 18 5k

5. Run harder
Resistance training such a hill repeats are often touted as the best way to improve your running as they work everything hard!

As Runner’s World say:

“Training on hills improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your stride, expands stride length, develops your cardiovascular system, enhances your running economy and can even protect your leg muscles against soreness. In short, hill running will make you a stronger, faster and healthier runner”

I usually just try to make sure there are a good few hills on my long run as I don;t have time for a dedicated hills session. A couple of weeks ago I did get a spare hour so I did a 4k easy run followed by 10 repeats of sprinting up the steepest hill in the village (about 80metres long) and then a 2 k warm down. No matter how much training I’m doing, I ALWAYS feel a hill session for day afterwards in my legs, usually at the back of my thighs. That’s when you know it’s doing you some good!

Also make sure you not just running too many junk miles. Really FEEL it after a run.

6. Warm Up Before
I never used to warm up before a Parkrun. Particularly on a cold winter’s day, I’d sit in the car until the very last moment before jumping out, walking to the start line and going. At 9am this is a bit of a shock to the body – you need to warn it about what’s coming! Now I always try to do at least a 10 minute jog to get the old heart pumping, I stretch my Achilles and do ankle rolls (as I have a dodgy ankle) and do some dynamic stretches (leaps, heel flicks and knee raises etc). Once I’m fully warmed up I throw in a few short sprints to get those fast twitch muscles ready! Then, when it comes to the off my heart and muscles are all ready to go (even if my brain is still dreaming of being back in bed.)

7. Food
Is not so important for a 5k as it is for a marathon. Most humans have enough energy in reserve to be able to run 5k without the need for energy drinks or bowls of porridge. However it’s important not to fill yourself up too much before a 5k as you’re going to be running relatively fast and best not to have all that porridge, tea/coffee/orange juice swilling round while you run – reward yourself afterwards.

8. Know your field
When you start running the same Parkrun every week you’ll begin to recognise the people around you. Speak to them, make friends with them and then remember who they are while you’re running. I use a Garmin but I only glance at it a couple of times during the run. I know exactly who I should be in front of and who to chase. I know that if I come in just after that guy, then it’s going to be a good time, buy if that guy overtakes me then not so much. I find this a lot easier than concentrating on minutes per k and stats.

9. Do the Parkrun pacer events
I’ve got a PB every time I’ve done one. Basically this is where a group of volunteers wear bibs with a time on. So if you’re aiming for 25 minutes, you follow the lady wearing the ’25′ bib, and she’ll get you round in that time. I think a lot of people stay within their comfort zone and this allows you to really go for it. The next Poole Parkrun pacer event is on Feb 8th I believe…

10. Enjoy it!
The great thing about Parkrun, is that it’s held every week so if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped this week then never mind, just come back next week! There’s evidence to suggest that those who enjoy their running, do better. Look at Haile Gebrselassie – always smiling!

Tonight’s Training:

Speed session on the track!