A cold and misty morning welcomed me on the first Saturday in October as I made my way to race the Pollok parkrun for the 145th time. The old body was sluggish as I pushed it through my usual warm up routine before joining the assembled masses at the start of the 399th staging of the free, weekly 5k.
With the staging of the Great Scottish Race (GSR) on Sunday and its associated family events on Saturday, the numbers were down from almost 500, on my last visit, to a shade over 300 today. It was’t just quantity that was down though, it was quality as well, with a number of the faster runners prioritising the GSR 10k or Half Marathon above the parkrun.
My lack of distance training meant that I didn’t have to consider the options, as 5k was the longest I’d raced in twelve months. Last year’s GSR Half Marathon being my last long run.
With the diminished field, I started closer to the front than normal and despite being harnessed to Jack, we still managed to avoid much of the usual early congestion. The first kilometre took us 3:59. Whilst this is the type of pace which I should be running at, the self doubt quickly reared its ugly head as i knew that those around me were all faster than me. All of them were looking comfortable at this pace and some took the time to say ‘hello’ to me and the dog wonder. I, on the other hand, was already gasping for air and unable to respond with little more than a grunt.
I didn’t have too long to put up with this pressure though, as two hundred metres later, Jack steered off the road and into the trees for an unexpected pit stop. I bagged his poo before rejoining the race. We had lost 29 seconds and loads of places but that didn’t bother me too much. I was now on terra firma and with renewed vigor I started chasing after those in front of me. I now had less than 4k to race and the monkey was off my back.
I had looked at my last Pollok parkrun statistics and noticed that, although I thought that I did well in the third kilometre, my pace actually dropped significantly. This is the narrow, squiggly, uphill section which can be muddy and congested. I usually overtake a few people here but now realise that it’s because they slow down more than I do. This week I worked much harder than usual and my pace only slipped slightly. The fourth kilometre is a long slight gradient up towards the duck pond. I was focused on a runner in a light coloured vest in the distance and continued to work up the field towards him. I had a little panic when I noticed that I was catching a running buddy that I’ve only ever beaten once before, but I kept my focus on the light vest and overtook my buddy. I sped downhill and turned left into the squiggly difficult section. There was now only 1k to go and the last 200 metres is downhill. I gave it my all it wasn’t long until I was sprinting down the final strait and across the finish line. My token informed me that I had placed a very respectable 33rd, and my Garmin informed me that I had completed the 5k in 20:52, with a moving time of 20:23! My PB at Pollok is 20:50 which I set in 2010, so to come within two seconds of that, after stopping for 29 seconds blew that performance out of the water. Although the official result will show 20:52, it will also show my age grading of 76.20%, the best I’ve ever achieved at Pollok
There’s life in the old dog yet.
As usual many thanks to all the volunteers and other runners for making this such a special event.