It's always good to kick things off with a bang, especially when that thing is a new marathon training cycle. Yes, I said marathon. For various reasons I'm postponing my ultra marathon and instead I'll be running Bournmouth Marathon in October. It's a decision that I feel really good about, and if this year has taught me anything, it's that my gut is usually right.
Back to kicking things off with a bang. To know where you're going, you need to know where you're at, and what better way to work that out than with a 5k time trial! Time trials are a regular feature of my training, and I have to admit they're sessions I dread. It is hard to push yourself. I run because I enjoy it, not because I want to push myself to the point where I feel sick. However, because I've decided to train in a particular way, a way that'll mean I'm stronger and will enjoy my marathon more, these bursts of discomfort are a necessary evil. But, after experiencing time trial dread last training cycle, this time I needed to find a way to make the necessary evil less, well, evil. As luck would have it, the first day of this cycle coincided with the Lady Garden Run, and it turned out to be the perfect antidote to time trial fear.
A race around Hyde Park that raises funds for the Gynaecological Cancer Fund, a charity that is doing amazing work exploring precision therapies to treat a range of cancers. I try to take part every year, and it's one of the few charity races I do. It's nice because it's a small run, it has a community focus, and it's sponsors mean the goodie bag is on point (hello Nail's Inc polishes). Plus Lululemon do the t-shirts. Those fun perks aside, the work that Dr Dr Susana Banerjee, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Gynaecology Research Lead at The Royal Marsden, does is groundbreaking, and I hope will make a difference for a generation of women to come. If I can support that by running a 5km time trial I'd have to grit my teeth through anyway, well then I will. It's good motivation.
The route takes in the sights of Hyde Park, a 5k lap (twice, if you're doing the 10k) that skirts along The Serpentine and then snakes through the park, zigzagging through shady trees and across the open grass (where I may have caught the sun - wear sunscreen people). The Lady Garden Run isn't on a closed course, so there is the odd runner and walker out and about, but the course has been designed in a way that dodges most of the crowds. Or the swarm of runners could've put them off. Some of the paths are a little narrow, so there can be a bit of congestion, especially as this race is about as far from a club run as you can get (kids! dogs! buggies! walkers!), I love that, but real speed demons might not be into it. However, Hyde Park is so flat it's easy to overtake if you need to, without being an awful person about it.
The plan going into this race was to go flat out. It was a time trial after all. Originally I wanted to use my watch to gauge how I switched up and down the gears (how much I pushed myself at any given point), but it didn't sync in time for the gun, so this one was on feel. Using my breathing to gauge where I was at, when I could push, when I needed to pull back, cranking it up as the miles passed under my feet. In and out through the nose at first, in the nose and out the mouth as I pushed, in the mouth and out the mouth as I crossed the line. For the whole race I knew I was doing things on my body's terms, and it paid off, a PB 27:30 on the gun. Progress compared to where I've been at. A surprise after legs feeling like lead for weeks. And a medal, who doesn't love a medal?!
Turns out time trials are ok. In the right environment.