Breaking my 5K PB
For as long as I have been interested in fitness I have been trying to improve my 5km time. When I first started running I was terrible. I remember trying to run round the block at home and getting to the end of the road and having to stop. I have just looked at google maps and was shocked to see that it was less than 1km! I remember having to stop and walk, then eventually push myself to run super slowly just to get home. I am never going to be an elite athlete, I just want to improve and compete against myself.
Over the past few years I have chipped my 5km time down bit by bit using a whole range of different tactics. I think the most important has been consistency. I have ran at least 2 times per week for the past year or some on average. Some weeks I have ramped it up a bit and other weeks I have taken my foot off the glass to make sure I have fully recovered.
My slowest time recorded at Poole Parkrun was 23:17. Over the weeks I chipped it down to 20:45 and I remember then saying to a friend ‘I think I may be able to run under 20mins one day’. I eventually hit 19:51 after many attempts skirting the low 20s.
Long story short, this week I hit 18:39. My fastest run by 10 seconds and my fastest official park run result by 1:09 seconds. I have been working really hard on this over lock down and I wanted to outline a few of the tactics I have used and why I think they have helped.
1. Vegan Diet. I turned vegan 2.5 years ago, and since then my 5k time has gone down by nearly 2.5mins. Im not saying that its 100% down to the plant based diet however I think that the diet has significantly helped my training. I recover quicker, I can get in more training volume, I can push hard and feel super ‘clean’ when I’m putting the pedal down.
Interval training. I do many varied sessions, however some of my favourite and most rewarding are the interval sessions that I do. It makes me push harder than I feel comfortable doing, then I rest until I can go again. A 20:00 5k requires a 4min per km pace. If I can practise running at 3:50 pace for 1km then rest for 2 mins It forces adaption. I teaches me how to run fast and what it feels like to hold on to that. The start of the second interval is always hard. My legs feel heavy but pushing through it forces adaption and improves the ability to run whilst being very uncomfortable. A typical session for me is - 1km warm up - 2 x 2km at 3.45 pace with 2 mins rest between 1km at 3.40 pace - 1km warm down
Long Runs. Adaption is key. Challenging the body causes adaption. For me, long runs can do this in a similar way to intervals, but on the other side of the spectrum. My long runs are between 10-15km. They teach me to breath properly, run with good form under fatigue, and build significant training volume without overly stressing my bodies aerobic systems. It has a feather in the cap of my training week. It has definitely helped over the years in bringing my overall fitness levels up, and ultimately my 5km time down.
Cycling. I do a fair amount of varied fitness. I find that when I incorporate more riding into my week then my base fitness improves. My running becomes more efficient and my speed increases and my times start dropping. I cycle both off road on a gravel bike and on the road both in races and long steady miles. I find it hard to get the balance right with riding, running, CrossFit training and days off but Im slowly getting to grips with what my body can handle.
Crossfit. As I mentioned above, I do a lot of varied training. One of my main hobbies is Crossfit and I love its varied nature. We never do the same session twice and my body is constantly being challenged. My core has got stronger and my leg strength has definitely improved since training in this way. This has without doubt had a positive impact on my running. Since starting CrossFit my 5k time has gone down by well over 1 minute.
Mental Toughness. Crossfit has taught me what physical pain feels like. It has also taught me how to push through it. It has allowed to me suffer harder for longer and that has paid dividends in both training sessions and during a hard PB attempts. During a typical 2k - 2k - 1k interval session, I often say to myself that the session doesn’t start until that final 1km. When it gets hard is when the training starts, that’s when improvment happens. I have learnt that I have to suffer during hard sessions for them to improve my running. Long slow runs don’t need that same stimulus, it’s not necessary. When the aim is to go hard repeatedly, then its super important to have the understanding that its going to hurt and therefore its going to make you a faster athlete.
Like I said at the beginning, I’m never going to be a competitive athlete, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to be the fastest version of myself. There is no better feeling than breaking a personal boundary and setting a new PB. Last Saturday I crossed the line in 18:39. Its taken years to get here and I’m excited to see how fast I can get.