Training Recap: Park Run Win Revving Up to Ravenscar

Many months back I made a commitment, that I would train to compete and stop trailing the pack. Pun aside I have a genuine desire to see out races from the front and one day podium a local event. My first big checkpoint is the CTS Endurance Life 7 mile race at Ravenscar, in just three weeks time.

Preparation got underway once recovery from the Wainstones marathon was complete and it began with a bang. Jayson had me doing all sorts of speedwork including central to it all Park Runs.

Despite completing my first marathon I still suffer a lack of confidence and self worth. Of course I am talking in race terms; I look at the competition, then at myself and think “I don’t deserve to compete.” But to feel capable, I must first be capable.

The first session back in July – 800 metre sprints – saw me average 6.09 min/mi splits. Essentially I couldn’t hold better than 6:09 minute mile pace over half a mile sprints consistently. This statistic is quite important later in the post.

As well as the mental battle my body rebelled the new regime. My calfs were tight, thighs soar and feet starting to irritate. A new pair of hybrid Brooks shoes weren’t helping, I persisted with the ill suited footwear determined to break them in but to no avail. My persistence would prove costly as among other issues the shoes brought about Plantar Fasciitis. You can read more about that in my post “how to treat Plantar Fasciitis” but as the title suggests I managed to tame the issue.

No sooner had pain along the bottom of my foot gone, it started across the top, possibly tendinitis? No matter how strong and anti-injury I become, the risk is always there with high intensity training and this was a sobering reminder. Anyway, I pushed on as the sprint work began to pay dividends.

My Park Run Journey

I finished my first ever Park run in 20:44 back in February. My next crack was in July crossing the line in 19:36 an average pace of 6:32 min/miles.

Challenging the top three required a minimum time of sub 19 minutes and in August I cracked 18:57 (5th place) leading nicely into September and my last Park Run before Ravenscar. To date I had practised sitting back in park runs, before over taking the field in the second half. My final crack would be the opposite.

Jayson wanted me flying out the traps for the simple reason that Ravenscar starts with a bottle neck. The event begins in an open field, one minute later the race sweeps right to join the Cleveland Way and offers little chance to over take for about 2-3 miles. If I get stuck behind someone it could prove costly. I needed to feel the burn of a fast start and learn to settle back into a consistent pace after.

Where better to practice than at the start of a Park Run? I did just this as the picture shows below, the other runners in Dalby must have thought, “look at this idiot.”

Its the weirdest sensation – when you lead the race and no one follows – just you, the music and your heaving chest. For a second it felt like just another training run, which made me panic – I’m going too fast – but sure enough the race settled down eventually. Sitting myself in third or fourth the jostling began and before I knew it the track spat out on the long straight home – only 6 minutes left.

Checking in with myself I felt good, in control and positioned nicely behind the front two, so I put my foot down. A few minutes later I took the lead and held on with numerous nervous glances behind. My time, 18:34, an average pace of 6:08 min/miles the same pace I couldn’t hold during half mile sprints just 7 weeks prior.

For that I owe a huge thanks to Jayson and his training plan. Anyway, I experienced a race from the front, not the most competitive but a race all the same. Whatever happens in Ravenscar, whether I podium, finish top five or completely flop I couldn’t be more prepared. I leave you with a picture of my dart to the finish line at Dalby and an unexpected sentimental thought I fell upon last Sunday:)

Craving a change of scenery I stumbled upon old memories the day after Park Run. A yearning for nostalgia carried me across fields and the grounds of an Elementary School. This was the same school I attended growing up. Running toward the main block in the West Wing took me past a sprint track, the same track where my poor self esteem and battered confidence were formed. On that very track – at a tender age – I established many wrong assumptions about my natural ability and what the term really meant. How apt to run through these memories, to lose myself around such ghosts just one day after the Park Run, one day after proving them wrong.


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Darren Smith

Training with purpose since October 2016 Darren has gone from trailing the pack to winning local races and the times keep on falling. A true believer in hard work over natural talent he writes to help others realise their true potential. Darren's race schedule for 2018 includes the Hardmoors Wainstones marathon (1st place), Keswick Mountain Festival (10th place), Scafell Skyrace and Salomon Ring Of Steall (World Championship race.)

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