parkrun: the 17-mile warm-up
Parkrun has become a phenomenon around the world. The zero-barrier to entry concept is possibly the most positively disruptive thing to happen in the running world since Bowerman’s ‘Jogging‘ hit the shelves in the late 70s. Most major cities across the globe now have a weekly parkrun event. Sometimes 100s of people show up with their barcodes to join an informal, free run around their local amenity and record an official time. What’s not to love about the parkrun idea? Why have I never done one before now?
There has been a local Parkrun only 7 miles from my city in a nearby seaside town but for some reason or other I just never made it there at the weekend. I guess my desire for long miles at the weekend swayed my preference. Not once did I ever think about combining the two. That changed this weekend for the inaugural Waterford City based, Waterford Nature Parkrun. Fellow conspirator of the #BVSC, Jason, casually suggested that we take in a 17-mile warm-up before using the Parkrun as a cool down. As you do…
Naturally, being one of my weekend long runs and being the brainchild of a fellow #BVSC member, this wasn’t going to be a 17-mile jog before reaching the startline of the Parkrun. Oh no, it was altogether different. Like all weeks, a couple of miles warm-up to begin. Then 6 miles just beyond race pace. Followed by 2 miles sub-pace. Then, like a sledgehammer to the chest, drop for 2 miles to below goal half-marathon pace. For us, this was roughly 6:50-min/mile. Easing off again for another 2 miles sub-pace and finally cruise the remaining ~3 miles to the Parkrun startline.
It sounds mad – I know. I may have even remarked that there is not a chart available that could accurately describe the mix of efforts. However, madness is sometimes good. Coming off the back of the new PB in Clonmel last weekend, I learned that my legs were indeed capable of sustained pace close to 7-min/mile. Dropping to 6:50 in a training run, on already tired legs, would make me uncomfortable. We’ve all been saying it for a while now and I saw it again recently from Eliud Kipchoge:
Become comfortable with being uncomfortable
It is so true though. Training within your comfort zone does nothing other than massage your ego into acknowledging how good you are right now. It will never help you to discover how good you could be at some time in the future. Be uncomfortable; embrace discomfort and learn from it. My entire year to-date has been about searching for points of failure. Either by running my own hairbrained routines or joining somebody else’s session, the goal has been to discover where my body breaks down. I have found a couple of points so far but the search continues until I understand what the perfect recipe for my distance running is.
The warm-up portion (of the warm-up, ahem) lasted for a little under 2.5 miles. Then the pace dropped for 6 miles while climbing gently over smooth terrain. My legs were tired. The half-marathon effort of last week was still there as too was my first gym session in 8 weeks from Tuesday. DOMS is something you never want to look up and I had plenty of it due to my own stupidity of pushing it a little too hard in the gym.
While the legs hurt with muscle soreness, it was comforting to observe that my heart rate was behaved, only touching Zone-5 for a brief period while knocking out the target half-marathon pace splits. The miles either side of this were comfortable on paper even if I didn’t feel that way at the time. The last entry in the charts shown above is my new obsession, ‘Performance Condition’. I really did not expect to see an absence of negative numbers from this run (view Garmin data).
Uncomfortable is good. I went into this long run with eyes wide open, tired legs from last week’s race and also a return to gym work, and absolutely no idea of what to expect after the target half-marathon splits. Tired and wobbly is how I felt at the end of it all but the data doesn’t lie. While some muscle soreness was invariably tricking my brain into feeling far worse than I was, things were not actually that bad. I wear my chest strap for all long runs now. That way I can be sure of the heart rate and the readings from this run are cause for comfort. It was tough but I made it through without calling on Zone-5 for prolonged assistance.
There is one other key takeaway from this run. If you are planning your first Parkrun participation, I would probably advise not undertaking a 17-mile warm-up first! Seriously though, if you are somebody who doesn’t run or is thinking about starting, find your local Parkrun event. Get out there some weekend and I guarantee you will never look back. The events are organised and run by some truly great people. There is huge community spirit driving everyone on. You also get your run time recorded officially as an incentive to push yourself a little more each time.