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Parkrun pacing

June 23, 2012

This week I ran Finsbury Park Parkrun again, and despite starting relatively far back I finished in sixth place having not overtaken anyone in the second lap of the two-lap course. This made me think that there must be a lot of people – certainly at Finsbury Park, but I suspect it’s a common pattern across the country – who are selling their PBs short with common pacing errors.

If you’re not familiar with the Finsbury Park course, here it is:

A map of the Finsbury Park Parkrun course

The course consists of just under two full laps, runners start on the downhill and end near the lake.

The combination of the traditional surge at the start of a race with the downhill stretch that starts the course means that runners typically start at an unsustainable speed. Today – as with the other times I’ve run this course – a good 20 or so runners had pelted out in front of me by the time we’d reached halfway down the first downhill.

Obviously, some of those runners were gunning it and would continue to do so for the rest of the race, but the majority were pushing hard in the opening seconds of the race, only to fall back the moment the going got tough.

I did most of my overtaking on the long uphill stretch of the first lap. The hill isn’t steep, but it’s grinding, and if you hit it full speed it will quickly sap the energy out of your legs. By the time we got to the sharp uphill leading to the lake section, I think there was only one more runner I passed before hitting the second lap where I maintained my position.

The fact that people ‘blow up’ over shorter distances – hit the road firing on all cylinders only to find that they build up lactic acid and that early speed suddenly turns to wading through treacle as limbs get heavy and breathing laboured – is well documented. People know about it, yet still do it. And, yep, me too. I’ve been as guilty as anyone – particularly over  10ks!

Still, I thought I would share this week’s progress as at least some proof that more sensible (though still not perfect, I might add) pacing plays an important role in finishing times.

Comparing splits between Finsbury Park Parkruns

Left-hand splits: last week; right-hand splits: this week

So, despite running the first mile a good 8 seconds slower than last week, I was left with enough energy to run the second mile 29 seconds faster and he second mile 10 seconds faster (imprecisions of GPS aside).

That tricky third mile is still a soft area for improvement, but this week’s effort left me 1 second away from matching my official (very soft) PB run over a substantially easier course.

Still, making good progress thus far for one week of speed-focused training!

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