(Unplanned) Race Week: Vitality Run Hackney 5k, or Cool Runnings

Donation thanks (I’m going to start labelling this, as long as I remember, to clear up any confusion): Thanks Joanna! Joanna is the author of Teacups and Trainers, is very enthusiastic about pointing out my spelling/grammar mistakes (they do happen, I am surprisingly imperfect), and marvels at my recently-acquired biceps. Also thanks Anonymous! Literally no idea, no message and no hint from anyone, so you will have to make up your own witty anecdote and give yourself a gold star. Go on, you’ve earned it.

So, one week out from my first key training race: the Chiltern 100 sportive. Still bricking it? Yep. The arrival of my fancy new cycling threads have done little to ease my nerves. On the plus side, I do have some much needed new brake pads for The Normandy, so at least I will probably only die metaphorically on the climbs, and not die both metaphorically and physically on the descents.

My original kind of plan with my three key training races (Brighton Marathon, Chiltern 100 Gran Fondo, Big Fish Swim) was to recap on my three opinion pieces about where I’m at with running, cycling, and swimming that I wrote last autumn (autumn, winter, sometime around then). Unfortunately, with the Achilles injury of doom putting paid to my marathon plans, that idea got thrown into disarray. Fortunately, I’ve been running like all fuck this week so I’m just going to do running now and then proceed as planned. How much running? Well, this much.

Monday: 1 hr swimming, 2 hrs running
Tuesday: 40 mins turbo, 45 mins running
Wednesday: Rest day that I don’t even remember taking, I wasn’t drunk promise Coach Dan
Thursday: 1 hr running
Friday: 40 mins swimming
Saturday: 4 hrs 45 mins cycling (approx., watch mishap), 30 min brick run, 1 hr cycling, 10 min warmup run, 20 mins Vitality Run Hackney 5k
Sunday: 2 hrs running

I’ve been running every which way this week: on streets, in parks, back from gigs, morning runs, evening runs, night runs, brick runs, races, long, short, fast, slow. I’ve hit a combined total of around six and three quarter hours, or about fifty-four miles, or about the equivalent of running from where I’m sat in South London right now to visit my family in Oxfordshire. When I say it like that, I get this fuzzy feeling in my heart that almost eclipses the feeling of abject impending doom in my legs. You know the phrase, it’s the quiet ones you want to watch out for? Well, my legs are very quiet right now. I am not expecting this to last.

To be perfectly honest I’d forgotten I’d even signed up for the Run Hackney 5k until the race number arrived in the post this week. Being a free race with no official results record, and only really turning up because I felt I needed to finally do something to validate my status as a member of Goodgym’s race team, I did absolutely no preparation for this race. In fact, I anti-prepared. I purposely unprepared myself. I consciously uncoupled myself from preparation. So devout was my dedication to being entirely not-race ready that I turned up on Saturday afternoon having been up since five, done a strenuous eighty-something mile interval training ride on Agro straight into a brick run where try as I might I couldn’t go as slow as my plan dictated, cycled about another hour to the race start, and had the sum total of two rice cakes in between all of this. Frankly, it’s a small wonder I even made it at all.

By regular metrics, it wasn’t an impressive race time for me: 19:40, which is over two minutes slower than my 5k best time (set in the same park, at a parkrun last November). But considering all of the above, and the heat, I am pretty impressed that I could still post a sub-20 time. I was either sixth or seventh over the line depending on who you ask, and encouraged by the large crowds – I’m a tart – produced a very mighty sprint finish that drew a lot of applause.


This is me shortly after said sprint finish, and shortly before said sprint finish caused me to throw up in my mouth. I may have been a little exuberant. The other guy is Ax, who’s very very fast and very very French (he also acted as my unofficial official photographer when I needed some photos for my Ashmei Ambassador application a couple of months ago). Despite his attempts to copy my trendy facial hair, we’re not twins.

Running is still the strongest of the three main disciplines for me in triathlon, although the gap is not quite as dramatic as it was last year. This is partly due to the Achilles injury that kept me out of running for a few months at the start of the year, forcing me to focus on just my cycling and swimming with some very positive results. My emphasis with running has completely changed now though: obviously, with targeting an Ironman, the speed work and hill reps have been replaced with much longer, more even paced efforts. Shock, horror: after complaining that I found run training very dull last year, I’ve really enjoyed it this year. There’s largely two reasons for this (according to me, and I’m very much in touch with my inner self).

The first of these is, to bring it up again. After the earlier injury woes of the year when I couldn’t run for an extended period of time, I kind of came to miss it. A bit like the ugly puppy with the stupid face your parents bought that pisses all over your bed every week, but when it disappears you will still miss it for some undefined reason. Running is definitely my ugly, incontinent puppy. I came back to it with a much finer appreciation for my rediscovered mobility. Also, I got some snazzy calf guards that make me look like I have the foggiest idea what I’m doing, and they’re really comfy, and I’ve currently been wearing them for about twenty-four hours solid and they probably smell a bit. Personal hygiene has really gone on the backburner today, compared to things like exercising and facilitating exercise and writing all the words you see before you.

Secondly, a little perspective was in order. My recent woes with pool rage and turbo catastrophes have given me a much greater appreciation of how little effort it takes to go for a run. There’s no faff: no bike prep, just chuck your gear on and go; no worrying about how much of your personal space your lane mate is encroaching on, there’s plenty of pavement and park for everyone. If you want it to be, it’s as easy as popping some trainers on and heading out the door. Probably some clothes as well, thinking about it.

The main thing I need to nail down with my running over the next few months is my pacing. The addition of a watch so I’m not running on feel has massively helped, and I’m far more consistent than I used to be; but far better, for me, is still fairly erratic. One key thing is I need to learn to slow down a bit – first world problem, I know, but I often struggle to restrain myself to my target Ironman pace on runs, and I don’t want to set off in Kalmar at a pace I’d usually hold for a run and then discover that the miles of swimming and cycling cause me to crash and burn after a few miles. If I can’t get a handle on this, then I’m going to have to tie my elastic shoelaces together for the first lap of the run to make sure I don’t fly out of T2. Deva middle distance in just over a month will be a good test of this (the consistent pacing, not the shoelaces thing) – if I can get it dialled in by then and run some good eve/negative splits I think I’ll be fine.

I also had a good opportunity to see the other half of the running/race thing today, as I’d volunteered to marshal the Run Hackney Half Marathon. As today is usually my long run day, this involved waking up at fucking quarter fucking past fucking four on a fucking Sunday so I had the time to get my mileage in pre-race (I still turned up fucking late). I think I made the right decision though: it was brutally hot. Luckily my marshal point was quite early in the race, so I didn’t get any real incidents on my watch. The radio channel in the later stages of the race though sounded kind of like the beginning of an apocalyptic movie: reports of chaos all over the place, lots of people in a fluster, and I’m stood in a high vis vest on an empty road while Jeremy Corbyn cycles past. I remember looking at him and thinking ‘hey, that guy looks a lot like Jeremy Corbyn, I should tweet about that’, but neglected to. When pictures of him at the race started turning up on social media I realised it was actually him. Bollocks. That would have been some sweet Instagram likes.

(Quick note on the race calendar: I’m really hungry and need to go cook some food, but I will update it by end of play tonight, promise.)

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Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!

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