parkrun PB training: Weeks 7-8 + race!

My main goal for the last part of the year was to take down my parkrun Bois de Boulogne course best of 20:58, which I ran back in January 2018. It was the first time I raced the course, but since then I hadn’t come close. If everything went to go amazingly, the stretch goal was to beat my overall parkrun/5km PB of 20:45, set at Mile End parkrun in July 2016.

Week 7:

My biggest week of kilometres since Love Trails festival, with a few solid speed sessions plus the Inaugural Paris Bridges Run! This was a route I devised (inspired by the Advent Running Bridges Ultra in London) which crossed every single one of Paris’s bridges: all 33 of them. A small but perfectly-formed group of us ran it, and there’s even a Strava segment for it now ?

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 2x400m [1:32, 1:35], 2x800m [3:12, 3:16], 2x400m [1:28, 1:22], 7.5km total
Wednesday: Easy run with Sye, 8km
Thursday: 4x5min at threshold, 10km total
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Easy short run, 5.3km.
Sunday: The Inaugural Paris Bridges Run! 18.2km

Total: 49.1km

Week 8:

Race week! Did as absolutely little as possible so that I would be rested and prepared for the weekend. It was a taper on steroids, but felt like it would be the best option for success come Saturday. Of course, I did a drills session on the Wednesday which left me sore for Thursday & Friday, and come the weekend I wasn’t even sure if I could run anymore…

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: ExpaTRIates track session (drills), WU was 2.7km easy
Thursday: Run-commute home, 6.8km
Friday: Rest
Saturday: parkrun! [see below]

Total: 14.4km

The last Bois de Boulogne parkrun (while living in Paris)

This was going to be special, no matter what. Not only was I going to attempt to run a CB (course best) after 8 weeks training, but it was also my last parkrun while living in Paris and my 25th parkrun at Bois de Boulogne, to go along with my 25 volunteers there. (25 + 25 = 50, which is a very special parkrun number). All my parkrun friends had made sure they would be there that weekend, and so it was bound to be a special day.

A few weeks ago I had asked my speedy friend Simon if he would pace me for the last bit of the run, and then eventually agreed to let him pace me for the whole thing. Yes, it’s cheating a bit but I really wanted to get this goal, so would accept any help I could get. He would be in charge of the pacing, I just had to stick with him. I had also asked Sye to stand at particular points on the course where I knew I would need some encouragement. Everything was in place for a fast run.

Oh god though that’s easier said than done. We set out and things felt pretty good, I was running right next to Simon and although the pace was quick, I felt like I could manage it. Talking was off the table (save energy) but Simon would chat every now and again, making ‘funny’ comments about the people we saw. I got to the first point where Sye was standing (in a place where I normally falter), and even managed a grin/grimace for him.

Simon called out the laps: 4:15 for the first km, 4:10 for the second. 4:12/km avg was the aim, so things were nicely on pace. But then we hit the hill on the second loop and I felt myself starting to fall back. Simon kept encouraging me, telling me to use my arms and abs to get up the hill, but I knew the pace had dropped. I could feel Simon wanting to pull away, but I just couldn’t remain right by his side. We got through it, but those ‘easy’ first kilometres were long forgotten.

Up ahead was Brendan, and Simon kept saying ‘we’re going to catch Brendan by the end of this loop’, and then when we didn’t, ‘we’re going to catch Brendan by the bottom of the hill’. Of course, Brendan could hear him saying these things and himself used it as motivation to push hard and get a PB – we never caught him.

The second hill was harder than the first – I wanted to slow down and give up so badly but Simon wasn’t having any of it. I knew I couldn’t be weak next to him, and so just had to keep running as best I could, even if it really hurt. Once we got to the top (having overtaken someone!) I collected myself and re-found my rhythm, focusing on running strong with my arms and ignoring the lower part of my body. My legs were starting to protest, but my arms didn’t hurt so let’s just think about that.

I knew I had slowed on the hills and honestly didn’t think that the CB was on the cards – maybe a SB (season’s best) but surely I’d lost too much time. But then with two corners to go (~400m) Simon says that the time is 19:20. 19:20!!!! I was going to run not just a CB, but a PB!!!

From then on it was full steam ahead, there was no way I was going to lose this now. Hurtling myself down the final metres the ugliest noises were coming from my mouth – a guttural half-scream-half-grunt, but as Simon shouted out the seconds I knew it was going to happen…

20:33, 20:34, 20:35, 20:36!!! PERSONAL BEST!!!!!! After more than 3 years I had broken my parkrun PB, on the most special of days at the most special of events. YEESSSSSSSSSS (or at least, that’s how I felt internally while propping myself up on a post).

Massive thanks to Simon, without who’s encouragement and spot-on pacing I don’t know if it would have happened. And thank you to my wonderful parkrun friends, who had strung up my name in balloons for me to see as I exited the first loop ❤️(The entire attempt was nearly derailed as I got emotional but Simon forced me onwards ?). The team at Bois de Boulogne parkrun have just been so fantastic and lovely, and I will miss them all so so so much.

What a way to farewell France! Elle me manquera ?????‍♀️

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