I’m the first to admit I’m a facts and figures man. I love my stats. It’s my hobby, and has led to me doing the job I’ve done for the last 19 years.
During my English ‘A’ Level studies some of my fellow pupils likened me to Mr. Gradgrind from Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. As Wikipedia tells us, the name Gradgrind is “used generically to refer to someone who … only concerned with cold facts and numbers.” That’s me.
But, occasionally, I get a reminder that maybe, just maybe, it’s not entirely all about figures written down in black and white.
Today’s parkrun was one such day.
Let’s just focus on the facts first, but only briefly. Out of my 27 parkrun’s so far it was only my 19th ‘fastest’, so not terribly good at all. On a more positive note it was a bit faster than last week and on a par with a time I recorded this time last year.
However, on this occasion, looking beyond the facts paints a truer picture. As a run it felt so much better than last Saturday morning. Immeasurably so.
I went into it full of nerves. I was worried about repeating last week’s bad run, even though my pleasing training sessions on Monday and Thursday suggested otherwise.
It helped to chat with people before the start. Indeed, I actually didn’t even hear the start and only realised we were off when I saw everyone else going!
Very quickly I settled in behind a runner I knew I was a similar pace to, and decided to follow closely for the first mile or so to help ease me into it. It turned out to be much quicker than I would have preferred but, at the same time, it felt ok. I wasn’t out of my depth or anything like that.
Indeed, after half-a-mile or so I went past my ‘pacer’ fairly comfortably and stayed there for the rest of the run. I knew it was going well, and this helped ease the self imposed pressure I had put upon myself.
The halfway point came and went. Our parkrun is a figure of eight course so the halfway point passes the start/finish area, I try to aim to get there before the first runners finish. Sometimes I manage it, sometimes I don’t. Today I didn’t but not by much but I had no idea what my time was. I had my watch displaying my pace, not my overall time, so I wasn’t sure had much time elapsed … and that was to come back and bite me on the arse towards the end.
As I ploughed on into the second part of the course I knew I was doing better than last week, both speed and overall feel. Mile two ticked over and I was still ahead. All was good.
So I decided I could ease off a bit, and coast the final mile back. I knew even then I was much happier than seven days earlier so, in my head, it was job done.
The problem was I coasted a little too much and with around 500m left I realised I had, quite frankly, ballsed up. I was in danger of being SLOWER than last week. That would really have messed with my head. It’s fragile at the best of times. I didn’t need this.
Thankfully I wasn’t too far off pace and had enough distance left to salvage my time, and eventually crossed the line a few seconds faster but not the couple of minutes I thought I was on target for.
I was annoyed with myself for letting things slip to such a degree when I *was* previously happy with how it had went but if I can take anything from it I suppose it was a good lesson in not allowing myself to get too cocky.
I’m a crap runner anyway, I would hate to be a cocky, crap runner. Know your place, Martin.