28 July 2012 – the last time I ran a parkrun at Pennington Flash. I’d been having a good year, 2nd M45 in the Cheshire cross country champs, 2nd M45 at the Alsager 5, I’d set the M45 record at Princes parkrun, in May I’d come close to my best at Pennington with a 17:01, I’d been 1st M45 at the Hollins Green and Lymm 5ks as well as picking up a couple of bronze medals at the BMAF 5k road and track champs. I was rounding into shape for an assault on the Euro Masters 10000m and 5000m in August. And then I ran at Pennington. I won, in 17:19, quite an easy victory but going down one of the hills I felt a slight twinge in my hamstring. A few days later my hamstring went. I rested and despite the Euros being only a few weeks away I still went along. I wasn’t even running when the 10000m was held, I started with a 5 minute jog two days after that but within three more days I took part, maybe not wisely, in the 5000m. Starting slowly I gradually wound up the pace to run 17:37 to finish 9th, later upgraded to 8th due to the winner having a dodgy substance in his system.
Having the good base of fitness meant I was able to get back to a decent level reasonably quickly for my new club, Salford Harriers and I was gunning well for them, until the end of the cross country season when I fell apart. Since then, due to the ongoing achilles and hamstring injuries I’ve not ventured to Pennington, knowing that the rough terrain would not suit my injuries, whilst I continued to train through the discomfort. I’ve wanted to go many times, I enjoy the course, I like the people, but it just wasn’t worth it as I struggled to get back to normality.
About five weeks ago the pain went, I mean I was able to go out for a run without my achilles or my hamstring bothering me and for the first time in nearly two years I’ve been able to train fast and long without causing any problems, other than the usual niggles. Knowing that I lack a base I’ve turned my summer over to hard work, doing two sessions a day most days and it’s working, I’m getting back to the level of fitness I had before my injuries started. I’ve done a few low key 5ks, but my legs have felt heavy and I’ve not performed to the level I feel I’m capable of, but the big picture is 2015 so I’m not concerned about my form this year, I know what I can do when I’m fit and getting fit is what this year is all about.
So feeling good about my lack of injuries, but also knowing that I was in an intensive training period, I decided I wanted a challenging 5k, not a fast 5k, what better chance to revisit my favourite parkrun. So last Saturday Carole and I ventured up Leigh way to Pennington Flash. It was a beautiful sunny morning, a sight better than we would have 24 hours later, and it was great to get out of the car with the view of the flash. We jog/walked over to the start where we bumped into a number of Pennington regulars, who remembered me from all that time ago. Unfortunately Run Director, Bill Bradley, was having an off day – that’s not to say he did a bad directorial job, he was off working elsewhere, but no doubt we’ll catch up soon. It was good to catch up with local boy and fellow Salford Harrier Tony Taylor, Tony didn’t run this event when I was doing it more regular but since I’ve been away he’s run it loads of times and has a sub 17 minute clocking to boot. We had a brief chat before the race got going and then we were off.
I had a good track record at Pennington, out of the 15 runs I had done I had won 10 and been 2nd in the other 5, my best time being 16:56 (30/7/11) and my worst 17:50 (17/9/11). So I had a reputation to uphold, but I’ve never been one to worry about my reputation, chances were I wouldn’t win, I knew damn sure I wasn’t going to set a pb and to be perfectly honest I had a feeling this was going to be my first post 18 minute run around the course, but I didn’t care, I was running, I was running in a place I love and there is a sort of feeling of freedom as you run around the course with the view of the flash and all the space around you, it makes you feel glad to be alive, and happy that you decided to get up early to make your way over there. To hell with reputations, being a slower runner doesn’t make me a worse person, nor a better one to be fair, I’m just the same, you just have to wait a little longer for me to finish these days.
Since my injuries I’ve been a noticeably slower starter, and tended to limp away from a standing start, but these last few weeks have helped me to bring back some of the old Alsop starting zip. Though I was still surprised to find myself heading down towards the gate in the lead, not only that it seemed nobody was coming with me. Oh well I wasn’t going to panic so I pushed on, but it wasn’t long before I’d been reeled in. After the first hill I started to feel a bit heavy legged, well what should I suspect with the training I’m doing. Down in third I saw the two up front pulling further away from me and coming into the third lap I was caught by another runner. I hung in there, more not wanting to let anybody else past rather than to try to snatch back 3rd. Finishing I was surprised to find I’d run 17:56, yes it may be my slowest time ever on the course, but it was under 18 minutes, which felt like a victory to me. Then it was off the reverse way round to cheer everybody else on, as is my way.
Feeling a little buoyant from my run I felt that I was now ready for a proper race. Generally speaking my road race 5k times are about a minute quicker than I run at Pennington so I was thinking I might be ready to run sub 17 again. I targeted the Sale Sizzler, this Thursday, rearranged work and even changed my training so I would be fresher, but then I went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid like running 5 miles on the treadmill on the Wednesday morning, it wasn’t fast, I’d deliberately tried to run 3-4 minutes slower than I usually do when I’m running on the treadmill, but it was fast enough to make my calf tighten up on Wednesday night, it was still tight the next morning and I just couldn’t get it loosened enough so by 4pm on Thursday I gave up on my plan and went out for a run instead, right decision as every time I pushed on it tightened up. Still a little tight this morning (Friday) but it’s easing out. Oh well back to the heavy training but I’m going to look for another race in September, it’s time I started to run like Roger Alsop can.
Written by Roger Alsop