I FINALLY RAN A SUB 21 MINUTE 5K!!!!!!!!
It’s taken me 24 hours to compose myself and write something that doesn’t resemble pages of over-emotional, adrenaline-infused ramble!
I’ve had to calm myself with endless rounds of tap water on the rocks and vegetarian scotch eggs.
I am SO happy!! 😍
Prior to yesterday, my 5k PB was 21:02, which won me First Female at the Stockport Urban 5k in September 2021. That was one hell of a course (‘hell’ being the operative word...), including cobbles, steep steps and pretty much vertical uphill climbs.
My 10k PB is 40:24, which means somewhere in there, I must have ran a 5k in less than 20:12, but I never saw my splits for that event so can’t really claim it.
I was always curious as to whether I could one day perhaps go sub 21 on a standalone 5k. I reasoned that if I could achieve 21:02 over a course as treacherous as Stockport, I might possibly be able to beat that time on the flat.
Just weeks after the Stockport Urban 5k, I obtained my knee injury. My primary focus became recovery, and all of my speed work got thrown on the backburner. I lost a lot of form and confidence, and my previous PBs felt utterly out of reach.
Now fully recovered, I have spent the past few months alternating my training between distance and pace. I still do a half-marathon every other weekend, but my shorter mid-week runs are dedicated to increasing my speed.
I have now been to ParkRun nine times, and my past four runs have been new course PBs. Last week, I got round in 21:11. 9 seconds off my PB, and 12 seconds off that elusive sub-21 goal.
Yesterday morning, I went along to ParkRun Wilmslow, who welcomed guest pacers from a local running club: the brilliant Wilmslow Striders.
During the briefing, I scouted Ben, the 21 minute pacer, and asked if he could help me run sub-21.
Ben was amazing and went through the pace per kilometre that I would need to run. The aim for kilometre one was 4:07. Kilometre two steadied out at 4:36.
“Yeah... I might lose you at the start, but hopefully I’ll catch you up on the second kilometre...” I said dubiously.
4:07? Absolutely no chance! Not unless my trotters spontaneously spouted wheels, anyway… 😬
... Well, all I can conclude is that eating a Wispa bar for breakfast must be the secret to smashing a PB!
My plan had originally been to run with Ben for as much of the course as I could to give me an idea of timings, and then break away and give it everything as I came down the last hill before the finish. I said that I would be happy to finish with a time of 20:59, just as long as it was sub-21.
NEVER could I have expected what actually happened...
I darted off in front of Ben and stayed ahead of him the whole way round.
It was one of those runs where everything just went right.
My pace remained consistent, and my energy only seemed to increase.
Ben was coming up the final hill as I was pounding down it, and he shouted his encouragement.
I pushed on, over the bridge, and up to the finish.
Because I finished ahead of Ben, I knew I had gone sub-21. However, I hadn’t timed myself, so hadn’t a clue as to what my exact result was. I thought it might be around 20:52.
I wouldn’t allow myself to celebrate until I had that confirmation in black and white...
I had to endure the agonising wait for the official results to be released. Due to an error, the results took longer than usual to drop, so I spent the time between 10am and 4pm practically climbing the walls.
Josh lost his rag: “Why do you keep pacing up and down, muttering George Michael songs under your breath like a mad woman?! Will you just sit down and put the veggie scotch eggs away?!”
And then I got the email...
Cara Jasmine Bradley
14th out of 223 runners overall
2nd female out of 78
1st in age category
20 minutes and 32 seconds.
I mean, what the actual...?!
The elation that hit me was euphoric.
I know I constantly blog about how much I love running... But I really do LOVE running. ❤️
I wish I could bottle up the feeling of those last few steps of the run yesterday, carried by sheer adrenaline, knowing that I was about to crash-land into my very own dream.
I did it.
Anorexia used to be my drug. Now, it’s running. The feeling it sends slamming through my body is addictive.
It floods my mind with positivity. My veins pulsate with passion. Every footstep sends me rocketing into the sky. My pores explode with pride.
I can’t get enough of how running makes me feel both physically and mentally. It truly is an out-of-body experience, but at the same time, it connects me to my body in the most staggeringly mesmerising way.
There are many different versions of me: the Cara I am at work, the Cara I am at home, the Cara I am with my friends, Cara the introvert, Cara the extrovert, Cara the solo traveller, Cara the anorexia warrior, Cara the partner, daughter, friend, colleague... But my favourite version of me is Runner Cara.
I strongly believe that running brings out the very best in me.
When I run, I don’t have time to worry about anything else. I feel totally invincible. The only thing that matters is putting one foot in-front of the other. Everything else just melts away into blissful insignificance.
While running, my main focus is myself and my body. I have no choice but to tune into it and listen to its every word. I am my priority. It’s a rare opportunity to check in with myself.
How often do any of us get that chance to put ourselves first and simply be at peace with our bodies?
ParkRun is, in a word, incredible. How can something free be so valuable?
You only have to follow the ParkRun social media channels to see how much it means to people. Some of the stories that get shared are just beautiful. I have heard of people joining in their 70s after losing their lifelong partners, people attending after serious health scares and people signing up at rock bottom, to have their whole mindset changed and self-esteem boosted in a matter of weeks.
ParkRun is a gift that just keep on giving generously, week after week, dishing out great handfuls of pride, confidence, a sense of purpose, and a whole new family. You simply can’t put a price on these things.
There were 50 new PBs at my ParkRun yesterday.
That’s 50 people opening up their emails and being dizzied by that heart swelling pride. That’s 50 people on a high.
223 people doing something amazing with their Saturday morning.
223 individual stories and motives.
223 strangers, connected by this one extraordinary community.
I feel honoured that ParkRun is starting to form its own chapter within my intricate running story.
Yesterday felt like a fairytale.
I can’t wait to write the next few pages and see where my ParkRun journey takes me next.
“Stories? We all spend our lives telling them - about this, about that, about people... But some... Some stories are so good, we wish they’d never end. They’re so gripping, that we’ll go without sleep just to see a little bit more. Some stories bring us laughter and sometimes they bring us tears. But isn’t that what a great story does? Makes you feel? Stories that are so powerful, they really are with us forever...”
Cara Jasmine Bradley