Report By Eoin O’Brien
Inspired by Sandra Gowran’s 1-race-per-month 2016 plan, I realised that the end of February was fast approaching. I cried out of the BHAA cross country last weekend due to struggling fitness (eating cake) so I decided to jump into the Irish Runner paced mile last night. Something new and no harm with the upcoming track season and club training. And sure it’s only a mile, seriously how hard could it be.
The Sportsworld Saturday morning bake off has begun
I’m sure there are plenty of races on this weekend but I’m committed to making caramel slices for training on Saturday. I know my where my priorities lie. Michael Cunningham threw down the challenge last Saturday morning, arriving at the club house with a basket of amazing homemade chocolate brownies; whist I stood there holding a pack of hobnobs. Also this Sunday I want to do another lap of the Waterworks before the Ballycotton 10 miler on March 6th.
As much as people bemoan the hill at the end of Ballycotton, it’s nothing like the Waterworks hills. Until recently the last climb on the Waterworks also had a dog halfway up, which for years launched himself at me when, as a grown adult, I slipped my runners off and tried to tippy toe past his gate each week with my bottom lip trembling.
The last climb at the Waterworks
As that dog got older, fatter and slower he took to firing stones at me as the chase became impossible. Until his eventual demise a few years ago I used to lie in bed on Sunday mornings after the alarm went off debating whether to head to Tallaght or just give up running altogether.
Anyway I digress. So I was at the dog free track. The set up at ALSAA right beside Dublin Airport is quite impressive with the track just alongside the main complex. This Irish runner event had a talk on at 7pm but I was never going to make that with the Wednesday evening traffic now that the schools are back. I really find it hard to believe that many children are driving these days.
The premise was quite simple. At 8pm someone will pace a 12min mile and thereafter there is a pacer for 11min, 10min etc all the way down to the 5 min mile. It’s chipped timed and you just go with the pacer that fits your goals. While we all love our half marathons and 10ks, the mile on the track (4 laps) is a classic distance with a rich history.
The Irish records are held by Ray Flynn (1982 – 3:49.77) and Sonia O’Sullivan (1994 – 4.:17.25). There is also of course Eamonn Coghlan who became the first person over 40 to run a sub-4min mile in front of a packed house at the Harvard University indoor track in 1994. The weight of history was not lost on me as I had my own track legacy to protect.
Ray and Sonia
Allow me to digress briefly once more. If you haven’t heard (and if you have I don’t mind telling you again….and again) I pulled off an unlikely first ever victory in my first ever track race at the BHAA Trinity Track event in the summer of 2015. Tonight’s race is the first step in the Road to Rio aka Trinity College 2016. The date is Wednesday June 16th folks; put that in your diary.
Typical reactions as I talk about my past glories
Back to the present. A quick change in the car and I stuck my head in the door at the ALSAA sports centre. I caught the end of the talk in front of 40 or so which seemed to be about how to categorise your running to get something out of each session. More importantly I caught the piece explaining that this was a paced run and not a race. And to enjoy onesgoodself.
Outside at trackside was Sportsworlds ever smiling Lucy D’Arcy with her timing company myrunresults.com all set up and ready to go. Stephen Willoughby was the only other Sportworld face I recognised and it turned out he was pacing the 8min mile. So out of 3 Sportsworlders two were working. Well we all know what that means, yes I’m writing the race report for once.
Lucy & Stephen
Stephen was out before me with his group, it was the largest group of the night as
A. it was our lovely Stephen pacing and
B. it was combined with the 9min milers (the 12min/11min/10min was also a combined start earlier).
As an experience pacer he brought a good group home comfortably under 8min. It was perfect conditions for running, a clear night, a full moon, very cold, crisp and little in the way of the breeze.
All set to go
I was up next for the 7min mile so we all lined up behind our pacer ready to go. I observed that the pacer didn’t have any helium balloons tied around his waist so he could be easily spotted. It was announced then that my pacer was former Irish international and sub 4 min mile runner Gareth Turnbull. I decided to keep those observations about balloons to myself.
Soooo apparently this is not something you see on the track. Who knew?
I picked the sub 7 minute mile based on running 35:50 in the Rahney 5 mile back in January. A six minute mile would be too ambitious/not going to happen, so I figure if I break the 7 mile comfortably I’ll go for the 6 minute mile at this same event next month.
And off we went. I was surprised at the pace of the first 100m and got that little initial twang of panic that fades once you settle into a race. It was a crowded start and I got unintentionally blocked down the back. It was a mile so it was nothing to worry about but I still didn’t want to let a gap open to the pacer and have more work to do at the business end of the lap. I got into a decent position after 500m and then just sat in beside Turnbull who was banging out the splits on time. And that was it, my work done for the night.
The great thing about the paced mile is the pacer does all the work while encouraging & cajoling us all the way around. I didn’t even set my watch. I just sat on his shoulder until there was 300m to go and he told us to head off if we where up to it. It was a paced event and not a race so we stuck with the pacer but once given the all clear I broke off with two others and came in under the gantry in 6.38.
Overall I still had to push it but broke 7 min comfortably. I’ll jump in with the 6min pacer next month with the plan to at least break 6.30. The quality of the pacers doesn’t diminish either with Irish legend Catherina McKiernan pacing the 6min mile last night.
The whole atmosphere of the evening was ‘can do’ and to get everyone their goal. When someone asked about getting a 5.30 mile at the end of the pre-race talk, pacer Feidhlim Kelly offered to take them around and the pair broke the 5.30 marker….before Feidhlim went off again leading the sub-5min mile group.
I recommend everyone to give next month’s event a try out. Especially if you haven’t ran on the track before. Seriously if you haven’t been on the track before this is the perfect introduction. It’s very relaxed and encouraging with each group supporting the next. Again it’s not a race but an opportunity to get an official chipped time for one of the classic race distances.
As runners it can be hard to break routine and doing what you always do on a Wednesday. I’m a total long distance merchant but get out of your comfort zone, go and do something new next month and have some fun with your running people!
It’s also a nice feeling waking up today to having an official 1 mile time for the first time that can be compared (badly) against the times of the worlds best; and I’ve something to work towards reducing this summer.
Next paced mile is March 23rd at ALSAA and of course the big one is the BHAA Trinity Track on June 15th.
Who thought you could write so much on a 1 mile race, imagine I’d run a marathon #warandpeace
Full results: My Run Results
If you work hard enough and dream big enough one day you might get your own t-shirt too. Might.