When I joined the Maidstone Harriers, on the 14th March this year, I had a goal, a very VERY specific goal which (despite my previous best efforts) I had not managed to achieve.

Ever since I started running Parkruns in 2018, I always wanted to run a sub 21 minute 5K, at my local Maidstone venue; starting and finishing at the Museum of Kent Life and running along the towpath of the River Medway. I had previously managed to run a sub 22 minute time in 2018 and 2019 but then, Covid struck in 2020 and set me on a downward spiral which would take a full two years to recover from.

I caught Covid on Friday 13th of March in the very first wave. However, being a regular blood donor, a few weeks after the initial infection I was invited to take part in the Convalescent Plasma Trials by the NHS Blood Service who confirmed the presence of Covid-19 antibodies which helped me to understand why, even as a relatively fit and healthy person for my age, I was still struggling so much to recover.

For anyone who follows me on Strava, you will know how closely I follow changes in my heart rate and Vo2 Max to monitor my health. This stems from having that first encounter with Covid/Long Covid where almost overnight my Vo2 Max plummeted from 54 to 38, indicating the struggle that was going on inside as my body navigated that strange disease. Tracking my Garmin analytics has given me a better understanding of what aspects of training work for me, from one year to the next – when to push myself harder and when to rest.

From August 2020 to January 2022, I used the walk/run training method around my local block, trying to slowly regain the cardio health I had lost. February 2022 signalled a turning point in my healing and after nearly a year post-infection I was able to start properly running again, this time with the old Sweatshop group on Mondays and The Bacon Butty Brigade, running up Bluebell Hill, on Wednesday nights.

And then, more than two years after my initial infection, on the 28th May 2022, I felt ready at last to return to Maidstone Parkrun, clocking up a respectable time of 22:43.

Three months later, I had run a 21 minute PB, TWICE! Luck, faith, fate, whatever, clearly wasn’t with me though!! Not ONE second under!? Come ON!

So, with this very clear goal in mind, I joined The Harriers, and after only THREE track sessions and TWO 10K club runs in March, and a further THREE track sessions and TWO 10K club runs in April, on the 22nd April this year, I FINALLY set a NEW PB at Parkrun, of 20:44! (For details of the sort of training we do, I’ve included the track session details at the end of this blog post).

This was particularly special for me, because I’m fifty years old and it was my 50th Parkrun on that day, and as an added incentive to continue training, (maybe setting another future PB?), I am proud to have clocked faster times in 2022-23 than my two pre-Covid running years.

I believe this is all, a very clear sign that people can significantly improve under the right circumstances and in the right environment, even if they’ve felt stuck at the same level or suffered various health setbacks in their training. Running in a group, learning from other more experienced people, listening to the advice and instructions from coaches and mentors can reap enormous benefits and tangible results that can be seen in a relatively short period of time. People, like seeds, need room and encouragement to grow to accomplish their full potential. The friendly banter, variety of training, focused encouragement and competitive edge that comes with an England Athletics affiliated Triathlon Club, have all provided a much needed boost in my progress and the results speak for themselves. So far, I haven’t missed a single track session, and if they could bottle it and prescribe it to people as an all out fun tonic, it would be amazing!

The track sessions in themselves have all been different, focusing on building and improving tempo pace and the lactic threshold with 5K and 10K paced runs with progressive sprint intervals.

Track Sessions:

  1. Run laps of the track for;
    1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute.
    90 seconds active recovery in between each run segment – Finish
  2. 8 x 600m with 75 second rest in between
    Followed by;
    4 x 200m with 30 second rest in between – Finish
  3. 3 minutes running – 75 seconds rest
    2 minutes running – 60 seconds rest
    3 minutes running – 75 seconds rest
    1 minute running – 60 seconds rest
    3 minutes running – 75 seconds rest
    45 seconds running – 45 seconds rest
    3 minutes running – 75 seconds rest
    30 seconds running – 30 seconds rest
    3 minutes running – 30 seconds rest
    15 seconds sprint – Finish
  4. 1600m at 7min/mile pace – with 2 minute rest
    400m at 1:30 pace x 6 with 1 minute rest in between
    1600m at (FASTER than 7min/mile pace) – Finish
  5. 5 minutes of Tempo paced running x 5, with 2 minutes active rest in between – Finish
  6. 11 x 500m runs with 1 minute rest in between
    (First 8 laps at 10k pace, last 3 laps at 5k pace) – Finish

Club members also meet at the clubhouse in Maidstone on Wednesday evenings for a GPS guided run, catering for between 5K and 10K distances and occasionally, further, if members wish to keep on running, with regular races and events planned throughout the year and even club league tables and awards!


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