Congratulations to the 1700 people who took part in the England Athletics Virtual 5k Road Champs. For a new event, it proved really popular – but more importantly demonstrated just how dedicated our running community has been in recent months. Fast times certainly were order of the day as Frank Baddick from Newham and Essex Beagles and Dani Chattenton from Milton Keynes Distance Project demonstrated with world class 13:43 and 15:14 clockings to win the men’s and women’s races.
“The plan was to start at 3:07/km for 3km then pick up the last 2km, if I felt good,” says Dani chatting about her world class performance. “However, we did the first kilometre in 3 minutes! It felt controlled so I told myself to relax and stick with it. Thankfully, I felt okay with the swift pace until the last kilometre when it really started to hurt and I was sure I’d make it to the end with 800m to go,” she continues.
“I’m really pleased to have won the national title.” she adds, “That, alongside the time I ran provide a big step forward for my running career. Coming so close to the Olympic standard ratifies Tokyo 2021 as a challenging but attainable target. Although it doesn’t ‘count’, my coach and I now know I can run that sort of time and helps us to assess the training I have been doing over the past season and plan for next year.”
Like Dani, who had training partners help her through the early stages, the men’s winner Frank created his own mini race to make sure he could maintain a fast pace. “It wasn’t quite the solo effort many others had to make do with; Andy Hobdell had got Kevin Seaward and Tom Evans involved too. Kevin took us to 3km in about 8:15 which was a huge help, it was then over to Tom and I to push through the last 2km.
“I’ve not found motivation too challenging,” he adds. “I’ve been working from home throughout lockdown and made the most of no commute; training has been a daily welcome break and a good reason to get out and exercise. The hardest part for me was every run being solo for months on end, it made me think about why I run, the enjoyment and satisfaction I get from our sport.”
Dani has similarly used lockdown to her advantage. “We experimented with my training schedule as I had more flexibility with training times,” she explains. “I stopped double run days (as per the government guidelines) and introduced cross training and moved my Saturday session to a Friday so I could include some threshold/ tempo work in my Sunday long run. My mileage decreased slightly because of the lack of double runs and we followed a three-weeks on, one-week off cycle too. I think that the switch up in training kept things interesting and probably helped with motivation too. It also meant I couldn’t compare training times or paces to previous sessions as the set up was different and I wasn’t training on a track. I enjoyed the new routine and stuck with it (cross training included) when lockdown restrictions eased. Since the 5k I have had my annual end of season break and will start building into 2020-2021 training soon.”
The event, of course, wasn’t just about overall winners. There were plenty of amazing age-group performances. Aly Dixon, for instance was the women’s V40 winner in 16:40.
“I’ve done a few of the shorter virtual races and they have all been a case of run as fast as you can from the start and try to hold it until the end,” she says, describing race tactics most of us know only too well! “Being a marathon runner (2:29) I’m used to running hard on my own. I do 99% of my training solo and when I ran my marathon PB I ran the last 20 miles completely solo, so it’s not totally alien for me. For this one though I knew that wasn’t possible to just go hell for leather so I gathered together 4 others who were all aiming for similar time and I got my Dad to accurately measure the route so I wasn’t relying on GPS so it had a bit more of a race feel to it. It worked out really well. I ended up being a little off where I was hoping for but still a solid performance. In a true race situation, I’m sure I could have pulled a few more seconds out. Although if I hadn’t had it properly measured and trusted my GPS I could have boasted a much faster 16.11 but I would have only been fooling myself!”