My Lord Mayor's 5k 2017

Just the mere mention of the race is enough to startle. The race with a 10 min cut off. In front of 40,000 spectators. On a hot Saturday afternoon. I could never do that, I thought. And for years I had put it off. But last year I did do it, and like the best James Bond movies (Connery or Craig), once you’ve experienced one, you want another!

So, City of Norwich AC, one entry to 10 minutes of balls-to-the-wall running, please and thank you. £15 later and I have my ‘Golden Ticket’, valid for one tour of the very quick 5k, two lap circuit.

I had been suffering from a rather bad case of patella tendonitis since January, and it wasn’t really until the end of May that I had truly recovered from the injury and was in a position where I could train for the race. Luckily I had been improving my parkrun times, and had the chance to run the Ipswich Summer 5km a few weeks before Lord Mayors (and managed 19:51), and that course was much tougher than LM, so I knew at least I could achieve the time.

I had also been taking part in the Braydeston Mile series, so I knew my mile times were well within the sub-5k pace requirements (the last Braydeston Mile I did was a course PB of 5:42). I reasoned that even if I was 30 seconds slower I would still be under the required 6:26 for 5km sub-20.

Above: The Braydeston Milers from Friday 30th June.

So, a four week crash course in 5km training, consisting of short sharp runs (no more than 5 miles), combined with Mousehold time-trial route efforts, and helping my recovery with some Open Water Swimming and sports massages from Jude Durrant at the club. Luckily it was going well and the times on my usual routes were coming down.

The plan was that a week out, I would attempt to do the times required at the Humpty Dumpty 10km. I managed 9:30 for the 2.5km and 19:30 for half way. So, times in the bag, I am capable of running the required speed. And I managed to hold on for a 10k personal best as well (40:55), on a course that is significantly harder in its second half. Many thanks to training maestro Mark Garrett for the support in the second half of the Humpty Dumpty (as an aside, Mark achieved an outstanding time of 17:55 at the last Wroxham 5k Series race).

I had picked up my race number and chip – 137 – and the usual pre-race bowel nerves had kicked in. Good job the Flying Classrooms (the race HQ) had up to the job plumbing. Mingling with fellow Road Runners and friends from other club, the usual pre-race warm up along the course was done and I was ready to go. Standing at the top of Upper King Street, the nerves really started to kick in.

Above: Larking around before the race with Paul Martin and Mark Garrett. 

The feeling of both excitement and dread was palpable amongst all the runners at the start line. It all came down to ten minutes, 600 seconds, of pure balls-to-the-wall running to drag myself over the fabled half waypoint. That said, there’s no shame in not making the cut off point. Anyone who has the guts to go for it has big cahones, so it would be a spectacular almost at the worst.

With 5 minutes to go, time to lock in the Garmin. Only it had other ideas. Despite my pre-race nerves making me a mumbling mess, the Garmin had clearly missed the memo and was relaxing in the Bahamas or somewhere else. It would not lock on. Try it again. Nope. Time’s ticking down to the start. Try it again. Nope. Perhaps a hard reset would work. Nope. Brilliant, so I’ll be running without pacing guidance – how did those who ran pre-GPS ever cope? (Millennial runner problems aplenty).

So, using the trademark Barry Hipwell F*** it Moment system, time to run it on feeling and feeling alone. Primed and ready, Mr Polley did his usual exemplary pre-race briefing, and the klaxon sounded. 10 minutes and 2.5km, here we come.

Now, those of you who have raced along side me know that I tend to blast out of the start and then progressively die on my arse the further I go, and whilst my overall pacing has significantly improved over the years, this is the only race where you really need a strong start, and at 5km, by time you’re really blowing up, you’ve finished (hopefully).

Unfortunately, the start was a bit botched for me. I started mid pack this year, having started at the back last year, and the volume of runners, combined with a very short road and hairpin turn outside the Maids Head Hotel, means I didn’t really get going properly until 500m into the race. Oh well, best haul ass and get going.

Above: Best get going then. Note the Garmin on my wrist, which was throwing a hissy fit.

The rest really is a blur. I can remember bits and pieces of the race. I can remember running through Castle Meadow and up St Stephens Street, and seeing (true race winners) Ray and Baz, as well as the race leaders. Wroxham 5km winner Piers Arnold was fifth or sixth on the first lap, leading me to think crikey, the fast lads at the front are going really quickly.

Anyway, back to the pacing. As I had no watch my plan was to pace others who I knew could hit certain times, and luckily, Adie Grand was 30-odd meters in front of me. Aha!, I thought. Adie runs 19-ish mins, so if I pace behind him I will be alright.

So, around the roundabout at the top of St Stephens (running the inner pavement to save a few precious meters and nearly smacking my head on a road sign) and back down St Stephens, Red Lion Street and Castle Meadow. Still, it is all a blur in my mind. Up towards Bank Plain and then on a fast downhill stretch to the half way point.

And there he was, the man from City of Norwich with the rope, ready to go, like the Grim Reaper ready to drop his scythe and kill your LM dreams dead. I thought – not before I get through mate. And luckily I sped through the half way point, I think in around 9:40. Back through Tombland and I can hear familiar voices in the crowd shouting out. Past The Maids Head and back up for my second lap, I do a little victory fist pump for the Road Runners in the crowd and off I go.

The second lap is mostly another blur – I kept looking behind to make sure I wouldn’t be last across the finish line, otherwise the crowd support was phenomenal, and it was fun to observe the front leaders start buckling down and making their moves for the top spot.

Storming down towards the finish, still unsure of my time, I manage to clock the clock in the corner of my eye. 19:40-something with a 100m to go. In another case of the Baz Hipwell F*** it Moment (I may have to start paying him royalties for its continued use), time to sprint it out – you want that sub 20 Nick, go and get it. Thundering through Tombland to the finish, overtaking about 5 runners (apologies to Mr Guy and Mr Armes), I flew across the finish in a gun time of 19:50 (three seconds slower than last year).

Above: All out for the finish.

Lord Mayors 2017 is mission successful then. It looked shaky for a bit but it’s done, and along with 175 other runners, can say that ‘I did Lord Mayors’. Time to collect my memento then, and what excellent reward would City of Norwich be treating its runners to this year? Well, as with previous years, City of Norwich spared no expense and provided finishers with the highest quality porcelain liquid retention device (a shiny mug). The reward isn’t what you get for finishing the race. The reward is that you finished the race, and have eternal bragging rights.

I genuinely believe that anyone can run, and finish, the Lord Mayors 5k (City Centre Classic, to give the race its full name), especially anyone who is currently running 5km in the 20-22 min bracket. It’s an unforgiving race, both in its course make up (quite undulating) and hard 10 minute cut off, and requires dedicated 5k training. If you want to run it, you have to be completely focused on training for it. It took me six months of solid 5k training last year to get my times from around 21 – 21:30 down to the required levels, and that meant throwing everything else out of the window.

Previously I would run all distances up to Half Marathon, and all the Grand Prix races, and be decent at them (tracking around 7-7:20 min miles). By specifically targeting 5km, at the expense of everything else, I eventually got my times down to, at the peak of my fitness, 18:40 (Norwich parkrun), and that had a huge impact on the rest of my times – most notably running the Turkey Trott 10m at consistently 6:30min miles, achieving a 1:05 time, in December 2016.

Above: Mission Accomplished!

We have an excellent network of coaches and experience within the club, and it would be great to make this a target race for the club, and get a lot more of the female NRR’s entered – there are plenty who are around the 21 minute mark, who with a bit of support and training, could easily finish the race.

Running Lord Mayors requires dedicated training with no guarantee of even finishing. But it is worth doing.

Absolutely. 100%

It is the highlight of the year.