Ok, so today was supposed to be the day Matty, my Personal Trainer, was due to join me for the first time at ParkRun but he was unable to be there having worked too many hours yesterday. 🤣 He did have a very long busy day though, to be fair. He should be joining me at Stanley Park next week. 🤞

My Garmin, as always, knows it’s a run day. It knows my goal for the run, my time to aim for. This week was straight forward… get below 30 minutes. A pace of 6min/km would get me there.

And there it is, the familiar sight of the Clock Tower and the ParkRunners assembling and eagerly awaiting starting orders. A bit chilly this morning and a forecast that light rain was possible.

As our Run Director for the day (Lesley) delivered the pre-run briefing the forecast proved accurate and light rain did indeed start falling from the sky. However, as we were set on our way – at 9:05am – the rain cleared and glimmers of sunlight broke through the clouds. I had positioned myself in the first third of the field of 233 ParkRunners to try and get into some clear space as early as possible but the first lap through the woodlands was met with some congestion. The second lap was a bit clearer but I still take it a bit easier through that section as it’s more like a trail run with terrain that could easily lead to a slip or a twisted ankle.

Another full 5K run with no stopping, no walking. I was expecting a personal best this week helped by having Matty alongside me and pushing me harder but would that be possible in his absence or would that sub 30-minute time elude me once again?

My Garmin said I’d done it – telling me I had achieved three personal records. Fastest 1 km (5mins 22secs), Fastest 1 mile (9mins 4secs) and Fastest 5 km (29mins 6secs). Now I just had to wait for the official times to be published later in the morning.

That’ll do… a confirmed personal best – 29 minutes 38 seconds – and my highest age grading of 52.31%

What is Age Grading?

Age grading seeks to “level the playing field”. Take, for example, the following four parkrunners: a 9 year old girl who finishes with a time of 29:15, a 23 year old male with a time of 21:30, a 65 year old man on 27:57, and a 75 year old woman with a time of 40:25. Although their absolute finish times are different they all share exactly the same level of performance/fitness when age and sex are taken into account. To be specific, they all have exactly the same age-graded percentage “score” of 60%.

This score is the ratio of your own finish time against the world record for your sex and age, expressed as a percentage. For example, if you take 40 minutes to complete a parkrun and the world record for your age and sex is 20 minutes, your age graded percentage score is 50%.

This score allows you to compare your personal performance against others even though they might be a different age and/or a different sex to you. The boffins at parkrun HQ don’t disclose the exact numbers they use – but they are broadly based on the WMA (World Master Athletics) 2006/2010 tables for track 5k records. – to which they have added figures for 4 year olds and over 100s!

  • Above 40% –   You’re faster/fitter than the average person
  • Above 50% –   You’re doing pretty good!
  • Above 60% –   Local club class level
  • Above 70% –   Regional class level
  • Above 80% –   National class Level
  • Above 90% –   World class level
  • Above 100% – World record level performance (although may not be official)

So at 52.31% I’m doing pretty good and well above average for speed and fitness. When you consider where I started last October – 26.66% – that’s pretty decent!

The GPS heat trace shows my relative pace over the two laps of the course and you can clearly see the woodland section as being my slowest section. There’s a few minutes right there for me to grab next week.

Meet Bill. Bill is one of the organisers of Blackpool ParkRun and was one of the first people I spoke to on my first scary ParkRun back in October last year when he was one of the trail walkers, bringing up the rear of the pack. At the start of my ParkRun journey my goal was merely to walk the 5K and during my first outing I chatted with Bill for the duration and had a photo taken with him at the end. A friendly face who welcomed me into this scary world of ParkRunning.

Bill was back on trail walker duties again this week so yet another photo op once he had crossed the finished line.

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