The Chase of Sub 17

Sub 17, it’s a target it’s a goal. It’s only a parkrun. But it’s Barnsley parkrun.

21st of September, 2013. My first parkrun, nervous as hell, printed barcode, taking the full A4 sheet. Just in case. Scrunched in my back pocket, not knowing what to expect. 400m’s up my street, from my front door. Out of my comfort zone massively, but that’s where you grow! Crowds of people, the unknown. I went, I saw, I observed and I just ran. I struggled, I was weaker and not experienced. Despite the many childhood memories, Locke Park became different. It became 3 laps, from the cafe, to the 4 apostles or also known as where Geoff stands, down towards the speed camera sprint, before hitting the corner and climbing to the tennis courts, again to the back of bandstand, again to the tower and fall back down to the cafe. 3 laps. That was Locke Park now. It used to be a place to hang out with mates, I learnt to ride a bike there, played football on the courts at the back, fallen off my bike there, right on the speed camera sprint, had drunken walks through, climbed the Joseph Locke Statue, swung up in the trees on some orange nets we found as kids. Since then I’ve grown and developed, I’ve helped a little bit, painted the bandstand with a group from work and then painting all the surrounding gates and fences, a year later. Locke Park has become familiar again, it’s become the known. It’s become a little more responsible. Parkrun had become that, 21:34. I was home. Collapsing on my doorstep and sweating a little. 21:34. A benchmark for all future weeks. Where I begun. I didn’t go to parkrun straight away. I’d done a little bit of running before, I wished I went before anything else. Would love to know where I would’ve been.

The first target became clear, break 21. It didn’t last long, 20:43 the following week. So it was set sub 20, the next goal. It felt like an eternity before it was conquered, 20:01, 20:02. Oh you tease! Every single time, going home, collapsing on me step, sweating! Giving it my all, using it as a threshold run, as a run in the park, as a measure to see where I am. Weekly. Every Saturday. 11th of January, it was done. Sub 20, 19:39. 2 months later, sub 19. 18:46, off the back of 5 PB’s. Parkrun was growing me, become more and more confident, but still being that lad who very rarely would speak to anyone, before and after! It would be a year before I’d PB again. The sub 18 would take 2 years. 17:58 Speed isn’t natural to me, it takes me a parkrun to find it. Usually feeling fresher at the end now, then I do at the beginning. Things have changed, instead of collapsing on my step, I’ll probably go for another run. Have they improved? I think they have.

The 2nd of April 2016, that’s when I broke the 18 minute barrier. From then it’s not been a given, I’ve gone through spells of bad running and good running. Enjoyable and hating it, I’ve turned up, some PB’s have been slim. Some have been comfortable. They’re never taken for granted, they’re worshipped and that’s how we move forward. PB’s at parkrun come hand in hand with enjoyment and whether it’s working or not. It was a sliding scale of PB’s throughout the start of my running streak in 2015, getting it as low as 17:12 by March 2017. But I knew it would take some beating and something new to get as low as that again. I knew sub 17 wasn’t a million miles away but it felt it, it felt a distance. I’d become content, that in actual fact I’d probably never get there. It wasn’t in my realm, I begun to stop believing and stop dreaming. I’d go, I would cruise round and just pace it to what felt like comfortable, I struggled I found a rut, I wouldn’t kick on a gear. My excuse would be, I’m too familiar with it. Rather than it being my advantage, rather than it being my trick. It’s a patch I know, I’m all too familiar of where it climbs and falls, all too familiar with every rut and tree. But I was stuck, needed a kick. Like I would need to find a new gear to get there.

Looking at the class of runner who has got there. How can I do it my way? And push myself over that line. Take the barrier of sub 17 anywhere else, take it to another parkrun? A standard 5k, I knew I could achieve it. I have achieved it. Many of time, my 5k PB sitting at 16:07. Having only raced the distance twice. But racing it a few more times on the track. But this is Barnsley and it only counts if it’s Barnsley. The rule for a sub 20 runner at Barnsley is a minute elsewhere. Setting 17:07 as a new PB on the 14th of July, and then 16:07 at Doncaster 5k my theory came true! Feeling fresh and used to speed, I got 17:03 the following week. Monkey now on my back, 3 seconds that’s all it takes.

I knew 3 in a row would be a massive ask and with a full day of work on the Friday before I decided to take a week off and if feeling alright I’ll try again sometime in August. So just paced around in 18 minutes. Some massive improvement from where I first ever was! I didn’t die on the doorstep.

The 4th of August, 2018. I woke up feeling alright, but with awful stomach ache that I went to bed with the night before. It wasn’t quite going, but the rest of me felt good. Did I know I was going to push it? Nope. The first 400m’s will tell me. For me to get a sub 17, I knew it meant a 5:40 lap. So taking each lap at a time, listening to my body. Moving through. That’s all it would take. The shape is alright, I’m probably alright at the minute.

400m’s in, I felt alright. Think I was on pace. It felt like 5:30’s ish. Around the park we go. The last few races, mainly since the Doncaster 5k, I’ve had my watch set on, MAP screen. Showing me only the direction of travel and only beeping and showing me lap times every 400m’s. Meaning I need to average a 1:22 lap. I’d glance down every now and then just to reassure myself, when it beeps. But don’t wanna get bogged down in watch, and not listening to how I actually feel. Round and round we go. I soon found myself on my own, working away and grinding it out. First lap down, 5:37.

On pace. With some to loose? Soon finding myself catching people, no longer alone. Enjoying it. You can always tell if I’m enjoying it, I’ll say to people, Well Done. Keep going. Thank them for moving to one side. Try and offer some sort of encouragement. If I’m struggling, I’ll not even be able to catch my breath. It’s the same for everyone. Isn’t it? 2nd lap syndrome at Barnsley, 5:40. A little slower, but still on pace. I knew third lap would have to get quicker and kick on to make sure I’d do it this week.

Possibly one of my favourite photos by Steve Frith.

Hoping and striding, really focussing now. Struggling? More and more. Hoping I’m giving it something. No rest up the hill. No recovery, just moving forward. Moving on. Hitting the tower with a bit of a struggle, but it is literally all downhill from here.


I had done it. A 10 second PB, they’re hard to come by. Sub 17. Chuffed. Happy. Elated. Means that there is no longer a monkey of 3 seconds on my back. I had done a sub 17. 241 parkruns down, a whole lifetime to go. So there is always next Saturday. Any other run, it might be a lot easier. But…..

This is Barnsley.

Just Keep Running.

Added note, went to the Penistone Track meet later in the day. The last one in the series. Target race for me is always the 5000m here, it’s the only one long enough. 400m and 800m’s are attempted warm ups whilst building massive amounts of lactic acid! Personal target to pace for a 17. Just grind it out on the track.


1st place

Not a bad day at the office and a great end to the track season. We’ll resume that in 2019.

Ellie also managed her second ever track meet, and off the back of football training and Gym work. She’s caught the track bug. The bug of PB’s. Setting 4 PB’s in the process, setting 2 club records, breaking 3 and equalling 1 (an 100m’s from 1985)! Moving herself out of comfort zone and trying something different and appearing to enjoy it.

100m- 14.8 seconds (PB)

200m- 32 seconds

100m Hurdles- 22.2 seconds

400m- 71 seconds (PB)

400m Hurdles- 82.8 seconds

High Jump- 1.35 metres (PB)

Long Jump- 4.23 metres (PB)


Just Keep Running!

Memories. That’s all they ever are and ever will be, make them!

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