A new personal best at the NSW 5K Champs

With a chance to race against some of the best athletes in the state, I wanted to make the most of my opportunity.

It finally happened: I officially cracked 15 minutes and ran a big personal best at the NSW 5000 metre Championships on the weekend.

The new personal best time: 14:46.

It was good enough for 12th place in the men’s A race, which had some seriously impressive competitors up-the-front, including the top 2 finishers, Kieran Tall and Matt Hudson, who both went under 14 minutes.

Winner Kieren Tall and second place finisher Matthew Hudson both ran 58s final laps to sneak under 14 minutes. Incredible! (Credit: Athletics NSW/David Tarbotton)

Further back in the field, we had some quality athletes, and it was great to work alongside James Tunbridge and Jack Green (of Run Crew) to chase, and smash, our sub-15 goals.

It wasn’t the first time I hit the mark — way back in July, I ran 14:50 in a time trial in Wollongong — but this was my first time running sub-15 in an official race, and while wearing spikes. It’s a great feeling to have the proverbial monkey off the back.

Kudos to the organisers

I know I sound like a broken record in these posts, but it was another night of amazing racing put on by the Athletics NSW team, and all their dedicated volunteers and officials.

I’m stoked I ran a new personal best, but it’s all the more special because it happened at Sydney Olympic Park in a championship event. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Athletics NSW and its commitment to delivering a 2020-21 track and field season.

I’ll break down the race and some of the highlights from the night further down, but first, let’s look at the week in training.

Training week at a glance

  • Total KM: 117. A modest taper for race week. Back to marathon levels this week, and looking to push to 140 km.
  • Longest Run: 31 km. A slightly shorter Sunday long run with the Wollongong Track Club (WTC). A good de-brief on the NSW Champs. There were more than a few personal bests accrued.
  • Toughest run: NSW 5000 metre Champs. It was always going to hurt. And the only way to claim a new personal best was to work harder in the distance than I ever had before. Tick.
  • Biggest confidence booster: As above. A personal best is great, but it’s not simply a trophy — it’s a functional indicator. This race is reassuring as I work towards my overarching goal of a 2:20 marathon. If I’m getting faster over 5 km, my target marathon pace should feel easier to hit and sustain.

Key sessions

It was a week of mostly easy running, with only one session. On Tuesday we got to the track for some short, sharp speed work. I jumped in with my pal Greg Frost (who was also racing) and we did the following:

  • 2 x 800 off 1 minute standing rest (targeting 72s laps)
  • 4 x 400 off a lap jog (I was targeting 67s laps)
  • 4 x 200 off 200m slow jog (I was targeting 30-32s)

We both hit our targets, and finished-up feeling ready for race day on Saturday night.

The NSW State Championships

I was in the last race of the night, which meant I got to watch all my training mates in action throughout the evening. And they did not disappoint.

We may not have the critical mass of a squad like Run Crew, but we’re building something pretty special here in Wollongong, and we’ve got some amazing athletes (Under 20s all the way up to mid-40s) making big strides. We’ve been putting in work, and we’re not afraid to get out and compete.

Here are some of the highlights from our crew:

  • In the D Race (the hottest temperature-wise of the night), Josh Engel ran 17:23. It’s another step closer to hitting sub-17.
  • In the C Race, Sam Jones took the win in 15:43, in a big personal best. Mitch Ryan also ran a solid 16:02.
  • In the B Race, Luke Hince finished second and won the U20 championship. He ran an amazing 14:53.
  • In the same race, Greg Frost smashed his old personal best of 15:48, and ran 15:11 for seventh place. He’s quickly closing-in on sub-15.
Greg Frost running a stellar 15:11. (Credit: Athletics NSW/David Tarbotton)
  • Jeff Chaseling (at age 44) ran a solid 15:41.
  • And our unofficial captain, Russ Dessaix-Chin, ran 16:01. Russ is less than eight months removed from a significant Achilles surgery and his comeback is far from finished, so this was an awesome showing.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: I’m proud of all these guys for their effort on the night, but also for showing-up every week to help build a competitive running culture in Wollongong.

The Wollongong squad, minus a few key members.

The Men’s Championship Race

Finally it was time to race, and the conditions were near-perfect. I had a quick chat to my coach, Barry Keem, beforehand and we reiterated our strategy: try to hold 70 second laps and run steady, but cover moves. Got it!

After a few quick strides, it was time to (frantically) pin our hip numbers on (my least favourite thing about track racing) and line up. When the gun went, I settled into a spot near the back and just focused on executing the race plan. Run steady.

For the most part, that’s exactly what I did. I ran my first 200 metres in 35 seconds, and then my lap splits never deviated from 70-71.8 seconds (save for my final lap when I ran a 68; not quite as fast as I would have liked but the tank was empty). The splits are here.

Tucked-in behind Tunbridge (Run Crew kit). Credit Flynn Hopkins

Early on I sat on my mate James Tunbridge as we rode the train. At around the 2.5 km mark, I went around him to do some of the heavy lifting, and to try to close the gap with another group a few metres up, which included Will Atkinson, Dylan Holland and Leo Paterson.

Rolling with Tunbridge (right) and Jack Maxwell (left). Credit: Athletics NSW

Eventually, we caught that group, and passed a few runners who had fallen off the pace further up the field. As we were entering the final 1000 metres, I passed Dylan and found myself in 12th spot. I tried valiantly to catch Leo, and was sitting pretty close on his shoulder with 400 metres to go, but he had a solid kick home to put some distance between us.

I tried to muster some speed, but my legs were toast and my form was God-awful on the homestretch (at least it looked that way from the scarce video evidence). It certainly wasn’t a pretty last lap, but it was fast enough to hold my position.

If someone told me 18 months ago I’d be running faster than 15 minutes, I would have laughed at the very notion. It didn’t seem possible. And yet, here I am. 14:46. It’s proof that consistency and hard work in this sport can pay-off, at any age.

I’m stoked with this result, and I also can’t wait to get out and run even faster; in the 5, the 10, the half and the marathon. That’s part of the beauty of running; it’s an eternal quest. When one goal is satisfied, there’s always another one lying in wait just over the horizon. And as long as our bodies are able, we want to push them to their limits.

Onwards to the next race, and the next goal. You can follow me on Strava. Or message me if you have any questions or tips at myles@runcreature.com. And you can help us grow RunCreature by reading and sharing our great content.

I’m Myles Gough. I’m a distance runner, writer and teacher. I started RunCreature to tell stories about athletes, runners, and the issues that matter to our community. 

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