I once said I would never use the Imperial system on this blog. I lied. But this is all Lanky Pole‘s fault! When I signed up for the London 10000m, he convinced me to sign up for the Westminster Mile. At the time it made sense: it was the day before the 10K and it would be a good preparation for it. What a fool I was!

Westminster Mile map & bib

Westminster Mile map & bib

On Sunday morning, I met Lanky Pole at Green Park at 8:15 and we started scouting the race course. 1 mile is really short: it’s barely more than 4 times 400m and it’s actually usually ran on 400m tracks. It doesn’t even make a full lap around St James Park! And this mile is very scenic: it begins on the Mall, continues all around St James Park along the Horse Guards building and the Imperial War Museum and it ends just in front of Buckingham Palace!

Lanky Pole is switching from long distance running to mid-distance running, so he should be full of good advice for this distance but he only told me: “It’s easy, just run fast”. OK, actually, after that he gave me some real piece of advice and he said: “Start working at 800m, don’t start sprinting too early, 200m before the end is good”. Actually there’s much more to it than that and it even involves lots of strategy especially when it is ran on tracks but I just wanted to run my first one, so he didn’t get into that level of detail.

After our inspection, we began warming up: 10 minutes easy jog, some dynamic stretching, and a little bit of sprinting for good form. Of course, as before each and every race we took a leak and tied our laces properly – that’s the 2 most important things to do, remember! We then went to the starting line. Lanky Pole went in the first wave and I went in the second wave. My target was to run it under 6 minutes. I thought it was a pretty good goal: it’s a round number and it’s exactly the time I should do according to the race predictor based on my 10K personal best.

The horn blew and I started running. “Running fast” wasn’t a great piece of advice because I quickly realised that if I did that I wouldn’t survive the first 800m, so I followed the other runners in my wave. OK, maybe I went a bit faster than most because their pace seemed a bit slow. I hindsight I think I started too fast but apparently it’s a common rookie mistake and anyway, I wasn’t overtaken by many runners at the end of the race so I wasn’t too far off. I tried to look at my watch (like I do for longer distances) and stay at the target pace of 3:40 per km but it’s hard to glance at your wrist when you’re making such an effort and anyway it didn’t seem really accurate. It turns out I almost never ran at that pace and I was either much faster or much slower.

At the 800m mark, I though to myself “Did Lanky Pole said I should start working at 800m?” but I was starting to get tired so I though “Naaaaaah, it must be 400m before the end, let’s run slower”. Yes I know I’m a lazy bastard. But there was this heel-striking bugger running next to me and he was really distracting me with his heavy pounding and his slow cadence (I averaged 213 spm) and I was longing for the end. When the 400m mark arrived I started ‘working’ and left him behind. Apparently I wasn’t working hard enough and some other dudes overtook me. At the 200m mark, I couldn’t resolve myself to sprint, I tried to go faster but my legs wouldn’t follow, they were just aching too much. At the 100m mark, with the finish line in sight, I finally managed to overcome my fatigue and to accelerate. 10 meters before the end, I went flat out and released a loud scream. I believe this final scream is becoming my signature (remember my Olympic Park 10K).

I was really happy with my 5 minutes and 42 seconds, it’s 18 seconds better than my target and I was ecstatic: one new PB established! Lanky Pole was disappointed by his 4 minutes and 52 seconds, it was his first mile on road and he didn’t have his usual points of reference like he has on tracks. We went running a little bit to cool down but I couldn’t do too much of it because my lungs were burning and my throat was aching so much it almost tasted of blood. But it didn’t prevent me from stretching properly and from going to the pub to celebrate over a pint and a good British fry up. Not too much though because we still had to race 10K the following day!