In January I drew up a few goals for the year regarding the 5K distance, namely sub 19-min around about 2 April and then a sub 18-min 5K by the end of the year. Well, I think I was a little over-ambitious with these goals. The 2 April deadline came and went without a run. Problems on the home front meant there was no way I was going to be running that weekend, so I delayed my attempt. In training I soon realised I wasn't like to get sub 19-min this early in the season either, so I settled for around about 19:30 for the start of the season and we'll see how I get on from there.

Well, last Saturday I kicked off my 2011 season in fine form. It was a gloriously sunny day and I headed down the road for the Reading Parkrun, my first for the year. The weather was good and the turnout was incredible. At 9am we were sent on our way and I soon fell into the groove and had a very enjoyable run, in my Merrell Trail Gloves. I'd actually forgotten I'd set myself a mini-goal of 19:30, but ended up finishing 10th over all in a new PB of 19:33 anyway. Not bad if I say so myself. I definitely need to work on my speed, overall cardio levels and race pacing but I'm still way fitter and better than I was this time last year.

Things are going to be a little different this year on the racing front too: I'm going to be racing in shoes, well actually in Vibram Five Finger Bikilas on the road and Merrell Trail Gloves offroad. I've come to this decision for a few reasons:

  1. English councils and the Highways Agency are currently in a rather frugal phase when it comes to repairing and maintaining roads. Potholes aren't repaired until someone loses their car in it and the current surfacing policy seems to be spray some sticky stuff onto the tar that's already there, throw some black stones at it and see what sticks. As a result, the roads are effectively big long stony paths with a nice build up of loose stones towards the curbs. This is a nightmare to run on barefoot and quashes any hopes of a good time.
  2. I plan on spending a lot more time running offroad. I find running offroad very enjoyable and way more relaxing than running on the road. I've also got my eye on several races that are either entirely offroad or have sections which are offroad and these are generally not very conducive to barefoot running.
  3. I'm gunning for some good times this year. I've got a good year's worth of training and running under my belt now, so I think I can start pushing things a bit and aiming for the times I used to run. I don't expect to be anywhere near my all-time personal bests, but I am hoping for some good times, and I don't want these attempts ruined by encountering one of the above issues.

I will however continue to do most of my training barefoot. Offroad training runs and recovery runs will likely involve shoes, but that's it.

Monday sees my first 10K of the season on the rather flat (apparently) Shinfield 10k coarse. As it's apparently a flat one and I'll be running in the Bikilias, I'm hoping for a good time to start the season off with. We'll see how it goes.