"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Grand Park of Tirana 3 Mile Race - December 2023 - Albania

Despite a taxing hill run and a pretty steep hike at Kruja the day before, I felt in good shape for this one. My previous 2 miler had been cold, flat and only just a shade under 13 minutes but for some reason I had the curious notion that I could break 19 minutes in a race with faster runners ahead of me and similar-paced competition around me. With good numbers turning out for this race on a cold but bright morning, there were no excuses available.

After a short silence, we began from our start line on a long barrage at one end of the lake,  by running towards the city and hotel for just a few metres before a sharp bend took us on to the meandering lakeside path. It was wide and formed of pale paving stones that looked slippery and uneven but were in fact anything but. The surface was firm and reliable and fortunately dry too so the going was good. There were ups and downs but no hills as such, so it was as fast a course as you'll find in Tirana. I went off in around 10th place, hanging on to a small pack of Grahak, Vlatko and Pataka (the latter my competition in the over-50s).

I'd set my watch to give me half-mile splits as usual, hoping for some 3:10s but expecting more like 3:15s. The first one came up at 3.11, a pace of 6.22, but I felt already as if I was going at 2-mile pace and likely to crash if I tried to keep it up. The energy ebbed and flowed - pace falling to 6.30 then recovering to 6-20-something as I felt just one side or the other of the OK line. Pataka looked strong and my attempts to draw level with him never quite succeeded. Vlatko eased away from us, Grahak fell slightly back. The second half of the course brought us out of the trees with open views across the lake and I found I was just able to maintain the pace I'd been running as we came into the final mile. Pataka drew away by just a few seconds but I managed to hold on over the barrage, towards the huge Christmas Tree that was level with the start and then I was in the final 38 metres of extra distance to the finish line. I could see 18+ on the clock and realised I was on for my target of sub-19, so I emptied the tank, finishing breathless and totally run-out in 18.56. Although Pataka beat me into 2nd place for our agegroup (not officially recognised on this occasion) he had definitely towed me round to that sub-19 time so I owe him one. This race really proved the power of running together, of friendly competition, to get that little extra pace out of every runner. It definitely got an extra 10 seconds per mile out of me.

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