When we start out as runners, laced up in a brand new pair of ill fitting running shoes and hitting the road like Bambi, chances are we aren’t even considering our first race. At the very least we’re in survival mode and hoping to make it through that initial distance. When our confidence builds we start to add goals and oftentimes, that first race goal is a 5K.
I am very encouraging of new runners and if you are just beginning, I highly suggest that you sign up for a 5K. It holds you accountable, it allows you to keep track of milestones leading up to race day, and it’s a new experience to stand at that start line (doesn’t matter where in the pack you are). Nothing beats the butterflies on race morning. As we grow more experienced, toying with races of varying distances, intensity, and speed, it’s easy to forget our roots. I’ve been going back to the 5K for the past few weeks.
My goal for this summer was to not only seek a new 5K PR but to shave off nearly 2 minutes from my time last year at the Altamont 5K (25:47). It is a small race (several hundred runners) but it is close to home and the atmosphere is just fun. For a small field there is a good amount of competition (darn you HS XC runners!) and some great prizes. As the 3rd race of the 1st annual Hilltown Triple Crown Series (the other 2 races were held the past 2 weekends) it would allow me to “warm up” in the preceding weeks. This could not have been more perfect. These were the first races since the marathon back in May and have restored my running confidence as of late.
While I did not have much of a strategy the past 2 weekends, I managed to PR last weekend with a time of 24:57 (2nd in AG). I really don’t know how I pulled this off but it must’ve been because my dad came along that morning. He asked me if I’d be done in 25 minutes, to which I replied, “I dunno, dad, that’s out of my reach this week. Probably closer to 26.” I had to prove the poppa-razzi wrong (He was hanging out of the sunroof of the car snapping pics along the way. Let’s just say he should stick to his day job!).
So, I pulled off a PR, but the one thing I forgot? 5Ks ARE HARD. You have to jump on the pain train the minute the gun goes off. It helped that the start/finish was on the HS track but the course was hilly. I pretty much used everything I had in the tank and nearly barfed at the finish. I say “pretty much” because I didn’t barf and won’t feel successful until I do so. This Saturday I am going to give it all I’ve got in an attempt to hit my arbitrary goal of 24:00 (or just under). The course is flat aside from a small little burp at the start and it is a course I run on daily. I’m hoping to pull it off especially since I’m 2nd in my AG for the race series (my nemesis lives in my town). Don’t worry, it’s healthy competition!
Some people scoff at 5Ks, especially when they’ve run longer distances like marathons. I myself don’t run very many 5Ks but I’m on a kick lately and they are helping me to focus and tap into speed I never thought I was capable of. They’re also priming me for a transition into half marathon training for an October race. 5Ks require just as much discipline, if not more, as any other distance.
What’s your favorite race distance? Do you have a 5K strategy? Do you go all out from the start or progressively ease into it based on how you feel?