“You ran the Chicago Marathon! This should be a piece of cake for you!”
The statement came from a stranger I had pulled alongside at a 5K a couple years ago. I was wearing my Chicago Marathon finisher’s shirt, and I was huffing, puffing and cursing under my breath.
“Yeah,” I responded, gasping for air, “but at no point during those 26.2 miles was I running this fast!”
Oh, the 5K. It’s a staple of the running world and an important part of any runner’s race diet/training plan. I like to do the fun little 5Ks as much as the next guy. But actually racing a 5K? I kind of hate it.
This year I’ve raced three 5Ks and recorded two PRs. They all hurt, and I seriously contemplated stopping to walk and giving up on my goals during all three. (By comparison, I can only remember two other races out of about 40 during the last four years where I entertained those thoughts.)
As a distance runner, I often don’t even get comfortable until I’m 3.1 miles into a run, and those first couple miles are almost always the toughest. But when you’re racing a 5K, there are no “warmup miles.” It’s discomfort from the word go, and while that discomfort doesn’t last long in the grand scheme of things, it sure does suck.
I also struggle with pacing at the short distance. I’m always fearful of going out too fast during a half or full marathon, but at a 5K, you’re supposed to go out fast — and then continue to go fast until you reach the finish line and/or collapse. That mental switch is an obstacle I’m learning to overcome, one race at a time.
I’m incredibly proud that I’ve knocked almost a minute off my 5K PR this year — and doing so during Thursday evening races in warm summer temps after a full day of work, no less — but the truth is, the 3.1-mile race just isn’t my jam. — Mags