My 5K Love/Hate Relationship

“You ran the Chicago Marathon! This should be a piece of cake for you!”

Mags, Rock the Night 5K 2014

Running fast hurts.

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

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8 thoughts on “My 5K Love/Hate Relationship

  1. Preach on. I can’t stand the 5K yet I’m inescapably drawn to it. If I’m jonesing to race, or if I want to test my fitness with a time trial, or if there’s a silly gimmick to it (like running through a cemetery at night), then I’ll find myself signing up … and regretting my decision 0.3 miles into it.

    See also: 10ks.

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  2. I think the worst part of me when doping 5km or less is the warm up. I usually need that distance to warm up over longer distances.

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  3. You’re so right!!! The 5K distance is the hardest race to me! I don’t know if I’ll ever get down the pacing and strategy for shorter races! I definitely know that every race comes with different challenges and deserves respect!

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  4. I agree with imarunner–that “i’m gonna puke” pace works for me for a 5k. since i hate throwing up, I’m not much of a 5k fan. I much prefer easing into my distance.

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  5. Totally feel you! I’d rather run a half marathon than a 5K – the pace is just too damn fast to ever be comfortable!

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  6. I always tell people, you have to respect the distance, 5K or marathon. Either one can kick your ass. I learned that the hard way.
    They are totally different races, and I usually do some warm up running before a 5K, never before a marathon. Just like you, I use the first few miles of a marathon to warm up.
    I have found that if I feel like I am going to throw up, I am running hard enough during a 5K. It is a different mental game also. You cannot manage your energy, you have to dump it all and keep dumping it untill you finish or you actually throw up, pass out, etc.
    Just like a marathon, during a 5K I often wonder why I am doing this.

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  7. Yes, 5ks are tough! No pacing, just GO! It’s hard to hold that speed for 20+ minutes.

    Liked by 1 person

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