It’s still a race

Haven’t done a TIART in a while so I thought I would chime in.  This week’s topic is about 5K/10K.

I used to run a lot of 5 and 10K races back in the day.  Then I got this crazy idea to run a marathon and before it was over with I was a total running snob.  I didn’t want to run “those” races because they were WAY too short.  Whatever…  I was an idiot.  The 5k/10k distance race is fantastic for a million reasons.  Here is what I think and then How I run them.

What I think

Whether you are an experienced ultra marathoner or are doing your first Couch to 5k race, these distances are perfect for you.  Now, before you ultra-snobs jump me and beat me with water bottles (or Twinkies… bleh… you guys really eat that crap?), let me ‘splain.

New runners- The 5k is a perfect first race.  The distance allows you to get the experience of running with a group, crossing the finish line, setting goals and getting fit.  But it does not take a huge amount of time to train for like the longer races.  An hour (max) a day for 4-5 days a week is all you need to get sufficient mileage in to successfully complete a 5K.  And the benefits are overwhelming.  Just be careful.  It’s addictive…

Experienced runners- Put your hackles down and listen.  If you pound long distances all the time, that is all you will ever be able to do.  I am NOT a fast runner, but by varying my workouts and forcing myself to run shorter and faster, I find I improve all around.  And I have BEATEN runners, who I KNOW run much more mileage than I do, in a 5K because they have only been doing long runs for so long that they have forgotten how to run FAST.  It is a completely different experience.  If it makes  you feel better, go for a run after your… run.

What I like:

It’s still a race.  You have to push yourself to get better.  The atmosphere is different.  Everybody knows a 5k will usually be over and completely done and the clock put away in about an hour.  So the energy is higher.  These distances give me the chance to play with things that longer runs don’t.  I can work hills, extend my stride on downhills, attack, sprint or just cruise and enjoy running with lots of people.

What I do:

Because I have run longer for the last few years, I have found the best recipe for me is to get to the site early and run a few miles before the race (trying to time it so I get back to the starting line just in time is the hard part).  I do this, not to show off my mad mileage skills, but simply to warm up.  I have run long for SO long that I don’t even stop creaking and popping until about mile 3.  Getting the joints lubed takes some time and I find that I actually run FASTER when I do this, rather than slower like you would think.  I don’t take water if offered.  My race is usually just over 20 minutes.  If I need water, I haven’t prepared properly.  Besides, my race is usually half over by the time I hit the first (and usually last and only) water stop.  I can wait 10 minutes…  Once the race is about to start I try to block out everything and really focus on my race.  This is HARD.  There are tons of distractions and it’s easy to get sucked into the flow.  My last race I wanted to run 7:30s.  That was my only goal.  I don’t remember much of the race (except for getting nauseated for some stupid reason) and didn’t chat a whole lot with other runners.  I came in at 7:29/mi.  That’s pretty good.  the 5k distance may be shorter, but it’s still a race and I try to take them seriously (for the most part).

My suggestions:

Focus on YOUR pace.  The danger of shorter races is that a lot of the “athletes/runners” that enter them… well… aren’t.  They think that because they can run a mile they can run a 5K.  Or they do it because somebody dared them.  Look, nobody wants to get dropped off the starting line by some goob wearing boxer shorts or a chick who matches all the way down to her lipstick and nails.  I have rarely ever been BEATEN by one of them.  They haul ass off the starting line to the roars of their buddies and then bonk about a mile and a half into the race.  But if you try to stick with them to show them who the athlete is, you will ruin your own chances to succeed by trying to stick with some ridiculous pace.  Pick a steady pace and you will pass a ton of people in the last mile that you never thought you could run with.

By the same token, you WILL go out too fast in your first few 5Ks.  It’s natural.  You are excited.  The adrenaline will take over and before you know it you are two minutes ahead of your goal pace at the first mile marker.  It’s OK.  Just relax and go back to your pace.  You’ve only got two miles to go!  Like many have pointed out here, the race is so short you can walk it in if you have to and still get a decent time out of it.  Just keep running.

Save something for the end.  You signed up, paid money, trained and made sacrifices to get to this point.  Why on EARTH would you leave anything on the course?  Work your hardest and then sprint to the end.  You will feel better for it later.

Finally, meet people.  Shake hands.  Congratulate each other.  Swap stories and phone numbers.  Make friends and running buddies.  That’s really what it’s all about.  And besides, that guy that won the race?  He’s pretty lonely.  It must suck to be so fast nobody wants to run with you…

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2 Responses to It’s still a race

  1. Bob Allen says:

    Good advice to focus on “your” pace in a 5K. But, it’s hard to do. The race is short enough to go fast and the adrenaline is really pumping (at least it was for me)

  2. merrymishaps says:

    Great post!
    I’m a slowish runner and have done everything from 5Ks to marathons. (Er, marathon. Can’t make that plural until I run another one!). I think it’s great to mix up the distances … even if I was kind of annoyed my Galloway marathon messed up my shorter race speed 🙂

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