Respect the 5K

me and the medal
I may not have run far for this medal, but it was definitely hard-earned!

I will admit that I did not always respect the 5K. I think I did when I first started running, but recently I discovered that I had turned into a running snob. You know, one of those people who only run certain distances because anything else is beneath them. I run a 10 miler every weekend. I run marathons, half marathons, 10Ks, and blah blah blah. Any less than 3 miles and I won’t even lace up my shoes!  So why would I even bother signing up for a 5K?

It seemed like such an insignificant distance when I registered for the 11th Annual Mom’s run and no, I did not train for it, because who needs to train for a piddly little 5k?  Certainly not a marathon veteran like me, right?  Wrong.

Contrary to my approach, running a 5K is not all that easy. Sure, it’s “only” 3.1 miles but there is no time to ease into a race pace. In longer races you have time to get your legs warmed up and can take your time to get a second wind if necessary. Not in a 5K. Of course I could have just leisurely strolled along in grand snobbery style, but that did not happen.

As soon as I heard the blast of the air horn I took off. There was no time to adjust anything:  I didn’t have time to start my watch, I didn’t have time to think about my strategy… Okay, let’s be honest; I had no strategy. But if I did I would not have had time to implement it since I did not prepare for this race.

When I finished I wanted to throw up. At the time I blamed it on the weather. It was a bit warm, I went out too fast and there were a host of other excuses.  But the truth was that it was so hard because I did not train for it. Honestly it was one of the hardest races of my life.  I am no longer a running snob.

Somehow, some way, I ended up placing third in my age group. For a hot moment I thought that maybe the faster runners were out of town, but then I began to imagine what might have happened if I took that race seriously and actually trained–the glory of a win?  Maybe even a nice prize?

I am not sure I will do another one any time soon, but if I do I will actually follow a training plan, hydrate well in advance, and pay attention to the time so I can set my watch. I may not ever place again, but I learned my lesson. I now respect the 5K.   It has its place just like all of the others.

How do you feel about the 5k?  Do you feel like it’s easy?  Have you ever trained for one?

I eat miles for breakfast, or occasionally for a snack later in the day. Self proclaimed 50+ and fabulous poster child, US Army vet, college professor, avid runner, yoga enthusiast, guest columnist, and I've used Olay since I was 17 so they should use me in at least one of their ads!

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24 comments

  1. I am spending this season focusing on the 5K. I think it’s a fun, athletic distance, but very difficult if your goal is to really race it.

  2. I feel the same way! 5ks scare the crap out of me because it’s GO Go Go the whole way, which is why I hardly ever sign up for them. However, 20 +- minutes of pain isn’t so bad compared to a bad marathon.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I am finding out that many people feel this way. I never knew because I hardly ever ran them. I never wanted to throw up at the end of a marathon like I did in that 5K, but the recovery is much faster.

  3. I love the 5k! It’s unfortunate that there are so few of them in New York. I’ve never understood the point of a 4 or 5 mile race. Why not just shorten it to a 5k or add a mile to make it a 10k and thus make them more competitive? Personally I couldn’t care less about a PR for a 4 or 5 miler, but I’m just itching for a chance to break 22 in the 5k!

    1. Cinnamon- I’ve learned that some of this is because of park regulations/policies. For example, in Prospect Park, the people in charge of the park don’t like races to start or finish on the main drive, so they have to start on one of the smaller cross-park roads. I think it’s a similar thing in Central Park. Having the finish on the main road would block off too much of the road for bikes. That’s why none of NYRR’s 5Ks are in Central Park. I’ve been really happy with the increase in 5Ks in the area, though, since NYCRuns came onto the scene.

    2. Thanks for sharing. Best wishes on your goal. I am not in love with 5ks just yet. I am still trying to love my speed work. Maybe after that happens I will run more 5ks. I prefer longer slower miles.

  4. The beauty of the 5k is that just about anyone with a little training can finish. You can race one for a PR and feel like death at the end (and hopefully euphoric with a shiny new PR), or you can train for a few weeks with a couch to 5k plan and have the time of your life. Plus recovery is practically nothing-even if you go-go-go till the end. I love 5ks. 10ks on the other hand, are incredibly frightening.

    1. Thanks for sharing. Yes, I think 5Ks can be beautiful. There just is not enough time to recover if you start out badly. There is strategy to them if you want to do more than run for fun. I was foolish to think it would be easy.

  5. I love 5Ks! I love to do longer distances, so people who talk to me about running are often like, “Well, I’m only doing a 5K…” or “A 5K probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to you…” which gives me a sad. The 5K is a great distance, and it’s deceptively tough, too. There’s no other distance that has me basically feeling like I’m going to throw up for the final third of the race. Plus it’s so egalitarian. Most people can do them with a bit of training. I’m a huge fan.

    BTW congrats on your age-group win!

    1. Thanks. I have stopped myself froms saying “it is just a 5K”. It is a great distance. I just never paid attention to it in a serious way before. It very tough.

  6. I think I’m probably inching my way toward a bit of the running snobbery you mentioned — I’ve always focused on longer miles and never done a 5k! Thanks for inspiring me to cut that out and try one… 🙂

    1. Girl, it is hard because there is not enough time to ease into it. Of course you can just stroll along if you want, but I doubt you will.

  7. Having tried all the local race distances I can say I am terrified of the 5k! The 10k’s, 10 milers, half marathons…love them. But those 5k’s are killers. My hat is off to all runners who make the 5k their focus. Better you than me 🙂

    1. I was exactly where you are now. I had the worse race anxiety. That race is over and done with and people expect great things from us longer distance folks. I knew that I had to have a decent run because I was at home and everyone knows that I run a lot. I pressured myself and may never do it again.

  8. I am about to run my first ever 5k the day before Fathers’ Day. I am just super excited to be in my first race. I’m not worrying about placing or even running terribly fast (I’m aiming for under 30 mins) I just want to enjoy my first race. Plus, with it being my first ever, whatever I run will be a pb!

  9. I ran my first 5K eight years ago and found out the course was short so I wasn’t as fast as I thought. I was SO determined I just kept running 5Ks until I was that fast, and then even faster. I aimed for sub-22, then sub-21, then YAY sub-20, and all this time people are asking me when I’m going to run a marathon. Finally I gave in and ran one, and I got way more kudos for that than for any of my shorter races where my AGP % was way higher. Yes, it took more time to train for the marathon, but that’s about it. I have no doubt I could finish another marathon, but getting any faster in the 5K is going to be darn tricky. It’s still my main goal because I like to race frequently, I like the short recovery and love the challenge. BTW, if you think the 5K is tough, try racing a mile – you can’t make a mistake, you can’t think about anything but the next step. Most distance runners are terrified to try it. Dare ya 😉

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more on the mile. I usually train for and race one every summer and it is a really difficult race. On another note, are you going to shoot of sub-19? 🙂

  10. This is exactly why I love living in Florida. Running is respected in all aspects down here. People down here do not care what distance you ran, because people will give you the respect. I love doing 5k races. I do run about 3 10k races per year but the challenge of only having 3.1 miles to find your speed and set your pace is such a major high for me. I have done half-marathons and it is a great accomplishment, but nothing makes you feel better when you run a 5k in sub-21 like I did about 3 weeks ago. Everyone just love running!!!

  11. Congrats on your race! I agree, finding your speed is an excellent feeling. I think that is why I find 5Ks very challenging. I have to be ready quickly. There is no time to warm up or find the groove. I respect all runners and especially those who master the 5k.

  12. I love 5k! I ran track and cross country in high school, and have never considered myself anything but a middle distance runner. I love running an entire race at threshold and live for speed days. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of pressure from fellow runners and even friends to “up my game” by training for a marathon. It’s gotten to the point that I feel the same way I felt when people would ask me why I didn’t have any more kids. I consider running a marathon a completely different sport–and it is not one I am built for. But even fellow runners don’t quite understand that. It’s nice to hear at least one long distance runner giving the 5k a little respect! 🙂