#TBT – Pepper December, 2007

412940784208_0_BGGinger’s break through 5k post this week got me thinking about my last big breakthrough…nope not when I finally shattered the 3 hour marathon mark in 2010, I’m talking a breakthrough that was over ten years in the making.The sub 20 5k breakthrough. For this #tbt I take you back to December 2007 and our local Reindeer Run, but first some background.

Way back when this Pepper was just a high school cross-country waif I had the goal of breaking the 20 minute 5k barrier. States my sophomore year the stars were all lined up, I was fit, the course was fast, and I raced my tail off coming off a 20:35 PR. It came down to the finishing stretch but alas those last few strides I watched as the clock ticked over from 19:59 to 20:00, 01, 02 and crossed in 20:03. 4 measly seconds stood between me and my sub 20 goal. Cue ten years of all sorts of running ranging from a varsity runner who just never saw those kind of times again, a few day a week jogger, a Boston qualifier, a marathon pacer, and even a beginning ultra marathon junkie, but still I had not broken 20 minutes for a 5k ten years later.

Then at the most unlikely of times for a 5k breakthrough, just a few short weeks after running a 50 mile PR, I toed the line with Salty at our local Reindeer Run to see if I could nab that elusive sub 20. I had made the mistake of joining Salty for a fartlek effort downtown earlier in the week which convinced her I was ready for a breakthrough (Tell that to my stiff and sore legs and winded lungs!). Despite my doubts I had a feeling that maybe Salty was right and I let her cart me off to the race.

The bell went off and I stuck like glue to my steady 19:50 paced friend (who was trying to stick like glue to Salty, talk about a risky rabbit!). The first mile seemed to take forever but I just kept my eyes on my target and tried to literally follow her footsteps, keeping my foot strikes in line with hers and ignoring my watch. I tried to tune out time and just run strong. The first mile blew by in 6:14, 12 seconds ahead of pace and feeling strong. Mile 2 was right on target in 6:23. My target pulled away, but I kept reeling her back in knowing that sub 20 was less than 6:40 away if I could only hold on. I was shocked when we came to a man shouting out the 3 mile split and my third mile was 6:07. Almost there! I looked up at the clock down the home stretch and saw 19 and what I thought was a 5 and pushed it over the line hoping I had made it. I looked down at my watch to reveal: 19:28. I was so excited I gave myself quite the hooting and hollering celebration at the line (to the confusion of the 6 or 7 women ahead of me).

That 5k was the start of my pursuit to become a local speedster, and I can’t thank Salty enough for believing in me. If it weren’t for that 5k who knows what sort of antics I would have been up to, I may never have decided to chase after the sub 3 marathon or OTQ goals and get myself to a sub 18 5K in the process! (Thankfully that took less than half the time it took to get that 20 minute monkey off my back)

What was your last breakthrough? Do you have a running friend to thank for it?

A gal on a mission to save Cuyahoga County streams one storm water facility at a time. An ex runner of many facets including marathons, pacing, ultras and more. Chronic left side issues have me cycling more than running these days but I'm attempting to get back to my running roots.

Leave a Reply


  1. Great story! Breaking 20 was a long quest for me, too. I thought it would be my ultimate goal- like I’d be done chasing PRs if I could just run 19:xx…ha! I wanted to chase sub-19 almost immediately.

    1. Thanks. Yea it is funny how we put stock in certain numbers! For me it was sub 20 and sub 3 that seemed to hold some magic power. And look at you now, a 5k specialist! :)

  2. I love it – both the friendship/encouragement aspect, as well as the fact that we can have breakthroughs even if it does take some time.

    1. Thanks! Yep sometimes our goals just seem to take a little (or a lot longer) than we hope for. But it makes achieving them all the sweeter! Especially when you can share them with a good friend.

  3. I remember that like it was almost 7 years ago! Haha. That was the first time I broke 19 and I can thank you and Joanne for that and I’ll never forget talking to Tara at the finish and the look on her face when you screamed! Priceless. Those were the good ol’ days when we could run together any time. Miss them and you!

    1. Those were the days! I can’t tell you the last time I did a downtown run that wasn’t Running the Bridges :) The good thing is though I don’t get to see you often we are the kind of friends that can pick up right where we left off whether it’s on a run, or over coffee in your messy kitchen ;) And that is a special kind of friend to have.

  4. What a great story! It’s so neat how people can influence your life in ways you never imagined, and you are both so lucky to have had that special experience together.

    1. Thanks! I think it is a great story about Salty’s knack for seeing the potential in other runners, especially those who haven’t yet caught onto it themselves. She and coach Glenn have that in common which is probably why they get along so well!