Lauren Fleshman said it best back in a 2014 Runner’s World article: the 5k is freaking awesome. After years of training for marathons, I recently switched to shorter distances and I completely agree. Running a 5k is like being on a vacation. A strenuous, but rewarding, vacation.
I’m asked almost daily when my next marathon is. When I say I’m not sure, I’m focusing on shorter races right now, the general response is something like “oh, that’s a lot easier.” And then I cringe. I love shorter distance racing for a number of reasons, but I would never say that shorter races are easier. They are still hard, just different.
So what’s so great about shorter distances? I could talk about this all day, but here are just a few of the reasons I’m so happy I decided to ditch marathons in favor of races that take well under an hour to complete.
I love racing!
I love racing and want to improve my race strategy, which means I would like to race more often in order to practice that strategy. With a marathon, I train for 18 weeks for one specific race and then I have one shot at it. If it doesn’t go well, that’s it, until the next one. Marathon recovery just takes too long to race often, plus there’s not exactly a marathon every weekend. You have to plan way in advance, travel and sometimes stay overnight. But if I am dissatisfied with my result in a 5k, chances are I can find another race nearby the following weekend and give it another try. I have a tendency to go out way too fast, so I have been focusing on reining myself in at the start and pushing harder at the finish. Racing more often allows me to put myself in the race atmosphere frequently and work on consistent pacing and calming my nerves. And racing is just plain fun!
It’s easier to push through the pain
When I race a 5k, I remind myself it will hurt, but if I allow myself to hurt for 18-19 minutes, it’s over. This mentality has helped me to push harder and led me to a new PB this year.
More time for #extrasalt, fewer late-night dates with the treadmill
I’m a working mom and find it tough to log 100+ kilometers per week consistently during marathon training. I found myself getting very creative with marathon training in order to make sure all my workouts happened (lots of late nights on the treadmill). This often meant that #extrasalt like strength and mobility got neglected because I ran out of time. Training for shorter distances means less pressure to run higher mileage, and I use the extra time to work on strength and mobility. I’ve been doing this consistently and have noticed an improvement in the way my body feels.
You don’t need to eat during the race
During a 5k, I don’t need to worry about fueling. Taking water and nutrition while racing is by far my weakest link when running a marathon. I can’t stand to wear fuel belts, and depending on what is offered on course, my stomach may not agree with sport drinks. When I race a 5k, I can just go without worrying about fuel. At most, I just worry about what to eat before the race!
Weather is less of a factor
In Canada, you never know what conditions you’ll be racing in. When I race a 5k in the pouring rain, sure, it’s not ideal, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s for a shorter period of time. There is little to no risk of hypothermia or excessive chafing.
I have two very young kids. I need to recover quickly in order to keep up with them. After running Boston last year, it was almost two full weeks before I could even do stairs without having to think about how I would get up or down them. My whole body hurt a lot. Not to mention the aches and general fatigue involved with hitting marathon-training mileage week after week. After a 5k, I hurt a bit, but after a day I feel like myself again. No shuffling, and I can put on my socks by myself.
More time to just relax
I have a bit more free time to relax in the evenings and can sleep a bit later in the morning.
I still train hard for my 5k and 10k races. I can race more often. I recover faster. In short, Lauren was right. The 5k is freaking awesome!
Do you agree?