What I learned running four 5Ks in four weeks

It's just a 5K. Or is it? With the growing popularity of marathoning and ultra running the 5K seems like it is so often overlooked. But for so many recreational runners, it is where we got our start.

Over the past four weeks I've run one 5K every weekend. Each race has had a different result and a different lesson and has renewed my respect for the 5k distance. I've also gained some fitness over the past 4 weeks, although I haven't gotten a new PR it's nice to see the times improve each week.

I've no doubt that if I continued with 5K specific training, in another four weeks I could shave another 30 seconds off my current time and edge into that PR zone.

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Sandstone Gobble Hobble

This fun Turkey Trot is a tough course going downhill in the first mile, staying mostly flat in mile two and then turning around and climbing back up a hill in the final mile to the finish. In 2016 and 2017 I only ran a total of two 5Ks, this was my first 5K in a year and I felt a bit rusty at the distance. I knew that if I was running to my full potential it would hurt the whole time-and it did.

Time: 20:50

1st Female, 6th Overall

Lesson: I was reminded that 5K's are painful, but that I'm capable of pushing through the discomfort. My legs felt tapped out in the final half mile of the race, but I was able to ask my body to give a little bit more and it did.

We're always capable of more than we think.


Ugly Sweater 5K

This tiny little school fundraiser event was very informal and I had a feeling the course would be short. Sure enough it was, which is fine. I think that I would have been in the low 20:xx if it had been accurate. It's too bad it wasn't because I really liked the way the course played out: short hill in the first half mile, flat through mile 1 to the turn around, mostly flat through mile 3 and then a swift little downhill half mile from the finish. To me it seemed like a PR course.

Time: 19:32 (course was short 3.05)

1st Female, 2nd Overall

Lesson: At the two mile mark I looked down to check my split on my watch and though it read 6:52 (it was in fact 6:32). I got a little discouraged at that PERCEIVED negative feedback: I was running slower than I thought. It's amazing how powerful our minds are because had I not looked I might have been able to sustain a harder effort and run even faster.

Our perceptions and thoughts greatly impact how hard we *think* we can run. 


Jingle Bell 5K-Portsmouth

I've run this race before, probably about 6 years ago, pushing 3 year-old Sophia in the stroller. It's an "honest" course with a hill about a half mile in a sweeping downhill for the remainder of mile 1 through 2, and then a few short climbs in the final mile. It's hard to get that nice quick momentum for the final push with one of those hills falling at the 2.8 mile mark. I opted to cover my watch for this race to eliminate any negative perceptions. Opting instead to give myself positive feedback the entire race. My mantra became "float and flow" and I really felt in a one in my effort constantly telling myself to "fight for every second" as a way to stay on top of the hard effort. I really believed a PR was possible in this race and I was gunning for a sub 19:42 time. I felt like I had it and was a bit surprised to see the finish time, honestly.

Time: 20:26

1st Female, 10th Overall

Lesson: Even if you don't PR running a race with a positive mental victory can be a stepping stone to better performances down the road. Keeping the mantras positive and staying focused on the effort without watch feedback was really helpful.

Be your biggest cheerleader during the race. 


Jingle Bell 5K-Concord

I thought I hadn't run this race before, but I actually had! Back in 2010 I ran this race pushing 1 year old Sophia in the stroller with my sister-in-law, husband and mom also in the race. This course has a half mile dirt section which could potentially slow you down, although I felt like I picked a really good line down this road that allowed me to run fast. There's a decent climb in the middle up to the mile 2 marker and then a quick downhill to flat coming back into the finish. I wanted to PR, for sure, but mostly just wanted to stay on top of the effort. I opted to keep my watch in view and set it so I could see instantaneous pace. It was useful in the final 1/2 mile when I could feel my body slowing: a glance at the watch and I'd try to focus on form and get my pace back down.

Time: 20:18

2nd Female, 9th Overall

Lesson: The hills kicked my but in this race. It was my slowest mile and I really think that I need to trust that I can charge up the hills a little faster and bank on the recovery on the downhill. I held back a bit on those climbs trying to "reserve" energy for the final mile, but I think a little more effort and trusting the recovery could have improved that middle mile.

Race reveal weaknesses that you can then work on in training. 

If you're a marathoner or MUT runner, there's a lot you can learn from running a 5K-or multiple 5K's, since unlike longer distances you can bounce back quickly and get out there to run another one a few days later. In order to race well, you really have to practice racing. The 5K can teach you so much when it comes to staying in the moment of discomfort. It can foster mental toughness and allow you to push perceived barriers.

When was the last time you ran a 5K? What were the major takeaways?


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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com