So…I Ran A 5K Race This Past Saturday

Me trying to look even more exhausted by panting like a dog. It didn’t work. (Photo by my wife, Jennifer)

This past weekend, I ran a 5K race. It was my first 5K in more than a quarter of a century.

Damn I’m old.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a few moments to chat about just what that was like, how it felt, how I did, and all of that jazz. You know, in case you wanted to know.

First, let’s get it out there that I wasn’t really competitive in this one. I knew I wouldn’t be. I’ve only been running for two months at this point, so what else could you expect.

However, I also figured there would be some lessons. So, let’s get into it.

First, how did you do?

Um…I didn’t come in last.

My time was, frankly, awful. I “ran” it in 43:09.9. That is easily the worst time I ever ran it in, including back when I was training for 800 meter races in high school. Even then I ran a 36-minute 5K if I remember correctly.

The problem was that I went out way too fast for my level of conditioning and just couldn’t sustain it throughout the rest of the race. As a result, I finished pretty far back.

But, the point wasn’t really to win anything. Not this time.

Then What Was The Point?

The point was just to get my feet wet. I haven’t raced in over 25 years, which meant there were going to be some nerves. I need to get used to racing again if I want to keep that at bay just a bit.

Back in high school, I never got nervous before races after the first few ones. That’s because I knew what to expect and so on.

Well, I got some nerves I had to deal with. Next time, there should be fewer.

It also let me shake down my pre-race routine. Having clothes laid out and ready to go was a winner. Toast and butter two hours before the race? Also a good idea.  I probably should have been a bit more sparing with my fluid intake before the race, though, because when you’ve got to go…

Anyway, that was another point in racing at this point in my running return.

Finally, this gave me a good glimpse into what I should do for the next 5K race I enter. After all, there’s a great deal of training out there based on your current race pace, you almost have to race to get useful information.

Not that I learned anything useful..

What Lessons Did You Learn?

Well, I knew I didn’t train nearly enough, that’s for damn sure.

I also learned that my pacing freaking sucks. At one point I was going four minutes per mile faster than my intended pace. What’s worse? I didn’t feel like I was running that fast. (Honestly, it wasn’t that fast. It was just faster than I could keep up.)

Now, that sounds great and all, but the problem is that I didn’t have the conditioning to sustain that speed. So, clearly, I need better conditioning.

As I said in my review of Couch-to-5K, the problem is that it focuses on time running exclusively. It doesn’t really urge you to maintain a certain pace or anything, which means a half-hour run doesn’t necessarily correlate to a 5K being completed.

That was apparent during the race.

Further, a 5K race is another matter entirely. Racing is different from training–yet another reason to get a race under my belt before I was really ready to compete–and that told me a great deal about how I respond to racing after all these years.

Let’s just say I need to work up a much, much faster pace for much, much longer.

When Are You Racing Again?

I’m not really sure. There’s another race in a month or so, which I might consider, but unless I’m ready to crank out a significantly better time, I don’t know that I want to even try that one.

While I can talk a lot about the good side of the race, and while my family all told me how proud they were of me, the truth is that the time is freaking embarrassing for me. I know I can run it much, much faster and unless I’m sure that I will, I’m not subjecting myself to that.

If I’m ready in a month, I’ll run in a month.

If I’m not, then I’ll wait another month and race then.

Luckily, there’s a 5K race, at a minimum, almost every week from September throughout the fall, so there will be plenty of opportunities. I’ll have to pick my races, though, because running all of them may well lead to injury.

That’ll put me much further back in my training for a Spartan, after all. That’s bad.

What Changes To Your Training are You going to Make?

Well, for right now, I’m focusing on week 9 of Couch-to-5K, which is a five-minute walking warm-up, a 30-minute run, and a five-minute walking cool-down.

I’m leaning toward just doing that for another week or two until I’m getting somewhere in the three-plus mile range during the actual workout portion of my run. Once I can do that, it’ll definitely be time for another race. That time, I’ll see how I do and go from there.

Of course, if I run week 9 for another month and I’m still not covering three miles, then it’ll be time to drop back and punt so I can figure something else out.

I’ll reevaluate after next week and see what I’m doing, how I’m doing, and then adjust as needed. That just seems to be the most sensible approach possible.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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