Sunday, September 28, 2014

Praise for the 5K

When done right, it's short, fast, and furious, a combination of speed, strength, and endurance.

More commonly, it's short, slow, and steady, possible leading into a walk, and sometimes decorated with brightly colored t-shirt with many corporate logos.

In an era in which running marathons is increasingly popular, I wanted to echo pro runner Lauren Fleshman's fun and funny ode to the 5km race.

no, this is not me (like their style, though!)
photo: Keith Tharp, Champion Photo LLC
Yes, I just ran one yesterday, with a time of 22:00 (according to my GPS watch), 2 minutes faster than my goal time of 24:00. Go figure! Conditions were excellent, despite a crazy hill at the end, and I'm super pleased with the result, though I clearly need to be better in tune with my training!

When compared to the 3, 4, or 6 hours needed for most people to cover 42 km (26.2 miles), the 20-40 minute 5K seems like a breeze.

Wikipedia says: "Among road running events, the 5K distance is mostly popular with novice or infrequent runners or joggers, as it is comparatively easier to complete the distance without endurance training".

Yes, it is easier to complete the distance - but to race it is another story. Here are the world's best times for 5K road races for men and women.

men's current record pace is 2:36 per km or 4:11 per mile
women's record pace is 2:57 per km or 4:46 per mile

race records from Wikipedia

These numbers are not 20-40 minutes — they are humbling: these folks were flying.

I was gasping for air at the end of my 22 minutes, and most of the runners in my local race were well behind me. There is a difference between completing a 5K race and competing in it —  sustaining a pace like these (4:11/mile or 2:36/km for Sammy Kipketer and 4:46/mile or 2:57/km for Meseret Defar) shows how, as in the marathon, 5K leaders run on a different planet.
(Though special praise is due to Kenya's Dennis Kimetto, whose average pace per mile of 4:41.5 (2:56 per km) and average pace per 5K of 14:35 in today's Berlin Marathon not only set a new marathon World Record but would also give him first place in all but the top 5K races as well!)

What do you gain training for and racing a meager 5K, rather than a marathon?

Here's why Lauren Fleshman thinks the 5K is awesome (as the US 5000 meters champion in 2006 and 2010, she knows what she is talking about) - these might appeal to you too!

Fitness:  5K training works right into the recommended high-intensity interval training. In fact, intensive interval training is what's needed to improve your 5K time.

Within your budget:  Lower entry fees and similar snacks at the finish; fewer overuse injuries means fewer doctor's bills too.

Competition vs Completion:  You know you'll finish, now you get to test yourself.

Mishaps matter less:  You don't lose 16 weeks of training due to one bad race day.

Pain is brief:  Your muscles scream for oxygen toward the end (ouch), but 30 seconds past the finish, you feel almost normal. Plus no chafing around your nipples or thighs. Happy days!

Free Time:  You can enjoy and walk upright for the rest of the weekend. And with many more 5Ks available than marathons, there'll be one nearby: you can go, race, and return home in the same morning.

Run in style:  You can train and race without compression socks, power bars, water bottles, gels, or anti-chafing ointment. Clean.  Enjoy!

image: Dave Granlund


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