The 5k experience isn't always about racing
For those of you who only like long-distance races, you're missing something special in your community. It has taken me a long time to realize this, but 5ks have a way of bringing together a lot of different people.
There's the fat dad looking to get into shape; there's the mother of three who runs no matter how busy her life is; there are runners who run so fast that it doesn't make sense; there are people who run so slow that they get passed by walkers; there are the teenage girls who have on way too much make-up at 7:30 a.m.; there are kids who walk after a half-mile, but keep on trucking it; there are cross country teams; there are neighbors who join together to pass out water ... this list could go on and on, but the thing I like most is that there's nothing wrong with any of these people. We're all there for the same reason.
Today was one of those races (5k Eagle Challenge in Bon Air) in which people of all shapes, sizes and ages were well represented. There were probably way too many kids up front , but this was their event at their school after all. I actually didn't mind too much (except for the one girl who decided to stop a half mile in and turn around and let her friends catch up) and nobody else seemed phased either.
Like I said in my post last night, I just wanted to have fun. In my head I wanted to beat 25 minutes and hit close to 8-minute miles -- actually putting that down in words last night seemed difficult. Well, at the first mile I was at 8 minutes exactly. I was kind of surprised considering how slow the first quarter mile felt, but I was feeling great. The first mile was essentially flat until about the last tenth, which was uphill.
The second mile was up and down some hills -- for what I'm used to, they weren't that big. If you live in the Mid-West, they might have looked like mountains. I ran between miles 2 and 3 just under 8 minutes. Still felt great. Between miles 2 and 3 weren't too bad either -- I'd have to say it was relatively flat. I hit that mile in exactly 8 minutes. The last tenth was as smooth and consistent as the first 3 miles. I probably could have pushed it a little harder, but considering it wasn't anywhere close to a PR, I wanted my first 5k experience in 420 days to be one that would have me happy to be doing a 5k again. I didn't want to do anything stupid, in other words.
My finishing time was 24:45 (7:58 pace) -- good enough for third in my age group (out of eight, unless one of the unnamed runners listed in the results is in his 30s) and 48th out of 301 runners (should I be happy that I beat so many kids?). While it's a couple of minutes off my PR, it is a new mark to beat for my 30s. I'd love to get back to where I was last summer with my speed. Eventually I will, but considering my injuries in the past year and my focus on longer distances, I'm certainly happy with what happened today.
To close this post off, I highly encourage everyone out there to take part in a community 5k. If you can get your mind off racing for 10 minutes while you're there, take a look around you and you'll quickly realize what a great experience it is.