5 Lessons Learned From My First 5K in 5 Years
|December 7, 2010||Posted by Lauren under Running|
(Or Weekend on the Run Part II: The Part in Which We Run off Those Cupcakes. Miss Part 1? Read it here.)
I have a confession to make: for years, I have been avoiding 5Ks like the plague. I’m not completely sure where this aversion came from. I mean, before that, I’d been doing 5Ks since I was 11 or 12 years old. But then college ended, and my competitive days were over. At first I wanted a break from racing altogether. And then I convinced myself that I just wanted to try knew things, train for new distances. I told myself that I wasn’t meant for short, speedier races and I should just stick to the distance thing.
But in all reality, all those excuses were really hiding a fear – fear that I wouldn’t be good enough, fast enough to live up to my own expectations…and the fake expectations I was convinced everyone around me must have. Looking back on it now, it all seems so silly. And I’m happy for Miss Beckontherun for helping me see that.
On Sunday, after a day of coffee guzzling and cupcake eating, I ran the Providence Downtown Jingle 5K – my first 5K in 5 years. To sum it up: I had a blast! Instead of giving you a standard recap, here are 5 lessons I learned along the way.
1.) Fueling before running a 5K is not the same as fueling before a marathon
Yes I know, this sounds like common sense. But it had been so long since I’d prepared for one of these things that I figured my standard pre-race breakfast of a bagel and almond butter plus a small Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee (yes, I had iced coffee on a 30-degree morning) would be fine.
For me, this ended up being too much food. Even though I ate breakfast two hours before the gun went off, my bagel was still a rock in my stomach at the start. During the last mile, I was overwhelmed by a strong desire to throw up. And I don’t mean the “I’m pushing myself so hard I’m going to lose it” kind of puke. This was a “get this food out of my stomach now” type of response. Clearly running at high speeds for 20 minutes or so requires a different sort (and amount) of fuel than running for 3 – 4 hours at a steady pace. Lesson Learned: keep pre-race breakfasts light!
2.) Jingle bells shouldn’t be tied to shoe laces
Everyone who ran the Downtown Jingle 5K received a little bracelet with jingle bells on it to wear during the race. 2,000+ people running with bells on provided quite a festive atmosphere. The problem was, the bracelets didn’t really stay put. After re-tying my bracelet for the umpteenth time, I had a flash of brilliance and decided to tie it to my shoe instead. I first thought I’d tie it into my laces, and then decided to tie it down at the bottom of my shoe. As the seconds to the start counted down, I quickly tied a couple knots in the bells and jumped back up, satisfied with my festive-looking sneakers.
Within a mile those dang bells had come loose – but not loose enough to fall off. I ran along the streets of Providence with bells loudly clanging against the ground, all the while terrified they’d get caught under my foot and cause me to trip. I tried everything short of reaching down and untying them – no matter how much I kicked, stomped, and cursed at them, those babies held fast. Until the last half mile, when suddenly the bells finally decided they had enough slamming and laid to rest on the street, safely out of harm’s way. Lesson learned: don’t try to tie a slippery piece of string to the part of your body that is moving the most and absorbing the most impact.
3.) Tying ankle loops in your shoes does more than support your ankles
In the midst of my frenzied re-tying of my shoes before the start, I accidentally forgot to tie them using my no-fail-never-untie method. With about three quarters of a mile to go, disaster struck – my shoe suddenly came untied. So not only did I have bells flopping all around my foot, but now I also had stray laces to worry about. At this point, I was way too far into the race to think about stopping to tie them. So I ran on, praying I wouldn’t trip over a lace or a rogue bell.
It wasn’t long before I realized that the way I tied my shoes was actually saving me from further disaster. I loop my laces for extra ankle support, but it also shortens the laces and keeps my shoes tight at the top.
My shoes stayed nice and tight, firmly gripping my ankles as though they were still tied. And the laces never threatened to get caught under my shoe. Lesson learned: always tie my shoes with the extra loops. The extra support is more helpful than I even realized (for the full, extremely simple method, see this post).
4.) Marathons do not make you slower
For as long as I can remember, my coaches did not want any of their runners to do a marathon while they were still running competitively. The school of thought that I heard time and time again was that marathons make you slower. And it would seem to make sense – your focus during marathon training is on distance, not speed.
So although I really had no idea what to expect going into Sunday’s race, I certainly didn’t have high expectations for myself. I figured years of limited speedwork and a month of limited running after the Cape Cod Marathon (not to mention a day of being on my feet eating sugar!) would probably mean that I’d go no faster than my marathon pace.
But when that gun went off on Sunday, I shifted into another gear – I gear I didn’t even know still existed. My Garmin somehow lost satellite reception seconds before the gun, leaving me with no idea whether it was showing me an accurate pace during that first mile. So I just ran, weaving in and out of the crowd and moving as fast as my legs wanted to take me. It felt great! Besides the rock in my stomach and the clanging bells, I was having a blast. I didn’t worry about pace or pushing myself to the limit. I just ran and enjoyed moving along in a sea of green and red.
By the final stretch, I knew my time was going to be faster than expected. I had a lot of energy left (way too much, actually — I couldn’t believe how fast the race went by!) and kicked it into top gear, passing people in the last .1 mile (those who know me know this is not typical – I have never been known for my sprinting abilities). I crossed the finish line just as the seconds on the clock ticked past 21 minutes.
My official time was 20:47, which put me 70th overall (out of 2098 finishers) and 8th woman (out of 781). I was beyond thrilled! I’ve run faster 5Ks, but never have I felt so great during one from start to finish. Especially after a day of doing everything wrong to prepare. Surprisingly, my marathons had given me strength I never had before. Lesson learned: running marathons can help make you faster, and it certainly doesn’t kill your speed!
5.) 5Ks are a ton of fun
Somewhere along the way, I let my high standards for myself get in the way of having fun. True, every runner wants to PR. But when the pressure you put on yourself is so great that it takes all enjoyment out of the race, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate. It took running a race I was completely untrained and unprepared for (in terms of speed training, not my ability to cover the distance) to help me see that. Lesson learned: Not every race has to be a grueling test of strength and will. Races can also be are festive celebrations of running.
Thank you to all the organizers of the Providence Downtown Jingle 5K. The race was well organized and staffed, the atmosphere was jolly and the course was well marked and closed off. I had a bell blast!