What is the worst type of race for you? A hilly marathon with a headwind the entire way? A hot half marathon with no shade? A bendy 10k with a crowded course that gives you no chance of a PB?
For me it’s the itty bitty 5km race. Any surface, any location, any condition – 5km is the worst distance to race. Actually, I’ll add to that – 5km in the evening is the worst.
I am not a naturally fast runner, I’m a solid big boned Northern European (I almost said ‘Eastern’ but then remembered that I am actually now allowed to say Northern European without sounding like a twat because the UN has officially classified Estonia as ‘Northern Europe’). Over the 7 years that I have been running I have improved my 10k and half marathon times by 10-15min but my 5k still hovers around 23 minutes. It’s a hard distance to get better at.
Run at puke pace
I find that 5km is a distance where there isn’t really a point in looking at the pace on my Garmin and thinking about pacing, it’s pretty much just ‘go for it at the pace where you feel like you’re just about to puke or poop but know you won’t if you don’t increase the pace’. It’s very much all about running by feel – legs want to go faster, nope, stomach cramping, must slow down a bit… feeling better, legs want to go faster, nope, stomach cramping again, must slow down…
It doesn’t help that most of the 5km races that I’ve done have been evening ones. No matter how little I think I eat during the day, I still have too much in my stomach. My next experiment will be to run totally empty, like without eating for at least 6 hours beforehand.
Chase the Sun
As much as I hate a 5km race and always opt for a 10km version (because they almost always go together), I chose to do just 5km last night at my local Wimbledon Common Chase the Sun race organised by Run Through UK. They do the best races, by the way, cheap, not crowded, quick to pick up your number and drop off your bag, enough toilets, food and GREAT FREE photos at the end.
The weather had been crazy during the day – freezing but bright sun at times, then rain, then hail, then sun again. I did a slow 10km in the morning and felt really frozen and tired afterwards. I wasn’t sure an evening 5km would be a good idea considering my tired legs and the fact that I have a head cold too. But I had signed up and it was nearby so I rocked up. I ran 3km there so the legs were sort of warmed up by the start – always super important, but more so in short runs where you really need to gun it from the start.
The course was mostly off road, a bit windy and single file only at times, but I tried my best. My stomach cramped on and off the entire time and I swore I was never going to eat any solid food again. My arms were freezing but I just kept swinging them more vigorously than I normally do hoping it’d warm me up and propel me forward just a little bit faster.
Winner, winner & no puking!
When the finish line was in sight I couldn’t really speed up any more – stomach had had it. As I was approaching they announced that I was the first 5km woman to finish so I was chuffed even without looking at my time.
I walked off my stomach cramps for a few minutes, then grabbed my bag to put on my jacket as it had started to rain again, got a photo with the Womble and jogged home very slowly.
Official time: 22:16.
A new 5km PB (I once got a 5km time starting with 21 but that race only measured 4.75km).
I know it’s not super speedy. Super speedy is a sub 20-min 5km but let me do more of them nasty 5km races and let’s see what happens! And I’m totally going to ignore my brain that says that I’m too big to run super fast and I’m going to keep trying…