As another race day comes and goes, another start line is approaching in the distance.
After a sub- par performance at a 5k race last May resulting in a 25:45 finish, I was not particularly impressed with my time. Neither were two of my friends, K and S, who I used to run against back in the day. The days when we absolutely flew with unappreciated athleticism. Once they had finished reminding me how slow I had gotten (as all good friends should do), I challenged them to test their current cardiac output.
So today we raced.
The course was flat, the sun was out, and the light breeze against us on the way out was a fresh reminder that we would have the wind at our backs to the finish. We started close to the front because I will never again zig- zag a 6 minute kilometer trying to hurdle children, sidestep strollers, and be called “too aggressive” for a race (The Pace to Race). When the gun went off, there were only a few mild swerves needed to get onto a clear path and I was good to go.
Beyond the start line I didn’t know where K or S was, but just nearing the 1km mark I saw some waving arms beside me and looked over to see K settle in at my side. We ran in silence, knowing we had both set goal times that were not achievable with wasted breaths. At the first kilometer marker, my watch blinked 4:52 to which I clapped and gave K a big thumbs up. She had headphones in and I didn’t catch her attention so I just settled back in and rejoined her in “the zone”.
We continued on in silence, other than a “Well, that’s pleasant” comment from K when we got hit with a wall of animal droppings/ sewage/ nuclear waste odor. Kilometer 2 came at 9:57.
Approaching the turnaround, K said she was going to have to slow down but she didn’t seem to drop off so I thought it was more of a warning than a factual statement. We rounded the halfway pylon at 12:36 but I wasn’t panicking, yet.
K slowly started to fade back and I kept moving with increased fear of one of them catching me, now that I had put some space between us. There is absolutely a mental advantage to running with your competition. It is much scarier to not know where they are and to have to set the pace rather than hold a pace. Ego is on the line, here.
The next kilometer was my slowest; I think I got a little too comfortable which would have be great if it was a race longer than only 5 kilometers. But it was 5 kilometers. You don’t get comfortable.
I hit the 4 kilometer mark solo with a sloshing sound echoing from my stomach and cheesy motivational sayings starting to cycle through my head. I tucked in behind a woman with a blue tank top and an indistinguishable tattoo on her shoulder and just wheezed annoyingly behind her. There is no bodily sound that is embarrassing enough to deter you when you put your “fastest” reputation from a decade ago on the line.
The 4 kilometer sign coming and going meant that I had to run a 4:45/km pace to get me to the line in time. I ended up passing the tattooed blue tank top wearer and crossing the finish line with what felt like an optimal combination of strength and fatigue. The woman I passed actually came and found me as I was wandering and panting in the finish area and gave me a solid high five. Bam. No words needed. I love the running community.
My chip time was 25:03, which was four seconds slower than my goal of 24:59. That stings a little but I now have the confidence that I can run a sub 25 minute race; I just didn’t do it today.
Today’s run was a full 42 seconds faster than my last race and I’m absolutely on track to get some great times under my belt by the end of this racing season.
The summer of the 5k continues!