Monday, August 30, 2010

My first 5K race

Beautiful day for a run!
My schedule changed, making it possible for me to join a 5K race in my neighborhood. I decided to participate just two days before the event, so obviously I had no time to train. However, I've been running 2-3 days per month for the last 8 months, and during these running workouts I usually go for 20-30 minutes at a time and cover a distance of 2-3 miles. Five kilometers is about 3.1 miles, so it seemed like a reasonable expectation that with just a little mental push, I could achieve that distance. The theme of this blog and my exercise program for the last two years has been to push myself past the physical limits I think I have. I am stronger and have greater endurance and more inherent potential than I think. So I didn't spend a lot of time deciding to join the race; I knew I had to do it.

The participants were a group of college students and 20-somethings that have cross-country running experience. I don't fit that demographic but I ran the race anyway. There were some 30- and 40-something neighbors of mine that ran, too, and so I wasn't out of place on the route in terms of my age and experience level. But given the experience of the majority of runners, I certainly didn't expect to win. My goal was to finish the race without stopping to walk.

The race route of 5 kilometers was about half on a grass track and half on a crushed stone running trail. There were a few small hills and one very steep one. I did well. The first time I even looked at my watch was 20-minutes into the race. At that time I was feeling tired, and I wanted to know how much of the race lay ahead. Coincidentally, as I looked at my watch I was also passing a painted number "2". Some runners behind me (yes, there were people behind me!) mentioned the "2" as they passed by, and I began to worry. If that was only the 2-km mark then I was in trouble. That would have meant I was less than halfway done with the 5-km race. After a couple of fearful minutes though, I decided that the "2" must be a mile marker, indicating that I was two-thirds done with the race. With that revelation, I knew I'd be able to finish the race.

My time was 28:25, or 9.1 min/mile. This was my first race, ever. I look forward to a few more in the coming year. But I realize that these statistics don't really mean much to anyone not running the same race. The topography and elevation change of the race's route is different from all other race routes, so maybe if the route were more flat, I'd have a faster race time. Likewise, if the weather is hotter or rainy the next 5K I do, then that won't be comparable to this first race, either. Only more race experience will determine whether this inter-route variation is significant. Maybe it is not. Maybe I'll run a 9.1 minute mile in my next race, too, even if the hills are taller or shorter. We'll see.

One last interesting thing about my performance is that I ran at an average of 1 mile per 9.1 minutes (6.6 mph). When I run by myself, tells me that I more often maintain a running speed of 1 mile per 11 minutes, or  5.5 mph. Wow! That's amazing that running with other people leads to such an increase in speed. I never expected to win the event, and I certainly didn't. But that didn't keep me from subconsciously running faster anyway. Weird. Cool. I wonder why....

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