Says Fleshman, “With a growing obsession over distance races, and a focus on completion rather than competition, 5-Ks have somehow lost a lot of their badassiness. They have become little more than a gateway drug for marathons. The prevailing mentality is to go longer and longer and longer, until one day you find yourself down six toenails, dressed head to toe in compression gear, contemplating your first 50-K ultra over a morning bowl of chia seeds. Stop! Listen to me. The 5-K is freaking awesome.” The article continues on to mention all the benefits of 5-Ks, mainly that “You can train and still have a life, race hard and walk normally the next day, and get really fit really fast.”
I too have been caught up in the distance race obsession. Last year I wanted to celebrate my 40th birthday by doing something spectacular, and for me that was a half-marathon. And even now, reading all the blog posts about Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon, I have the beginnings of a “I want to do a full marathon” idea forming in my mind.
But I know how much the 5-K training I’ve been doing this year has helped me improve as a runner. Last summer I trained for that first half-marathon (followed a month later by a second when I got sick in the first and had to walk the last two miles). Granted, I trained on my own and made every mistake in the book (only three runs a week, all same type, speed, and terrain, not to mention the awful pre-race nutrition mistakes I made), but I did not improve as a runner. My focus was on completion, and I was very proud to have accomplished what I did. But it didn’t make me a better runner.
Right after the races, I knew I needed to improve and after studying all the running advice online, I decided to train for a 5-K during the winter. I’m so glad I did. While my ultimate goal has been to get faster (I’m a slow runner, so for me that means getting to average!), I’ve learned how to vary workouts and terrain, add mileage safely, push hard for sustained periods, run negative splits, save energy for a strong finish, fuel appropriately, and overcome nausea. I’m running more than I ever have, and I love it more than I ever did. I owe that to 5-K training. And the 5-K race I trained for–the JASR in March? Yes, I missed my time goal by six seconds, but I was so happy and so proud that I came so close, and that race was just as tough and just as gratifying as the half-marathons, but in a different way.
I will still be running a half-marathon this fall, and I’m excited to start training for it this summer. But 5-Ks now hold a special place in my heart, and I plan to continue running 5-K races so I can continue to be a better runner.
What do you guys think? Do you like, love, or hate 5-Ks?