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January 16, 2009
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Ah, those shorter distances of the endurance running community: the 5 and 10ks. These events are the entry points for many runners, and the speed-sharpening tools for many distance runners. I’m a rookie runner, about eighteen months into this thing, and am still in a love/hate relationship with these distances.

Things I love about these shorter-distance events:

  1. The training. It doesn’t beat you up or require a great deal of time commitment. You only need to develop the endurance to run, at most, a few miles past the race distance, so if you can’t commit to hours of running on the weekends, you can still go out and bang a great 10k.
  2. The speed. I love speed, and in these races, you go from the gun. Unlike longer distance events in which there are miles to pace yourself, in order to race a fast 5 or 10k, you have to blaze it from the line. If you’re into speed, it’s a wonderful change of pace from the longer, slower pace of other distance events.
  3. The crowds. Because they are shorter-distance events and good for beginners, these races attract all kinds of runners, both serious and recreational, and this creates a wonderful atmosphere. You can have local elites lining up at the front of the crowd that look like they were chiseled from marble, and suburban moms running or walking with strollers, as well as some people who paid the fee just to walk a nice course.
  4. They’re everywhere! These races are popular events, and many organizations use them as fundraising opportunities, and they are therefore not difficult to find. In many places you could, if you chose, race between 3 and 6 miles every weekend if you chose. Missed your PR this week? Don’t worry, you’ll get another shot soon.

Okay, now here are things I don’t love about these shorter races:

  1. The training. Boy, it will keep you honest. Sure, you can cut back your long runs if you want. But there’s no cutting out your speedwork. And gone are mile repeats when you can run at an easier pace. Suddenly you’re running these shorter intervals at a pace that feels like will cause your lungs to sear. The mileage may be easier, but the speedwork’s a bear. If you want to perform, the stopwatch had better be your new best friend.
  2. The speed. Again, it’s a race from the get go, and you’d better know your place. You don’t have a mile to get around the slow people and find your place. If you lose ten seconds to the person who lined up in the wrong spot, your PR’s up in flames. Taking water suddenly becomes a do-or-die choice, if you’re in it to race it. Every second counts in these shorter events. Speed is everything.
  3. The crowds. Yikes, did every recreational runner get up this morning and think, What a great day for a run? Yep, and they all showed up for the free t-shirt and bagels. And they all decided to run 8-minute miles with you.
  4. They’re everywhere! Because of this, it can be hard to pick out the really good ones until you’ve raced every shorter event within 50 miles of your zip code for two years. Then you know which ones are hilly, perpetually windy, have only one porta-potty, or aren’t well staffed. You’ll discover sometimes, a more technically difficult course works to your advantage, and you’ll trek farther to run it.

These distances can be fun. They keep your heart, lungs, legs, and head sharp, and are great places to practice racing and pacing strategies, and even the training is a great place to learn about what works best for your body. Though the half may be my favorite distnace, combining speed and endurance, I don’t intend to quit racing these shorter distances, simply because . . . well, I like speed.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2009 8:37 pm

    Yes — I agree to all of those. Thanks for a well thought out post.

  2. January 16, 2009 10:47 pm

    I can agree with all your “Pro” and “Con” statements. Nice post. Thanks for stopping by my blog. And, sure, link to it. Hebrews 12:1-3 is my favorite passage.

  3. the Zookeeper permalink*
    January 17, 2009 4:35 pm

    Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad someone else can relate to my feelings and ramblings while I’m out on the road . . .

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