A blog by runners. For runners.

Race Recap: Women’s Distance Festival 5K Recap

Women's-Distance-Festival-5k

I ran the 29th annual Women’s Distance Festival 5K in my hometown last Thursday evening. It’s the one 5K I make a point to attend every year, whether I’m trained to race the distance or not. Why? Well, the whole point of the event is to celebrate women and running. In fact, the race series (they’re offered all over the country) was created back in 1979 in “response to the lack of distance running events in the Olympics Games for women” (source).

I was pretty sure I’d be more in the complete versus compete category this year. I haven’t engaged in any speedwork or tempo runs since my training for my last half marathon in May. Yes, May — I’m a huge advocate of having racing seasons and less structured active recovery seasons to balance them out and avoid burnout/injury/etc. Summer, for me, is for recovery. So, I’ve been taking it easy, running around 30 miles a week with a long run, all workouts at around the same pace.

Thing is, when I arrived and started my 1-mile warmup, I couldn’t help but feel this nagging nervousness. I really wanted to beat last year’s time (23:18). Maybe I couldn’t PR, which was something I hadn’t done since 2007 (22:30), but at least I could improve a bit on my more recent history. At least that was the goal I decided on moments before the gun went off.

Fast forward, I lined up with some of my running buddies at the start. I made sure to situate myself near the front, since I have noticed I always get caught behind people who start out too fast and bonk a quarter mile in. I tuned up my GPS watch, and this race marked the first time I’ve ever worn one to track my race pace up to the minute. It usually stresses me out to know even on training runs, so I was worried wearing one might ruin my plans.

Before I could think more about it, we were off!

After dodging and diving between people for a minute or so, I got into a good rhythm and promised not to check my watch until I hit the 1-mile mark. I noticed I was running around some people that are usually ahead of me (the race was around 200 people, so it was easy to recognize local faces), but the adrenaline was high, so I figured as long as I could breathe, I’d keep going. We hit mile one and my time was just 7:03! I became worried I started out too fast, but kept going anyway.

The second mile was relatively flat. I passed a few people even though I could tell my pace was suffering ever so slightly. Something felt stagnant and, I know it’s mental, but without any up or down grades on the course, it felt difficult to keep on at a steady, quick clip. Thankfully I grabbed some water (I always sip and then dunk the rest over my head — it’s a ritual, I guess) and it helped to recharge me before the turnaround at mile 1.5.

At mile two, I discovered my pace was 7:12, and I became worried that with the upcoming hill, I’d completely run out of steam and miss my mark. So, I promised myself that I’d keep tabs on my pace every quarter mile until the end and push through. The strategy for 5K races is so foreign/uncomfortable to me. I like the 15K and half marathon distances because it gives the body a while to settle in and push hard later. At about the 2.5 mile mark, I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. “Training for this race would have been a good idea,” I thought.

By that point, I was maintaining 7:10/mile — and I knew for certain that wearing a watch was helping me. I knew my stats and I could keep pushing, even just the slightest bit harder than I would have normally. The end of the course is an annoying incline, but reading that there’s was only a tenth of a mile left helped the end kick tremendously.

I could make out the clock in the distance and it read 22:05. Despite having this information strapped to my wrist, I was surprised that I might actually PR. For the first time in 6 years! So, I sprinted to the end with everything I had left in the tank. My watch read 3.13 miles in 22:17 — but my official time was 22:18 (7:10/mile) — still a hefty twelve seconds off my PR back in 2007. I also earned second place at the first race in my new (30-34) age group.

Overall, a great surprise performance. Of course, now I’m left wondering if I can break into 21 territory this year. But first I need to focus on smashing my PR at my October half marathon!

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Written by  Ashley Marcin.