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Women’s Distance Festival 5K recap

Race Recap: Women's Distance Festival 5KDo you have a race nemesis? A distance that just gets under your skin? For me, it’s those dastardly 5Ks. I run very few races these days, but I always try to get in my favorite 5K of the year — the Women’s Distance Festival — because it’s an awesome celebration of women’s running. This year, my best friend Erin joined me, so it was extra special.

I think one reason I have trouble with this distance is because it, well, isn’t much distance at all compared to what I usually run. I prefer longer races that give me and my legs some time to warm up and finish strong. 15Ks and half marathons are perfect for a slow settling in, even when I plan to beat PRs. With the 5K, however, it’s go-time the minute the gun goes off.

Fittingly, I had just written the embarrassing running problems article and I spent the majority of the hours before the race peeing. And pacing. And telling Erin that I had no business getting a PR this year because I hadn’t done a single track workout. Thing is, in the back of my mind, I didn’t want to run slower than last year’s time, which was a PR, so I knew I’d need to endure some discomfort to keep my ego happy.

We got to the race with little time to spare. I took a final two pee breaks and ran a quick warmup with a few strides to get my legs moving fast. Then we lined up and — ready or not — we were off.

The course runs through a local park and is relatively flat and fast. I try my best to hold back at the start of 5Ks, but my best strategy for 5K speed hasn’t ever been negative splits — which I know sounds counter-intuitive. Instead, I try to run a speedy first mile and then dial it back until the end. I use that beginning of the race power to get a few extra seconds off my time. With this approach in mind, I finished my first mile in 6:50, a pace I hadn’t seen on my watch ever before in a race. I didn’t believe the numbers splashed on the screen until I heard a guy at the mile marker say the same.

I got a surge of adrenaline and confidence. A sub 7-minute mile is a great way to start, and I forged on after drinking a sip of water at an aid station. The thing is, there’s a quick turnaround around mile 1.5, and the pivoting action totally cut into the feel of my stride. My second mile time suffered as a result, turning into 7:10, which is quite a cooling off after that hot first mile.

I decided to stop looking at my watch after that point because my legs felt the misery of my going-out-too-fast mistake. I wanted to maintain, but if I had the numbers in front of me, I’d psyche myself out. Honestly, I can’t tell you what goes through my mind during 5Ks, because I think I associate it more with a color — white — and just pain. Not really physical pain but, instead, mental anguish.

I can tell you it’s during the last mile when I regret not doing more speed work. As I neared the finish I saw 21:45 splash across the clock in the distance. I was so close, yet so far away from my ultimate goal of finishing under 22 minutes. I almost tripped watching the time tick by until I crossed the line in 22:09 — 7:08/mile. A PR by 9 seconds off last year’s time for me, but 10 seconds too many to meet my goal.

Until next time, 5K.

Written by Ashley Marcin.

RELATED read Ashley’s race recap from last year