I am racing my first 5k (3.1 miles) of the season on Saturday in Brownsville, KY. Many would look at the distance and conclude that a 3.1 mile race should be "easy" for a marathoner (26.2 miles). Hardly. In fact, in some ways, it is harder.
A marathon is siege; a long, epic struggle of Will vs. Physiology. Months of training, strategic diet, mental preparation, and travel planning go into it. Once the race begins, adjustments can be made for weather, course difficulty, or falling off pace. This is not so for a 5k. A 5k requires one to push to the edge of comfortability from the opening gun. It is a three-mile race on the razor's edge of oxygen deficit and lactic-acid overload. Fall off the edge, and a runner's optimal time is toast. The same is true if a runner does not push hard enough. No racer wants to finish feeling as if they had too much left in the tank.
In a marathon, the first 10 miles or so are spent conserving and holding back to ensure that there is enough in the tank to finish well. Many times, a 5k involves running past the red line too soon and languishing home with lungs ablaze and legs of lead.
Saturday, I will attempt to find that uncomfortable, yet sustainable, pace early and save enough to thunder home in record time. My previous best at this distance is 18 mins 20 secs. Last year on this course, I ran 18.24. As I wrote a couple of weeks back, this marathon training may have helped or hurt my 5k times. I feel that I am faster right now than I was last year at this time, but I will not truly know until Saturday.
The quest for a sub-18 min 5k begins. I will have 4 or 5 chances to do it this summer and this is the first. Please pray for safety and a good trip around the course.