Last weekend, in lieu of doing formal speed work, I decided to run a last-minute 5K. I was going to do the ever-popular Rocky Run in Philly but the last-minute pricing was prohibitive, so I opted for the lower-priced, saner option – The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation 5K. I liked that it was not a "for-profit" race and that the proceeds went to a worthy cause.
I was fairly chill about this race and did not overthink anything, especially since running it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was held at Memorial Hall where I've run a zillion 5Ks and where I sometimes do part of my long runs, so I know the terrain. Pasta and tempranillo for dinner the night before. English muffin and small soy latte breakfast. You already know the drill.
My loose goals going into this race were:
- A goal: PR and break 22:00
- B goal: PR, period
- C goal: win age group
Pre-race: gear and warm up
Luckily, I slept really well. It was a chilly autumn morning – perfect race weather. I wore warm up clothing and fortunately, the race had a gear check so I was able to check my bag and just hang out in shorts and a long-sleeve throwaway until gun time. Underneath my warm ups, my "kit" (funny to even call it that for a local 5K) consisted of Nike Dri-Fit Epic Run Boy Shorts, an old cheeky, long-sleeved shirt that says "I know I run like a girl. Try to keep up," (from One More Mile; exact is no longer available); an Old Navy running bra, tried-and-true Balega socks and my trusty, no-frills Mizuno Wave Rider 19s. I also wore gloves. I don't usually race in fancy gloves. I buy $1 gloves at AC Moore. They are light, come in every color and are perfect for racing.
When I bought the Nike shorts a few years back, I hated them and hardly wore them. Isn't it funny how you can change your mind about things? Now, they are among my favorites in terms of both fit and function. I love that they have a zippered back pocket – very important for holding your keys.
I usually jog 3 miles to warm up for a 5K, but I only ended up running 2 miles and doing a few sets of 100-meter strides.
The race was 8 minutes late getting started. I tossed off my throwaway T-shirt too early, but I wasn't all that cold since I was packed in with other runners at the start.
The race: mile 1
When the gun goes off, everyone gets caught up in the heat of the moment. I'm no exception. When I looked down at my Garmin and saw 5:45, I thought "Slow down there, girl," and dialed it way back. Other women bounded past me, and I thought my usual "catch you later, tater." ...Which I did, many of them within the next 400 or 500 meters.
For the first mile I concentrated on getting up to and holding a pace I could maintain and getting into my breath. That wound up being a 7:00 mile.
The race: mile 2
Mile 2, the pack started to thin out and I could see about 7 or 8 girls ahead of me. I've learned from experience that judging your competition by looks alone can be a big mistake. I'm small and light, and I've assumed in the past – incorrectly – that because of my size, I could easily outrun any runner who was bigger than me. Or that I could outrun any woman who had an unusual, awkward stride. Or I could outrun any woman who looked like she was 10 years older than me.
Fast, determined runners come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and they all have their own techniques. Never underestimate your competition.
This said, when a girl ran by me with a labored, awkward stride, swinging her arms very widely, I automatically assumed she could beat me. But this time, luck was on my side. She could not keep up her pace. I felt good and surged. I picked off her and about 3 other girls on an uphill, one of my strengths. My pace for mile 2 was 6:55
The race mile 3
Still feeling strong, I knew it was time to crank up the speed a notch or two. I was working hard but by no means dying. After running the 10K and the Half Marathon the previous weeks, this felt easier by contrast. I was not giving it my all, because this was not a goal race. It was all about control. Four girls were still ahead of me, and I finally passed one. I logged in a 6:48 pace for the final mile.
The final .1 mile
When I got to the .1, I knew I could not possibly catch the others, but I do better when I am focused on chasing someone, so I eyed a dude who was in front of me then passed him, sprinting home at 6:26 pace.
When I finished, I thought I had gotten fourth, but the girl whom I passed on the final mile had a better chip time by 1 second (she had started after me). That's the 5K for you– every second matters, and had I just put in a teensy bit more effort, I would have taken 4th. Still, I was very happy with 5th place, a PR for me! I also won first female master and 1st in my age group by nearly 5 minutes. Amazingly, the stars aligned and I achieved my A, B and C my goals. It does not happen every race, but it's sure nice when it does.
I ran negative splits for this race – with each mile getting progressively faster. Even with the slight uphills toward the end, this strategy worked out perfectly for me. This year, one of my biggest improvements as a runner has been learning to tailor my approach and pacing to each race and its unique terrain.
MMRT 5K Race Review
- Very well organized for a smaller race
- Good porta-potty-to-runner ratio. Clean and no heinous lines.
- Excellent post-race fuel including water, bananas, danish, bagels, cream cheese and hot coffee, which the chilly runners most definitely appreciated
- Great cause. Great energy. Team competitions for those who raised the most money. A fun event for everyone.
- I really can't think of anything bad to say about this race.