THE MILESTONE BIRTHDAY (50) ARRIVES ON SATURDAY, and the Holiday Hustle 5K race in Dexter is the first event in my year of celebratory activities. My goal is to beat 20:00 for the race, or get as close as I can to that mark. My current personal record (PR) for a 5K is 21:40, and at the very least I expect to beat that by a significant amount.
Training for speed improvement is different from training for distance. My marathon training this year was mainly long, slow runs, building the endurance necessary to run 26.2 miles. Speed training works a different set of muscles and consists of things like intervals (slow-fast-slow-fast stages), progressions (where each stage is faster than the one before), and hill work (re: uphill-work). Coach Marie didn’t assign much of that over the summer, saying that distance running would also help with speed. But once I recovered from the marathon, the intervals and progressions began.
To say I do not like speedwork is like saying cats do not like taking showers. Distance running, while mentally taxing, is at least somewhat comfortable physically. Speed training is not at all comfortable, and all the brain wants is to stop the insanity and go get ice cream. But I have been gutting it out as best I can, and my interval times are encouraging, showing definite improvement from earlier this year. On Saturday I will find out how that translates into a 5K race.
My goal is aggressive but not unrealistic; runners near or past 50 can still be quite speedy. Last year at a 5K fun run in Glen Arbor, a 49-year-old ran a 17:39. That’s a 5:42 per mile pace, folks, and he didn’t even need an ambulance at the end. All I need is a 6:26 pace to beat 20:00. While, honestly, that still feels a bit beyond my reach for 3.1 miles, I will keep working at it until I get there. I have gotten faster every year since I started measuring such things (2008), and from what I’ve read, I can expect to improve further for at least several more years. If, that is, I continue hustling (the legal kind).