Last Saturday I did something I haven’t done in quite a while.
I ran a 5K.
Now why would I, Mr. Ultra, suddenly decide to run a 5K? Well, I guess I needed a reminder of why I don’t run a lot of 5Ks. And less than a half mile into the Canton Liberty Run, I remembered. It’s because they suck.
A 5K for me may last only twenty minutes or so, but when I’m going all out, every minute feels like an hour, every mile like ten. But at long last I crossed the finish line and could catch my breath. I had to get to work at the Zero Waste station, so I did not follow up with the 10K to complete the “Liberty Slam.” That’s my excuse, anyway.
“Above all, have fun!” my coach told me when I told him I’d signed up. Now he, an Olympic-caliber 10K runner, should know better than that. A 50K? Now that’s fun. A half marathon can be fun, depending on how I pace it. But a 5K? There is only one acceptable pace, in my book. Balls out from start to finish. Pure pain and suffering the entire way.
So after a bit I went to check my results. Third in my age group. Not bad for the first 5K in a long time. And there, just above me, was a familiar name. Someone I have never, ever, beaten in a race that both of us are in. His name happens to be Jeff, too, but my wife has another name for him: Superman.
This has been her habit for years. Whenever I tell her I didn’t win my age group, her first question is, “Was Superman there?” And, yes, sometimes he is. And yet I had never met him. I always look for him at the awards ceremony, but with no luck. And, once again, he wasn’t there to pick up his 5K age group award.
But I had another chance. He wasn’t there because he was running the 10K to complete the Slam, and, (naturally) won our age group in that one. And finally, at the 10K awards ceremony, I spotted a guy wearing his bib number. And we met at last.
So this other Jeff is a really nice guy, and, it turns out, had been part of my run club many years ago. And we agreed it’s a great thing to be able to run strong at our age, and even improve, with the right training. Which I’m now trying to do, having restarted regular training after my two-month hiatus. And among my goals this year is to work on my “short game” to build fast-twitch muscles and speed, which will also help me at ultras.
Which is the real reason I was out there doing the 5K. They may suck, but if you want to run faster – well, you need to run fast. And so I endure the suck, and will continue to do so. All part of training. You’ll forgive me if I wait until after the race to remember to be grateful.