On the 21st September 2019, I ran the Botswana Independence 5K race. One thing which really surprised me was how shocked people seemed when I said I was running the 5K, “Why not the Half? Or the 10k at the very least?!” Initially I was taken aback, momentarily embarrassed that I wasn’t doing anything longer and I quickly chimed in with a “Well, I’m running a 10k trail tomorrow so that’s why”. But once my race was done, my first thought was “This was really fun! I need to sign up for more 5K races!” We often think 5K races are for beginners or for the Mo Farahs of the world. But 5K races can also really benefit endurance runners.
Here Are My Five Reasons
1/ They’re Easier On the Pocket: 5K races are usually cheaper than the longer distances and many I’ve seen still come with a free t-shirt, a medal and even a drink or fruit at the end. You also still get to experience the brilliant race atmosphere and a beautiful morning with other excited runners. But for a shorter distance. One of my goals this year is to run 20 races so I’ll have to be a lot more mindful of my budget and doing a few 5Ks will certainly help.
2/ You Can Up Your Style Game: A big consideration when running longer distances is what to wear, what to carry and how to carry it. I usually have to take my hydration pack, a couple of gels, my phone and some pain killers. I also have to be really careful about the clothing I choose – is this sports bra okay for longer distances? Will I chafe? Will my tights be comfortable for the full distance? I found for the 5K race I could focus on style. It was Botswana’s Independence Race so I wanted to wear something patriotic. As our national animal is the zebra, I chose my black and white striped tights. They are not comfortable for long distances but I thought they would definitely work for a 5K and they did. I felt awesome!
3/ You Can Run Like The Wind! I love running long distances – starting out slow, calculating paces along the way, getting to breaking point and fearing disaster, and then digging deep for that last burst of energy to finish the last 4 or 5 km of the race. There is nothing like that feeling of achievement and pride. But on this day, I discovered another joy – as I lined up at the start, I made the impromptu decision to really race it. For longer distances, there is always the danger of going out to fast and then suffering at the end. But for this 5K, I felt I had enough stamina in me to really push it the whole way. So I decided to compete against myself, the clock and even the young athletic runners! Of course, they were long gone by the time I realised the gun had gone off, but I was determined to run down my personal best which I think at that point was around 32 minutes. My first km was done in 06:26 min, my second in 06:18, my third was even faster, 06:05, and just when I thought I couldn’t step it up even further, I ran my 4th in 06:02. The last section was on the stadium track but I quickly realised the course was going to be short. So when I got to the Finish, I grabbed my medal from the startled marshal and headed out of the Stadium for another 400m or so! When my watch beeped, there I saw it – my last km was done in 05:42, meaning a new personal best of 30:34 minutes! What a race – I felt strong and fast and realised a sub-30min 5K was in sight.
4/ And Just Like That You’re Done: My favourite distance is the Half Marathon. But boy does it take time! Not just the actual race but the time to recover afterwards. The best part of this 5K race was that it was over in 30 minutes, not 2.5 hours, LOL! It felt good to get to 3km and realise I was soon done with the race. When I finished, I had time to catch up with friends as I waited for others to finish the longer distances.
After the race, I got so much done. Usually when I’ve run a Half the rest of my day is a lazy one! But after my 5K I was still bouncing with energy and excitement.
5/ It Can Boost Your Confidence: I’ve always said I love endurance running because I can take my body far at a slow and consistent pace. When I run 5K or even 10K races, I feel the race is over just as I’ve warmed up and come into my stride. But this race showed me that with a bit more speed training and effort, I can pick up my pace. It felt really good. I was so confident after this race that I set a 5K time trial for the 15th December where my goal was to go under 30 minutes! And I did – my PB is now 29:52. Without this 5K race, I doubt I would have attempted a sub-30 time in 2019. Knowing I had more speed in me also helped to get me to a 2:17 Half Marathon time just before New Year’s.
As endurance runners, it’s easy to scoff at 5K races as was evidenced on that race morning when people were surprised at my choice of distance – 5K races are for beginners we say or for parents with strollers. But this race really opened my eyes to the power of 5K races and how they can help to improve 10K, Half Marathon or even Marathon performances. When properly used and scheduled in a training cycle, a 5K race can add so much value, be it assessing your health, giving you an extra gear to use in a race or just letting loose and having fun.
If you’re an endurance runner, how often do you do 5K races? What do you enjoy about 5K races? What’s your preferred race distance? Let me know in the comments!
I’m joining two fabulous runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up, the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!