Or, how NOT to pace a 5K.
On Saturday, April 23rd I ran the Haverford Twilight 5K for the second year in a row. Last year I PR’d at this race and this year I felt that I was absolutely in position to run another personal best. I was so sure that I could beat my previous time of 23:17 that I cockily told Matt as I left for the race that I’d text him my new PR as soon as the run was over.
To earn a new PR I knew that I’d need to keep my first mile under control and run consistent splits. If my goal was to run, say, 23:10, my ideal splits would be something like 7:28, 7:32, 7:31, with a final 0.1 mile kick at around 6:30 pace.
As the table above illustrates, I’ve been running relatively fast times this spring and my pacing has been getting more consistent. With this in mind I believed that hovering right around that 7:30 mark during the bulk of the 3.1 mile race seemed like a reasonable and attainable goal.
So how did the race actually go? Not QUITE as planned.
I started the 5K several rows back to ensure that I wouldn’t get caught up in the initial mad rush of kids and sprinters who tend to stop or drastically slow down after the first quarter mile. I would describe my pace as “strong.” Not comfortable, but not pushing too hard either. Then I glanced down at my watch and realized I was averaging 6:50 pace for the first .3 miles. Whoops!
I slowed down and fell in behind a man wearing a bright blue shirt that said something about a running coach. I didn’t know if he was the coach or the coached, but either way I figured he could probably run a more consistent pace that I could so I resisted the urge to zoom past him and instead tucked in right behind him as we came off the first turnaround.
Before I knew it, mile 1 was over in 7:13.
I knew that I was way off pace, but oddly I still felt fantastic. Strong, happy, and matching my blue-shirted running coach stride for stride. We powered into mile 2 and zipped southeast down Darby Road at a nice clip.
I glanced at my watch again… I was still averaging a 7:13 pace halfway through the second mile. Whoa. Thoughts started swirling around in my head as I edged past the coach:
Could I somehow have underestimated my PR potential by this much?
Should I back off of this crazy a$$ pace right now??
Am I going to go sub-23??!!
How painful is mile 3 going to be?
Mile 2 ticked by in another, perfectly even 7:13. Unbelievable!!
But then the headwind kicked in. Oh yeah, did I mention that there was a 14mph wind coming out of the NNW? And guess which way I was headed for the third and final mile? Not good. The tailwind that had pushed me southeast for my fastest 2nd mile ever was now mercilessly slamming me in the face. My wildly off-pace 7:13 miles caught up with me and I struggled along, praying for the moment that I’d get to turn right on Mill Road, out of the wind and towards the finish.
At last the end was in sight. Mile 3 blipped by in a disappointing 8:00 split but I ignored my watch and pushed with everything I had towards the finish. I crossed the line with a chip time of 23:17… exactly tying my PR.
I know without a doubt that I messed up in those first two miles. But at the time they just felt so easy, so strong… so RIGHT! Some delusional part of my oxygen-deprived brain was telling me “Go for it!!” and I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to PR big because I was too conservative at the start.
That’s my problem right there. I always feel the urge to bank time and therefore go out too fast. How do I fix this? Do I have to run a terribly uneven 5K every once in a while to remind myself of how not to pace a race? At least during the Haverford Twilight Run I was able to TIE my PR (yay!) but I still believe that I should have been able to beat that time and set a new PR with a better executed race.
Going out too fast in my first mile shouldn’t be too much of a problem in my next race because it’s just a single mile! At 9AM today I’ll be dashing through the streets of Media, PA for a 1 mile race hosted by the 5280 race series. The only mile I’ve ever raced was on a track last August so I’m very excited to see how this morning’s road race will unfold!
Miles since last post: 0
Days since last post: 0
2016 MILES: 620.6
• April ’16: Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17)
• March ’16: St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16: Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16: Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15: Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15: BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15: Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15: Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR], Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1) [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)