After all the doom and gloom surrounding my last marathon, a fun 5k was just what I needed. So, I jumped in my first 5k since January. It was really fun.
Fun?! A race can be fun? Training for the marathon is like reading El Quixote (apologies to Mikey). Or Ulysses. Or Hegel's Logic. You have to become the work to get through it. There's this huge mass of meaning that lies in front of you and behind you. And there's this sense that somehow the task will make you a better person when you're done, a sense that keeps you going, but is never really cashed out completely. Sure you come out on the other side vaguely transformed and perhaps with a few inchoate insights into things. But you know that you could read the book a hundred times again and never get to the bottom of it. Even though you've given yourself over to it, completely. The marathon, like great art, is life: absurd, tragic, confusing, enlightening, difficult, meaningful, and dark.
The 5k is fun.
I didn't taper. I didn't have to wake up at 4am. I hadn't spent the last 6 months training for it. I didn't sweat my pre-run meal. I ran into my friend Chris before the race and we warmed up together, cruising along at 6:30 pace or so. I didn't worry I was wasting energy. We laughed and joked. At the starting line, folks were rambunctious and cheerful. Yelling to their friends, raring to go. It was sunny and hot. I just took off my shirt. Had it been that temperature for a marathon, I would have been cursing the fates.
After a short explanation of the course and congratulations for Scott and Erin, the gun went off. I found myself running with Chris and two recent Belmont College grads, one who'd recently run 14:11 on the track, another who told me after the race he'd gone 14:50. Fortunately, all three of those guys were content to let me set the pace; none was looking to run a PR. So, I just settled in to race. The course is three laps of Centennial Park. We came through the mile around 5:12, and I felt really comfortable, but I had a suspicion that things were about to heat up.
The second lap, the middle mile, I still felt strong, but Chris and one of the Belmont guys (you can guess which) started picking it up. They broke free on a little rise and were about 5 seconds up on me at the two mile. My split was around 5:12 again. I was happy I hadn't slowed, but starting to feel the pace. Those guys dropped the hammer, and I let them go. The other Belmont guy kept cruising, but I slowed a bit as the pain of racing came on. I tried to keep a quick turnover and just make it through.
This is the thing about the 5k: you hesitate once, and you lose 20 seconds. As soon as the finish line came into view, my legs felt a huge surge of energy and I was back to cruising, and kicking myself for slacking off for the last 4 minutes or so. But it's good to know there's more in the tank. I cruised across the line in 16:22. Chris was edged out by the first Belmont guy in 15:51, the second Belmont guy came in around 16:00. I was fourth. Before the race I had told myself to be happy with sub-17. I thought that 16:30 was possible. 16:22 was surprising. Plus, I won two movie tickets for 1st in my age group. See: fun!
I'm really looking forward to racing frequently this summer, and excited to see how low I can drag that 5k. Some light summer reading is in order. Put away Moby Dick and pick up Huck Finn. It's summer time. 5k time. Time to run for fun.