I took my shot on Saturday at a local 5k and ran 16:29.
After the race I was disappointed, but only for about 5 minutes. I walked backwards on the course and watched as the runners came in. It's impossible to stay blue when you see folks working it that last half mile of a 5k. I stood and watched, offering words of encouragement. But I was the one encouraged. Cheesy, but true.
I looked back today on athlinks through some of my old road racing. Though I've done it several times on the track, in my entire life I've broken 16 minutes for 5k on the roads exactly twice. Once the course was short--I ran 14:47, supposedly. Ha! Unfortunately, I think that race would have been my road PR. The other time I squeaked under with a 15:55, a road race I ran in April after track season while home visiting from college, more than 10 years ago.
So, that puts this goal into some perspective for me. The fact that I'm considering it is pretty meaningful. On Saturday, I took it out hard with a buddy pacing me through the mile. Both of us thought we were taking it too hard, that we would come through too fast, but the split was 5:14, 5 seconds off of the pace I needed. (Looking later at course maps, it's conceivable that the marker was 10-15 seconds off.) My buddy dropped out of the race and I put the hammer down on the second mile, running 5:03 to come through two miles right on pace: 10:17. Unfortunately, that hard solo mile took too much out of me. About halfway into the last mile I started rigging hard. I staggered home in 5:39, when I needed 5:10.
But I'm happy. This is the first 5k in a while where I really raced it. In that second mile, I took the risk of running too hard over the risk of running too easy. That makes me feel good.
On the other hand I was reminded just how hard racing is. You hear it all the time: push yourself to the limit. It's true, but when you're really fit, the challenge is a bit different. It's about finding that limit and staying goddamn right on top of it, riding it like you're trying to break a wild horse. That's the brutal skill of racing. I've been able to do it a couple of times pretty well in this second racing career: CMM 2007, Tom King this spring. It hasn't happened yet in the 5k. But I'm strong enough to do it. It's just a matter of dusting myself off, jumping back on the horse, and teaching that wild animal to ride.