Yesterday I made a running mistake.
After distance training all summer, I wanted to beat my 5K PR time. I achieved that PR in April, on a cool(ish), cloudy, almost-raining morning. Yesterday’s 5K race was in September (obviously), and it was already getting warm and humid when the race started. I wasn’t sure I could beat my PR because of the summer heat. The plan was to run normally the first mile or two (to conserve energy and get all warmed up) and then give it all I had at the end.
Although in my head I knew the dangers of going out too fast, I started out the race confidently, running much faster than my normal pace and feeling great. It’s easy to do this in a race. People are cheering. It’s exciting. People are watching. You are being officially timed. The problem with this is that your body hasn’t trained for this pace and can’t keep it up for very long. In my case, I started to slow down in the second mile, and didn’t have as much energy at the end as I’d planned. For the last half of the race I did my best to pick up my pace but it just wasn’t working too well.
I still attempted to push it hard for the last quarter mile, and was helped by a more experienced runner who jumped in with me, ran with me, and told me I could do it and not to slow down. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Tears were coming out of my eyes and I was wondering how pitiful I must have looked for that runner to feel the need to come out and help me.
Ultimately, I did beat my PR by a little more than a minute. I was happy about that, but I instantly wondered if I could have beat it by more, or if it would’ve been less painful, had I followed my plan and taken it “easy” at the start. I compared all my struggling with the seemingly-small improvement of one minute and felt disappointed in myself.
As time goes on, I hope to get better not only at running but at racing. I’m not sure when my next timed 5K is going to be, but I hope to use my experience yesterday to run smarter not only in 5Ks but in all of the distance races I have coming up.