Listen to your body. That's fairly common advice for recreational runners. I've even doled it out at times myself. But I hate it. It makes no sense. Let's be honest:...
The trouble with racing ‘only’ 5K’s
There are many things I love about racing ‘shorter’ distances like 5K’s, 8K’s and 10K’s. I say ‘shorter’ because it seems everyone these days is training for a marathon or half marathon (not to mention those training for Half and full Ironmans!) These longer races are all amazing events and admirable goals to train for. I’ve been there and I’m sure I’ll come back to one or two. But these days they just require a bit too much time and structured training for my liking. You need to go with the flow of the stage you’re in, and right now my stage is “get everything done super quickly and efficiently and move on to the next thing” – which lends itself well to 5K training and racing. So, to anyone who asks, I say I’m training for mostly 5K’s. However, I’ve discovered a serious flaw to my plan of “going with the flow” and jumping into 5K’s when they’re convenient. And that is that they never really are completely convenient and they often get re-prioritized! I have no one to blame for this but myself, but after a summer of saying I was racing 5K’s I only ended up starting two and finishing one (my DNF is another story…)
Some non-regretted summer experiences I chose over racing a 5K
It does suit me right now to be flexible and to be able to re-prioritize on the go. Imagine having to say ‘no’ to a kid’s birthday party (they come up more frequently than you’d think), or a bike ride excursion with kids and friends, an invite to a cottage or a camping weekend with the family, because “Mom’s racing a 5K this weekend”? I truly would not enjoy that – no matter how fast I ended up running. I keep myself fit enough that I could jump into a 5K on any weekend and be either pleasantly surprised (it did happen this Spring) or have a bad race and question my training and racing strategy (see DNF). I never know because my training is never focused on one particular race. Again, this generally suits my life right now, but after a few missed 5K races for other things that came up (plus my DNF), I realized I wasn’t giving enough respect and commitment to my races because they were “just 5K’s”. For any of my longer distance races in the past – from Half Marathons and up, my weekends were blocked off and my family and social schedules adjusted. Why did I feel I could justify the prioritization for those races just because they’re longer? In fact, I’m one of those people who loudly defends the 5K as not ‘just’ a 5K, as it too is an Olympic event, and you would never say an Olympian runs ‘just’ the 5K. Focusing on going faster over a shorter distance is just as commendable as completing a longer distance.
So, I’ve learned a lesson. If I really do care about the results of a race, I will have to plan for it – regardless of distance. I now have a “season” of fall races penned in (thanks in large part to a new coach who is guiding me) and they are written in my calendar in pen. If a birthday party, a cool excursion or some other fun sounding option comes up, I will still prioritize my race. Plus, it’s only a 5K – it won’t take that long 😉