I think I’ve finally figured out the 13 stages of running 5Ks:

  • Stage 1 (Mile 0.00-0.25): Oh boy am I running fast. This is fun.
  • Stage 2 (Mile 0.25-0.50): Oh boy am I running fast.  I wonder how long I can keep this pace up.
  • Stage 3 (Mile 0.50-0.75): Oh boy.  I think I might be running too fast.
  • Stage 4 (Mile 0.75-1.00): Where the heck is that mile marker?!?!
  • Stage 5 (Mile 1.00-1.25): There’s no way that was only a mile.  Why can’t race directors accurately measure their courses?
  • Stage 6 (Mile 1.25-1.50): Those guys in the lead sure are fast.  I wonder if any of them are old enough to shave.
  • Stage 7 (Mile 1.50-1.55): Where’s the stinking turn around?
  • Stage 8 (Mile 1.55-1.60): Halfway!
  • Stage 9 (Mile 1.60-1.75): Only halfway?!?!
  • Stage 10 (Mile 1.75-2.00): If it’s possible to throw up a lung, I may well find out fairly soon.
  • Stage 11 (Mile 2.00-3.00): ARRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!
  • Stage 12 (Mile 3.00-3.10): Final “sprint” to the finish.
  • Stage 13: Various gasps, sputters, and wheezes undertaken while laying prone on the ground just past the finish line.

Phil’s Theory of Running Relativity

Thursday’s race brought to the fore an idea I’ve been noodling about for a while.  I’ve tended to notice that the faster I run, the longer each mile seems to be.  And the slower I run, the quicker they seem to fly by.  This is counterintuitive, but I think it’s due to how much we have to focus.  When you’re at max effort in a 5k, every fiber of your being is focused on what you are doing.  Your mind is capturing and storing vast amounts of information about your physical performance: how your stride feels, the pumping of your arms, breathing, what hurts, etc.  You’re thinking so much that your perception of time slows so that 5 minutes now feels like 10.  The converse is true when you’re out for a long run.  You let your mind just drift off into nothingness and the time (and miles) just seem to flow by at a relaxed pace.  Sometimes an hour can only feel like 15-20 minutes when you’re in a good groove.

Actual Race Report

This is the second year that I’ve done this race, however my experience was quite a bit different than last year’s race in Ocean City.  For starters, the course was different.  The boardwalk is being redone so this year the race was between 18th street and 33rd on Haven Street.  It was still an out and back course so I was able to see my family as they passed me going the other way.  Well, I was able to see some of them.  Most of them wore the race shirts during the race, which was the same decision that about half of the 700+ runners made.  So when I glanced over to look at the runners, they all seemed to blend into each other.  Well, all of them except the 2 dinosaurs.

I didn’t have any expectations heading into the race.  I was hoping for a nice shiny PR, but I haven’t really been training for a 5K and had been feeling a bit under the weather.  Toss into the mix that I only got about 7 hours of sleep the before and then had to drive 2 hours down to the shore and I was feeling less sure of a fast run.  Which of course removed any and all expectations and probably allowed me to run better than I would have otherwise.

We got to the start about half and hour early, waited in line for 15 minutes for the bathrooms, then headed to the start line.  They didn’t start the national anthem until a minute or so after 8:30am so the race itself ended up starting about 5 minutes late.  I always find this rather annoying, but went with the flow.

As soon I started running, I kept checking my pace on my watch trying to avoid the too fast start.  From last year, I know my 5K pace is somewhere in the 6:50-7:00 range so started easing off a little when I saw that it was below this.  I was feeling pretty good even though I was working and wondered how much I was going to fade.  I was very happy to see the 6:51 at the end of mile one.  I kept pushing along, reached the turnaround, and headed back to the start/finish line.  I had started to slow down a little, but a good tune came on right after the turn, and I was able to make up some time.  Even with this though I was surprised to see another 6:51 flash on my watch.  The last mile. . . .  Well, the last mile always sucks.  Most of this mile was done at a pace above 7 minutes, but I buckled down and ended up with my third mile at 6:59.  My final kick had me at a 6:19 pace giving me a time of 21:28, which was good enough for a 14 second PR.

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with my race.  While I was only 14 seconds faster, this was a much better performance.  Last year I went out too fast in the first mile (6:22), slowed dramatically in the second (6:47), blew up in the final mile (7:09), and then was barely able to increase my pace during my final kick (7:03).  This year I ran the first 2 miles at the same pace and then slowed only 8 seconds during mile 3 leaving me with plenty in the tank to push at the end.  I don’t necessarily think I gave it my all, but doubt I could have shaved more than 10-15 seconds off my total time. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with being only a little faster despite being a year older.

How do you think of time while you run?