The 5K Test

The 5K test. It’s a benchmark in the endurance training world to see how fit you are and to test your toughness threshold both mentally and physically.  Its loved by some and dreaded by others. For me, it’s the most dreaded of all workouts. I would rather go run a marathon or bike 100 miles than run a 5K test. That being said, I had one on tap for today and have been dreading it since I saw it on my calendar last week. 

The last 5K test I did was also in August, the hardest time of the year for me to run due to heat and humidity. For that one, I had a friend pace me, which helped with the mental and physical aspects of the test. They set the pace and all I had to do was follow which took some of the mental work out of it. It was also nice having a pacer give me a few mental cues along the way like ‘focus on your breathing”, “relax your shoulders”, “you’re 1 mile in and doing great!” and lastly that reminder “we’re almost at 3 miles… don’t forget the.1 of the 5K….”. That 5K test was tough but doable and I was in Ironman race shape so I was confident going in that it would go well and if it didn’t, I’d have someone there to help me pull myself together after. 

 Heading into this 5K test, I knew it was going to be hard. Once again, its August and hot and humid and generally unpleasant all around outside. I also knew I’d be running it alone – no pacer, and… the biggest part is that I’m certainly NOT in Ironman shape. In fact, I’m coming off an injury that had me sidelined from running for roughly 12 weeks. So… this was gonna be a doozy. 

I considered telling my coach that I just wasn’t up for a 5K test and that I’d just skip it this training cycle.  But then I remembered one of the reasons I started all of this racing and training – to show my kids what hard work looked like and to teach them life lessons about working hard and failure and overcoming obstacles. My older son has an impeccable work effort and pushes himself in all that he does. My younger son, is the polar opposite. So many things in life have come easy to him that he has no capacity at this point in his life for trying. He simply doesn’t know how to do it. If he tries something and it doesn’t work out – he just gives up and moves on. We’ve been talking at length about his fear of failure and his inability to work hard and how it’s important to try things – regardless of what the outcome is. So this morning at the bus stop I told him about this 5K test and about how scared I was of it and how I really did NOT want to do it. I told him I knew my time was going to not be great but that I was going to go out and give it my all and work really hard for those 3.1 miles. He wished me luck and hopped on the bus and I headed out for the run.

The run went mostly according to plan. I warmed up, did a few speed up sprints and then hit the lap button on my watch for the 5K test. I ran hard the first mile and wasn’t too far off the pace I wanted and I was a little ahead of my expected pace. The second mile, I tried to hold that pace and not let it slip because mile 2 is always the hardest for me. When I got to the final mile, I decided to run that one all out – like channel my inner Olympian and hit the gas. That mile hurt… like just about every step hurt… but I focused on all the things – my breathing, my stride, relaxing my shoulders, my cadence… and I ran that mile with my younger son in mind… to exemplify to him that in running, as in in life, there is no success without suffering. So I suffered a lot in that last mile and managed to run that mile faster than other two by roughly :15 seconds. And then just like that it was over. I made my way through a hot and challenging 5k test…. And I didn’t die and I realized that sometimes it’s less about the accomplishment and more about the effort. Today I gave a lot of effort and that alone is a huge accomplishment.