Why Training for a 5K Scares the Hell Out of Me

Hey, everyone. Todd here. For those who’ve been following us for a while, you know that Jen and I have completed a number of marathons. This weekend, we’re actually running the Wineglass Marathon, where I’ll be going for a new marathon PR (to break 4:20).

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Needless to say, I’m no stranger to the world of distance running, and I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea of training to run for hours on end to complete a 26.2-mile race. But when I recently thought about training purely for speed, to really race a 5K — which is “only” 3.1 miles — I actually managed to talk myself out of it.

When I first started running, I did a bunch of 5Ks…mostly local races that I remember as much for the post-race spread as I do for the course. Since I was a newbie, there wasn’t much pressure to nail a specific time or set a PR. (I was running in cross-trainers and cotton t-shirts, after all!)

MU 5K 2013 Todd Lesser finished 1st 5K

The picture that makes my wife LAUGH HYSTERICALLY…

I was just there to get out for a little while, go as fast as I could, and enjoy this new racing experience. They were fun…they must’ve been if I was willing to get up so early on a Sunday!

Fast forward a few years, and I really haven’t run so many 5Ks. (We do run a local 5K every year that includes a pizza festival, but I’m sure you can imagine what we look forward to there.)

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We’ve really been focusing a lot on longer distances, and it always seems like we have one (or multiple) marathons on the calendar. Over the summer, though, I was thinking about those 5Ks and how I hadn’t pursued a 5K PR in years. Something about that feat, though, makes me very uneasy.

If I’m going to race a 5K, I feel like I need to bust it…and I don’t know if I can. I’m scared of going all out and risking injury for something that truthfully isn’t one of my top goals. I’m very happy with the training I’ve put in for half- and full-marathons, achieving new PRs in both distances over the last year. But a fast 3.1 miles? That will require speed and discipline that I’m not sure I can bring to the table.

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Last year’s Steamtown Marathon, where I set my current PR

I’ll admit that Runner’s World piqued my interest in the 5K this year. The June issue had a whole section on crushing your 5K goal for the summer, and there was even a 10-week training plan. Although my first thought on this plan was, “Are you crazy? I’m not doing that!” I suspected I could possibly train for it in a shorter amount of time: three weeks. I didn’t really want to do more than that, and this was how long I had after racing a hard, hilly half-marathon in Mystic, Connecticut, and before the beginning of fall marathon training.

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After the Mystic Half Marathon

I found a few speed workouts online and decided (reluctantly) to give it a shot. Only a few days after running that hilly half, I attempted to do some intervals with little success. My legs just weren’t having it. A few days later, I tried again…and gave up halfway through. Yeah, I was disappointed…but you know what, not ALL that much. It was at that point that I just chose to abort the plan. There would be no 5K PR for me and no 5K attempt at all. I just didn’t have the drive to do it, and even with more rest, I wasn’t excited about pushing my body that far.

Ultimately, it was the smart call. I’m pretty much always in training mode—Jen says I’m not happy unless I’m training for something—and this was my chance to relax and give myself a break. I did think at one point that I should simply go for it and see what happens, but worry-free easy runs sounded a whole lot better than speed work.

After taking that nice break, I went head-first into training for Wineglass and now am ready to see what I can do in my next 26.2. But I haven’t forgotten about the 5K. With marathons taking up most of my time, I know I won’t have many chances to get that 5K PR. Perhaps someday soon. Until then, I guess I’ll be doing those runs mainly for the pizza. 🙂

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Our very first 5K together

Thanks for reading,

Todd

Have you ever followed a training plan for a 5K?

Have you ever aborted your training plans to give your body a break?

6 thoughts on “Why Training for a 5K Scares the Hell Out of Me

  1. I’m sure they elusive PR is somewhere in your future! I’ve done that pizza run before lol it’s crazy hilly for a girl from the Jersey Shore! Good luck at Wineglass!

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  2. I totally understand your aversion to 5k’s. It seems most people who run them are speedy so there is more pressure to “keep up”. At least for me it is. When I was marathon training I didn’t run any 5K’s cus I just couldn’t switch my mind set from endurance to speed!

    Oh, and I think we all wore cotton t shirts for our first race! I even pinned my race bib as high as yours cus nobody told me any different..lol

    Good luck at wine glass this weekend. You’re gonna crush it!

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    • Thanks, Meranda! You’re absolutely right–it’s hard to focus primarily on speed when you’ve mostly been doing endurance training. I can’t keep up with those 5K speedsters!

      Yeah, it’s funny to look back at those old running photos. I REALLY didn’t know what I was doing! –Todd

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  3. I hope Wineglass went well for you Todd! I was actually a coach for a PR 5K program in my town this summer. It was an 8 week program that ended with a 5K race. There were several people in the program who just enjoyed the workouts and social aspect – and they told me they weren’t going to run the 5K because they hate 5K’s! I thought that was pretty funny.

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