Summer brings warmer weather, picnics, swimming and baseball games. It also brings a change in my attitude towards running. This summer I decided to go back to the race that started it all: the 5k. For the past four years I've been concentrating on half marathons and marathons, only running a 5k here or there, for a specific charity I wanted to support. After running my second Pittsburgh Marathon in May and logging a significant personal best, I decided it was the perfect time to switch up my goals and focus on running faster; not further. In addition, training for a marathon can be extremely time comsuming, not to mention, also painful. Plus there is usually a hefty race entry fee. Also months of training can be smothered away by a blistering hot and humid day.
Running a 5k is completely different. Since I've been running several years now, I can put in one to three weeks of preparation for a 5k. Or I can have no preparation and just "wing it". (I don't recommend this, although I did just that in June.) I'm not saying that 5ks are easy. To the contrary, I've found some 5ks to be more difficult than some half marathons I've run.
My first summer 5k was on June 7th through Mt. Lebanon. I didn't train at all for this race because we had just got back from our vacation on June 1st. While I had done a lot of walking on vacation, I didn't run at all so I wasn't sure how it would go. On top of not running for a few weeks, this was in my top three hardest 5ks I've ever done. Hills! Hills! Hills! The first 2 miles of the race went fine, but during the last mile the heat and hills got to me and I slowed down A LOT! I really wanted to finish under 30 minutes but couldn't manage to pick up any speed and ended up with a time of 30:19.
My second summer 5k was the Brentwood Firecracker on July 4th. Typically July is a very warm month in Pittsburgh, but when I awoke on July 4th is was a beautiful sixty degrees with no humidity! It was absolutely perfect for running!
I really enjoyed this race because Brentwood holds the race right before their Fourth of July parade and there's a great crowd! This race really felt like a mini marathon with all the spectators lining the streets. I wouldn't call the course hilly, but it is rolling. My second mile ended up being my fatest and I finished strong. Although "kicking it in for the finish" seemed to be more like holding on to my pace, I ended up running a 27:43. I was really happy with this because I hadn't run a sub 28 minute 5k since 2009.
The third 5k I ran this summer was the Brookline Breeze. This race is mostly on Brookline Boulevard and it's hilly! The course starts out going up a long uphill. My goal going into the race was to be under 30 minutes, but with hills and summer temperatures I wasn't sure if that was doable. After surviving the first long hill I felt like I could cruise through the course for a bit. Mile 2 included another uphill but it didn't affect me much. At the turnaround I felt like I had a decent pace I could maintain, but a turn through a church parking lot and another uphill slowed me quite a bit. The last mile I basically tried to run as fast as I could to get under 30 minutes. But I didn't quite make it and ended up finishing in 30:32.
I had a lot of fun during my summer of 5ks. It's really a great event and a way to get a lot of people and communities involved. I also have a long term goal of running a sub 25 minute 5k. I think this is going to be one of my goals for next summer. I just need to find a flat race in Pittsburgh! Anyone know of one?
I also want to thank my husband, Bobby for running all the summer 5ks with me. He really keeps me motivated and helps me when I'm struggling during races.
Now, I'm looking forward to fall running. Hopefully I'll reap the benefits of running in the heat and humidity and running in the fall will feel easy again. It's really a great time to run with the leaves changing, the crisp air and the low temperatures. I'm thinking about trying some new distance races this fall too such as a 6.6k. What races are on your schedule this fall?
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.