This Friday Five’s theme is “5 reasons to run a ____.” I’ve obviously chosen to write about 5Ks.
Many runners ignore the 5K once they “graduate” to longer distances, but all race distances have their challenges. A half marathon is 10 miles longer than a 5K, but if you race a 5K, it can be harder than a half marathon. 5Ks hurt like crazy, but at least the ride on the pain train is over quickly.
Here are the reasons why I appreciate the 5K distance:
1.) You can find and run one any weekend, any time of the year.
If you’ve read this far, you know I live in Charleston, SC (it’s even in the header of the blog). Charleston and other southern cities are quite hot, so the months of the year when you can train for and run a local endurance event are somewhat limited.
Most Southern marathons and half marathons occur between the months of November and March. That works for many runners, but what if you work in retail and are crazy busy during the holidays, or if you’re an accountant and work 60+ hours a week at the beginning of the year? What if you can’t travel to races- whether it’s due to finances, work, or family obligations? You can race 5Ks year-round without travelling far. Or, you can do a 5K when traveling- they’re pretty popular everywhere.
Whether it’s January or June, you can find a 5K in the Charleston area most Saturdays. If Saturday isn’t good for you, we have a growing number of Thursday night races, especially in the summer. Sunday races are rare here.
2.) Recovery is quick.
If you train for and race a 5K, then have a bad day or don’t meet your goals, you can likely find another 5K the next weekend. You may need a day off, but unless the race was very, very ugly (or you’re injured), you’ll be able to run again two days later. If you have a disappointing longer race, such as a marathon or half marathon, you’ll need at least a week to recover before jumping back into training mode, as well as finding another race that meets your schedule.
Typically, I race a 5K on Saturday morning, then do a longer run on Sunday morning with OnShore Racing run club. I try to get a long run (around 10 miles) each week. On weekends I do not race, I try to run a 12-13 mile long run to maintain endurance.
3.) You can race… or not.
Just because you sign up for a 5K race, doesn’t mean you have to go “PR or ER”. If your goal is to race a marathon or half marathon, you can easily turn a 5K into a “race-out”, a race that you run as a workout. This works well in large races with little chance at placing or PRing, and sometimes it’s better to leave some in the tank so you can recover and train hard the next week.
Recently, one friend who is training for a marathon had 12 miles on his schedule on a Saturday morning. He signed up for a local 10K, running 6 miles before the 10K, then using the crowd and support of the race to push him during the last 6.2 miles of his run. Definitely an effective use of a “race-out”.
Race entry fees can be expensive to run as training runs, but if you are training for a marathon but always run the local Turkey Trot, you don’t have to miss it! 3.1 miles is a good distance for a tempo run. You can easily add some miles before or after the race for a total of 6-7 miles… more in line with what a marathon training schedule might call for.
4.) 5K training isn’t life consuming.
I run between 35-40 miles per week, cross train, and strength train. This is the sweet spot for me, and I feel like I’m excelling at the 5K and 10K running this mileage. I recover well from my workouts and am not too busy or tired for real life.
If I ever train for another marathon, I would increase my mileage closer to 50 miles per week. I’m pretty cautious about increasing mileage, so it would take me several months to get up to 50 miles per week as a base.
The 35-40 miles per week I ran to “train” for the Darlington Marathon was not adequate for any goal besides completing the marathon. I finished- and I could run 35-40 weekly training miles and participate in a marathon, but I won’t. Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.
If I tackle marathon training again, I want to knock it out of the park and run well. I respect the distance, and I won’t run another marathon unless I can put forth the respect, effort, training, and recovery it deserves.
5.) Everyone can participate.
One of the best parts of 5K races is the diverse group of participants. You have the speedsters who finish 5Ks in 15 minutes, but you have others who are mid-packers, Couch-to-5Kers, or walkers. An elite athlete may train 100+ miles per week and race a 5K, while a new mom may run/walk three times a week with a stroller. The 5K is a race that meets any runner’s needs- whether they want to break local records or just run the whole time without stopping. You can be serious about the 5K- or not. It’s up to you.
Almost every 5K is walker friendly. Kids can run 5Ks, and many 5Ks allow dogs. Some 5Ks even have special categories for runners with dogs or strollers. No one’s left out.
I love sharing 5Ks with Clay and with my friends- whether it’s a friend whose been running for years or someone who’s “graduating” from Couch-to-5K. With so many local 5Ks, I have lots of opportunities to share running with new and old friends.
If you’re in the Charleston area and want to run a 5K, my recommendations include the Race the Landing series at Charles Towne Landing, the Old Village 5K in Mount Pleasant, the Charleston Marathon’s Shrimp and Grits 5KCharleston Marathon’s Shrimp and Grits 5K in North Charleston, the James Island Connector Run, and the Summerville Shamrock Shuffle.