Why You Should Consider Racing a 5k or Two… or Three
Most runners begin their running careers by racing a 5k. Perhaps initially doubting the possibility of finishing, eventually, it became easy. So, we moved on, forsaking those 3.1 little miles in favor of longer and longer distances. Maybe it’s time to go back; to spend some time focused on seeing how fast you can run a 5k.
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Last week, I ran my first 5k in more than a year and it was amazing!
The Life Time Torchlight 5k was an absolute blast. It’s a really fun event that is super well organized, has an iconic course, fantastic after party, great swag, and a ton of participants. Life Time knows how to put on a race and I highly recommend any of their events.
Only a month removed from Grandma’s Marathon, I wasn’t planning on racing. It was just going to be a fun run. Then, a few hours before the race, the friend I was running with told me he wanted to see how fast he could run. Due to my fear of being left out, I decided I would do the same.
It wasn’t a PR, but running fast for 20 minutes (19:43 to be exact) got me excited to see how fast I could actually run a 5k if I focused on the distance.
If you need a break from training for and running longer distances, here are a few reasons why racing a 5k (or a whole bunch of them) might be a great way to spend the rest of your running year:
You can do it more often
This is so obvious I almost didn’t mention it at all. Racing a 5k is something you can do more often because it is easier on:
- Your body – even if you run super hard, the wear and tear is significantly less. If you take care of yourself, you can run a 5k every weekend.
- Your budget – The average 5k is about $25. The average half or full marathon is double or triple that. Conservatively, you can race two 5k’s for every half, and four for every full.
- Your mind – If you have a bad race one weekend, try again the next, and the next. You won’t have to be disappointed very long.
- Your relationships – not only are more friends likely to run a 5k with you, but you don’t need to abandon weekend plans because of your long run, or beg and plead with your significant other to let you spend 20 hours a week running.
Since there are dozens of 5k’s every weekend, you can pick ones that allow you to travel around the state, dress in costume, or involve some form of beer. I have friends who plan their social calendar around what 5k’s are going on in various parts of their state at different times of the year.
Racing a 5k Let’s you Get Ripped
Every runner should be doing strength training, but I have yet to see a non-elite distance runner who is ripped. Long distance running burns too much fuel for you to bulk up, but mostly it’s about time.
Training for a 5k takes a fraction of the time, allowing you opportunity to hit the gym for that amazing beach body. I’m talking about lifting weight, not just doing planks. You know, so you can look awesome at the beach, or in a tight t-shirt.
Before I started running marathons, I went to the weight room three times a week. My roommate and I were kind of obsessed our senior year of college, and the year after. I weighed about 20 pounds more than I do now, and I’d like to think it was all muscle. Below left is what I imagine I looked like when I was working out (running perhaps 12-15 miles a week), and below right is what I imagine I look like during marathon training.
The 5k is As Difficult as You Want it to Be
The marathon is hard no matter what pace you’re running; 26.2 miles is a long, long way. Even if you’re running significantly slower than you are capable of, it takes a tremendous toll on your body. For newer runners, this can be true of the half marathon, too. Most people can walk a 5k in an hour without much training. On the other hand, if you’re really training hard, and trying to set a new, faster PR, racing a fast 5k can hurt. It’s more or less an all out sprint that will leave you sore the next day. However, you probably won’t be limping, or walking down the stairs backwards.
Hard and fast, or slow and easy, racing a 5k adapts to your goals and aspirations.
Less Risk of Pooping your Pants
If you’ve been running for any length of time, you know what I’m talking about. When training for or racing a 5k, this rarely happens. (Emphasis on rarely.) Unless you start the run already having to go, it is unlikely to happen. Usually, it takes at least a mile for things to start working themselves into a compromising position. It takes another mile of debate on whether or not you should stop, and by the time you decide you need to, the 5k is over.
Related: Twin Cities Bathroom Map
But really, It’s about Motivation
Poop jokes aside, right now, I need some short wins to get excited about running again. The 5k is an easily accessible way to continue pushing myself physically and mentally while fitting in all the demands of normal life. If you need this too, but still want structured training, here’s our great 5k training plan to get you started. Check our race calendar for some 5ks. If you don’t live in Minnesota, checkout the Running in the USA map.