Making 5K Strides

Running has become very seasonal for me over the past five years. It’s not the most important thing I do, but I continue to enjoy it. It has great and rough points like everything else, but almost without thinking, it’s something I do.

January brings a time to set new goals, and I try to get on the treadmill a little longer and brave the winter cold on decent days to start getting in better shape. By February and March I’m in training for the Earth Day Half Marathon in April, and I’m possibly eyeing a marathon or another half later in the spring. Fall is a time when I relish running outside in the crisp air, and I start running longer more consistently if I have a 10 mile or half marathon on the calendar. By December I’m evaluating the almost-gone year, doing a few more miles on the treadmill, and thinking ahead to future goals.

But summer —

Summer is the season of 5K’s. Nearly every small town around has a festival that includes a race on Saturday morning. Then there are the schools, hospitals, churches, and businesses that organize runs as a fundraiser or family event. Sometimes a 10K is included or the distance is changed to 4 or 5 miles, but 5K is the norm.

Usually my spring training leaves me in decent shape for summer 5K runs, but I’m often missing that fast speed work to stay strong in the last stretch. I’ve come to find that a 5K can REALLY HURT when you run it hard, but there’s a true feeling of satisfaction crossing the finish knowing you gave your best effort for those 3.1 miles.

Last year was rather dismal for my 5K progress. I did a nice April race where I just didn’t run up to my potential and an August race that was hot, humid, and more hilly than I’m used to. I never got within a minute of my 23:10 PR (from
February 2012), and I decided maybe I didn’t really like 5K’s that much anymore. After taking over five minutes off my time in the previous few years, possibly I was now beyond the point of improvement. Maybe??

Looking back now I realize how silly that thought was. I had a few lackluster races, but I’m still only 29. I don’t have any super fast teenage or college times to beat, so if I keep working hard there is plenty of room to go faster.

This summer I now find myself having run three 5K races in the past six weeks. The first was our small town’s race, which was two weeks before Grandma’s Marathon. I didn’t think I would run that well, but I wanted to support the local event and program it benefitted.

It was a small race – under 100 runners – and I ran 24:10. I was under 8:00/mile pace, and somehow I managed to be the first female across the line! This has never happened to me before, and may never happen again. I savored breaking the thin tape they held out for me at the finish. The previous year’s first female had been much faster, but somehow the right mix of runners allowed me to win this year. It was just the confidence boost I needed going into Grandma’s and to convince me I wasn’t horrible at 5K’s after all.


Over July 4th weekend I ran another with my family, and this time I came in at 23:32. It felt great to see “23:XX” again, and it was a hot day so I knew I could go faster in better weather.
The fun of this race was magnified by having so much of my family around either running or cheering.


Then last weekend, I ran another. I got the urge to look up area races in the middle of the week, and I saw a 5K/10K in a nearby town. I thought about doing the 10K, but I decided I wanted to see if I could keep my 5K improvement going.

It was a humid morning but overcast, so as July running weather goes it wasn’t bad. I started near the leaders and just tried to keep the pace uncomfortable. My breathing and arms were as relaxed as possible, but I knew I wouldn’t run my best unless I kept attacking the pace.

I was exhausted as I hit mile two, but there were a few people just far enough ahead of me to keep me chasing after them. I passed two, but I couldn’t quite beat the third guy to the line.

Final result?

23:12; fifth place woman overall.

I was thrilled with this time, even though it was a mere two seconds from my PR. {I think the course was a few hundredths short, so that curbed my disappointment of not being a few seconds faster.}



I’ve been keeping up a strong running schedule through July, so I’m convinced that when cooler temperatures arrive I may finally get a new 5K best.

No matter what, the journey is fun. Local races are certainly different than the excitement of a marathon finish, but there are still great things about running in your hometown or with family and neighbors. Not to mention you feel okay getting out of bed the next day!

I may be done with marathons for the year (I think), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of worthy goals to go after.

How is your summer exercise and training going? What do you like best (to eat, drink, recover) on a hot day after your workout?

About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
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3 Responses to Making 5K Strides

  1. Pamela says:

    Ran in a nice 10K this morning. My “recovery drink” of choice is a tall cold glass of milk made with Hershey’s syrup. I think about it during my whole run since it’s the only time I have chocolate milk. 😋 Mmmm.

  2. Pingback: Running Through 2014 | Cow Spots and Tales

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