Why Sub 19?

Why the sub 19-minute 5k goal?

It isn’t a PR; it isn’t a time standard to qualify for anything but just an arbitrary number.  For me, a PR in a 5k would be below an 18:35.  That’s exactly 6 minutes per mile, but I only ran that pace once.

For the last four months, I have had one goal, and it wasn’t to PR. It was to break 19 minutes.  19 minutes Is a random time; it’s not a standard I must meet, and it’s not a PR.  It seems like a random number at best.  In fact, unless you followed my blog a couple of years ago you might have thought my PR was a 19:30 or 20 minutes.

For almost the last two years, I’ve consistently run between 20-20:30 minute 5ks. During the last two years, I was a different runner with different goals.  I was training for my first marathon, but honestly I was dealing with a lot of post-college growing pains as well (that is a post for another day).

I’ll be the first to admit, training for my first marathon two years ago terrified me.  As someone who has had a number of injuries from a stress fracture to chronic plantar fasciitis, my primary goal was to make it to the marathon starting line and the finish line healthy.  

Training in Texas for my first marathon....

Training in Texas for my first marathon….

Unlike 5ks, a marathon is a one shot deal.  If you have a bad marathon, you must wait a few months to recover and try again (there are obvious exceptions).  I’ve had plenty of bad 5ks that have been replaced with solid performances the next week.

When training for my marathon I chose to run less stressful (read slower) miles.  My first marathon was a whole new experience training wise and the second one I was coming off injury. Long story short, I made it to the starting line healthy. I tweaked something in my butt during the Phoenix Full, but both were solid training cycles.


Phoenix Full Marathon

During my marathon training, my speed and turnover took a significant hit.  I wasn’t using my fast twitch muscles, so they faded away.  When you don’t use a muscle group, you lose it! It makes sense, and my training resembled someone training for long distances.

For the last two years, I’ve been running to run.  My love for running has always been there but my desire to train hard for speed and turnover was not. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different distances. I’ve enjoyed running. My last two years have not been recording setting but except injury, they have been enjoyable.

So what does that long history have to do with a 19-minute 5k goal?

After finishing the Phoenix marathon with an injury, I decided to back away from marathons.  Neither the training or the race had been enjoyable, and I was tired of high, easier paced mileage.  I don’t get paid to run, and my life doesn’t revolve around the distance I choose to run…so why run a distance that I honestly don’t like?

After getting my butt healthy (Thanks, Dr. Kemonosh and Craig!), getting married and returning home from my honeymoon, I decided my plan was to race my way into fitness.

In Southern New Jersey/Philadelphia, you can find anywhere from 1-10 races most weekends.  That’s not an exaggeration at all.  Instead of spending $200 for a marathon, I was going to pay $25 for a weekly 5k…and that’s what I did.

From June until now I’ve run nearly 30 races.  At this point in my “running life”, doing races as speed work is what makes me happy. I enjoy running a race each weekend, seeing friends and watching others succeed.

My goal from racing was to continue to run knowing each week would not bring a PR. Some races might be terrible, and some might be awesome…I just wanted to be out there running. 

One of my first 5ks

One of my first 5ks of the “racing season.”

Each race taught me something about my racing and racing strategy.  I’ve started to build my speed and turnover rate. Now that I’m not doing extremely high mileage, my endurance might not be there but it doesn’t need to be for a 5k.

As I continued to build fitness throughout racing and eventually adding speed workouts, I made my first, of many goals, to break 19 minutes. I wasn’t sure how long it would take.   Initially I thought it would happen in July or August but instead I hit a plateau for most of the summer.

Would it happen in the summer? In the fall? In the winter? Next year….who knows, before last week the last time I ran under 19 minutes was July of 2013.

To me, below 19 minutes in a 5k signifies I am coming back to the fitness level I once was. It means progress towards PRs. It is one step in many.  Every major goal has many smaller goals to help get you there.

So that is why a sub 19-minute goal has been one of mine the last four months. Now that I have reached that, my goal is to consistently achieve a sub 19 minute 5k and hopefully PR shortly.

And yes I plan to continue racing most weekends.

Questions for you:
What is a fitness goal you are working towards now?
What is your favorite race distance? 


22 responses

  1. You’ve been working hard and having fun. What more could anyone ask for!? There’s plenty of time to run marathons. That’s my favorite distance because I think I can do better in battles of endurance than battles of speed. That ship sailed a loooooong time ago! 🙂

  2. You’ve run more races this year than most will run in their lifetime! But I get why you do it and I respect that! I love racing too and you’re right that 5ks are basically as hard on your body as any speed work session so it’s not going to set you back. I’ve never trained specifically for a ‘5K and have always wondered how fast I could get if I trained those muscles instead of the long distance muscles.

  3. I totally agree! There’s no sense in running a distance you don’t like. If you love 5ks, do those for now – you can always change your mind later and run a different distance if something in your life changes and that becomes more appealing. I’ve loved following your progress this summer!

  4. I’d love to hear more about your plantar fasciitis and how you have dealt with it. I’m currently battling PF and looking for light at the end of the tunnel!

  5. Doing what you’re doing makes a lot of sense, and it’s definitely more reasonable to run something that’s fun versus something you have to get yourself motivated to do.
    i’m looking for a 5K PR. Not as fast as yours, I’d be stoked to break my 9 (?!) year PR of 21:15. I agree, it’s nice to be able to race 5Ks so often.
    My favorite distance, though, is the half marathon, or even the full, simply because I love the feeling of going long.

  6. Great post! Makes so much sense and it IS fun to try out different running distances. Running is so fun and it can be kept fresh and exciting with new goals – as you’ve shown! Great example.
    I have a “bucket list” of goals for running – the next one I would like to conquer is a sub 1:30 Half (my pr is 1:33:20). Here’s to continued happy running!

  7. I love hearing your reasoning behind the reason why you run the way you do. I find it fascinating because you train a lot differently than most people I follow, so it’s cool to hear the reason why! Makes perfect sense, and whatever makes you happy and works for you is always a good thing. I don’t really have any “big goals” right focus for this year was to break 2 hours in the half and I did that and got PR’s in the 5k and 10 miler as well, so right now I’m going to coast through the rest of the year and decide what I want to do next year!

  8. I’m shooting for a 5k somewhere under 22 and a new half PR but also training for my first full. It’s tough to balance though right now I’m just playing around with some longer long runs. The high mileage/low intensity can definitely get old so I try to include at least one day per week of short hard intervals.

  9. It’s really inspiring to watch you come back to these times! I’ve always looked up to you as a runner- regardless of whether you’re training for distance or 5ks. I’m really happy to see you feeling awesome about your running again. I can’t imagine running 3 back to back 6:00 miles! Seriously so impressive.

  10. I’m proud of you Hollie! It’s been so nice to read about your progress for the past several months. When I read your recaps I can tell that you are totally happy running and racing and improving, and it’s infectious! Keep it up girl. 🙂

  11. Your hard work is definitely paying off. The half is my favorite distance but I also want my speed back. There was a 5K in town this weekend and I raced it, and won my AG (gotta love small races) and as much as I HATE the 5K suck fest I found another local one a couple weeks away. I am competitive and the race environment helps me really work vs traditional speed work where I may give in.

  12. I think there’s definitely a mindset of “having” to run marathons if you’re a runner. Which is totally ridiculous! Do what makes you happy and don’t worry about the rest. I’m so excited for you to be getting closer to your PR! I’ve actually only ever done one 5K and that was before I started running, so you’ve inspired me to try it out (and embrace the pain train).

  13. Nice blog, your a great runner, I’ve been running for over a year. My goal was to break sub 20min 5k, I did that.. my pr was 18:41. Like to run 5k I have trained for half marathon. It long and gruling.5k are fun cheap, and just great to run weather I run a good or bad race,just being out there with all the great runners is fun atmosphere.
    Happy running.

  14. I totally relate to what you’re saying. I ran a weekly series of 5ks this summer, and I LOVED seeing my progress and learning something new about strategy or pacing each week – it was so motivating! I would honestly run a 5k or 10k every week if I could too. Racing is just so much fun! 🙂 Good luck reaching your goal, it sounds like you’re on the right track 🙂

  15. My fitness goal is to get faster. That’s not going to happen by training for marathons – which I’ve been doing for the past several years. I’ve decided to focus on the 5K this season and go from there. I got in the habit of slow running by training for marathons and I’d like to see if I have any speed left! My 5K PR is 25:30 so I would ultimately like to top that. It’s 3 years old!

    I think my favorite race distance is the half marathon.

  16. Well, I’ve been wanting that sub 3 hour marathon soooo badly but I keep dealing with injury. I am considering taking a season off of marathoning and focusing on short distances: sub 19 5k, sub 40 10K, 1:25 half and then trying again at the marathon. I am thinking that might be my plan for next fall 🙂

  17. It’s a shame you don’t have the ‘parkrun’ movement near you. I’m in the UK and get to run a free timed 5 k every week! It’s not my favourite distance (I’m a marathon girl at heart) but it is good for speed work!

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