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?