From a 20:20 5k to an 18:13

It’s hard to believe this time last year I was getting ready for my second full marathon.  It’s the last marathon I’ve run.

Last year after completing the Phoenix full marathon, I felt like I failed.  Despite PRing, I finished the race injured.  Thinking out loud, I didn’t enjoy marathon training, and I didn’t enjoy the race.  The race was put together well, but it was not right for me.

What was there left to enjoy? For me, the marathon negatives outweighed the positives, and I decided I was done with the distance for a while.

Running the distance I wanted was the best decision I made for myself.

Last May I began my journey of running mostly 5ks.  The first 5k I ran was at a local high school, and I ran a 20:20.  It was disappointing, but it gave me a truthful baseline.  Sometimes, the truth hurts.  Getting the baseline was not only physically painful but mentally painful too.  It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I was running that pace.  Before marathon training, I never ran above a 20 minute 5k. The first step in achieving a goal is being honest with yourself, and that was where I was.

Goals are not attainable if they aren’t realistic.

My friend Austin and I at that race
My friend Austin and I at that race

Between May and now I’ve consistently trained.  I don’t have a secret and to be honest, no athlete should!  If you have a secret of “how you got fast overnight”, generally it’s not legal.

Last May I mentioned I was going to race a lot and I did.  Did I think I would PR at every race?  No, absolutely not.

So I took a break from marathons and got healthy and then ran a bunch of races. I wanted to focus on shorter races, and I wanted to gain leg speed back.  I thrive on racing, so I decided to do what made me happy, which was more racing.  Racing as frequently as I did, allowed me to improve as rapidly as I did.  It’s easy to see I was doing more speed work than ever before.

I attribute better fitness to a few things:

  • Consistency in my training and easy runs
  • The amount of racing and speed workouts

Each race I learned something about my running.

Each race was a stepping stone to the fitness I’m at now.

Each race was considered a workout for a larger goal of PRing.  It’s not realistic to think I could go from running a 20+ minute 5k to a PR.

Click to tweet: Consistency leads to progression which leads to PRs.

Last weekend I ran another PR of 18:13.  That is just over 2 minutes faster than where I started last May.  It is 9 seconds faster than my PR in a dress on January 1st.  It’s also 40 seconds quicker than a PR that stood for over two years.

flower show cannon

Now that I’ve Pred in everything from the 5k to half, where does this lead me?

Right now I will finish the Spring racing season with a few more shorter distances.  If I can stay healthy throughout Spring and Summer, I might give the full marathon another shot.  A lot can change both mentally and physically in the next few months, but I haven’t ruled racing another full marathon out.

Questions for you:

What is your favorite race distance?

What are you consistently working at right now?


  1. London Marathon, finding it tough in the cold and dark here. I’m sure at some stage you’ll return to the marathon, it pulls us back, despite how tough and painful it can be on the day, the journey along the way helps us learn who we really are 🙂

  2. You’re on fire Hollie, congrats! I love that you stopped doing what wasn’t working and found so much success running shorter distances. After Boston, I won’t be running another marathon for quite a while, not sure what I’ll be doing!

    1. I think whatever you do, you’ll find enjoyment out of it Michele. I cannot wait to see what sort of race distance (if any), you choose to do!

  3. I’m training for Brighton and agree with the first poster – the marathon pulls you back in! I’m not sure on my favourite distance as I haven’t raced enough but I’m pretty sure of my LEAST favourite distance – the half marathon. Short enough to really have to push it but long enough that it really huuuurts. Ugh. The good news is that running one made me look forward to running longer at a slower speed!!

  4. Great post. I like how you switched gears instead of beating yourself up about the marathon. Consistency is definitely key, and it’s always beautiful to see those results come to fruition.

  5. I’m clearly not training for anything (ha. ha. ha.) but I hope to be able to run this summer. I messed up my knee a few years ago and every time I go to start fixing it, silly fetuses inhabit my body. Soo maybe I should give healing my knee a break for a while.. haha

  6. i just raced a 5k for the first time in a long time and i have to say i enjoyed it. you push yourself differently for that distance than a 10k or half. i can definitely see why you choose to focus on the shorter distance. I think i enjoy the 10k the most but want to achieve a sub 2 hour half before i give it up 🙂

  7. Excellent post! I’m focusing on the 5k this spring and have been taking notes about what types of workout you run and how often. My training is definitely not at the same level as yours (70+ mpw and weekly races might kill me, lol) but starting in April I am going to try racing every other weekend to give me plenty of opportunities to improve and hopefully PR.

  8. My favorite distance is the marathon– but ask me again after I run Phoenix on Saturday! Have a great weekend 🙂

  9. The half marathon is my favourite distance. It’s challenging but doesn’t take over my life like a full marathon does. I’ve never actually raced a 5km, I think it’s one of the toughest distances.

  10. ” If you have a secret of “how you got fast overnight”, generally it’s not legal.” <– that seriously made me laugh out loud. Omg 😆 And I love that you focused on a distance you loved instead of pushing yourself to do races that you didn't enjoy. The progress is definitely proof that it was the right thing to do!

  11. My favorite race distance is actually a half marathon, but lately I’ve been really cutting back on running in order for my body to rest and heal after a lot of years of struggling with restricting and over-exercising. But, it’s really a blessing to see and read about other runners training and making their goals!!!

  12. I haven’t ran much farther than a 10k, but I have a feeling my half marathon at the end of the year will be my favorite distance.

    Love this quote: Consistency leads to progression which leads to PRs.

  13. I think racing consistently (and staying healthy) are definitely the two answers. I stayed healthy last year and managed to PR in every distance without even realizing it. This year I’d like to run more short races, I just have to get healthy first. It’s pretty amazing to see how much time you’ve dropped this year, but you’re right- consistency is key.

  14. The half marathon is quickly becoming my favorite race distance and I think it’s what I’m best at. However, I still love the 5K. I like how, when half training, I can use 5Ks as tempo runs and workouts… or if I am 5K training, I could run a half as a long run. But really, I love any race that I can run with friends, feel proud at the end of the day, and finish healthy.

    It stinks that you finished your marathon injured, I completed mine and was anemic and no race is worth weeks of health setbacks (injury, anemia, some other health issue that arose from it).

    It is great to see how far you’ve come in the 5K in such a short time too… that’s a very impressive improvement for some times that were already pretty fast.

    And yes, consistency is key. I may not be fast, but I’m faster than everyone who started and fell off the wagon.

  15. Congratulations, Hollie. I think you nailed it that consistency leads to progression. Right now im working on getting my fitness level back up and will run Berlin in September. I know the next 7 months of training will prepare me for a PR. It has been nice having a run routine again (I will admit I did enjoy my fall “downtime”), looking forward to the progress that will accompany it 🙂 Do you have a fall marathon in mind?

  16. Good for you for focusing on a distance you enjoy. I’ve run two marathons as well, and two was enough. Despite invitations from running friends to train with them for Chicago, I’m sticking to shorter distances for now. Marathon training takes away too much time from my husband and other pursuits. Agree with Jen Rawson above: the half marathon is my favorite because it’s challenging without taking over my life. Congrats on your 5K PR! Your hard work is paying off and you have much to be proud of!

    1. I agree that shorter distances give you more time to do other things. Who doesn’t enjoy that?

      Thank you so much for your support Kelly!

  17. I’m doing something similar – I told myself I wouldn’t run another full marathon until I got my half marathon time a lot lower. And to do that, I’ve also picked up the amount of shorter races in the past few months!

  18. Right now, I’m focusing on being consistent with my strength training. In the past, I’ve been really bad at maintaining my strength training while training for a race. This year I’m determined to keep up my strength training when I start to train for my marathon.

  19. This is awesome! I love a good 10k because I think it’s a good combination of fun but still pushing yourself. I want to run another marathon but my goal this year is a sub-2:00 half. Which is cake for a speed demon like yourself! haha

  20. I think that’s awesome that you listened to your body decided what was best for you physically and mentally.
    I’m mostly doing shorter races for fun right now, mixed in with other workouts. I want to PR my half and do a marathon someday but now it isn’t the right time in my life for those.

  21. Congrats to you! I really enjoy the marathon distance, but running halfs or shorter distances is easier on the body. My goal this year is to PR both the full and the half. Speed work makes the dream work!

  22. Wow, you are on a roll, girl! Congrats on the PR. 2 minutes in under a year is huge, and even 9 seconds in a month is fabulous. I would love to get sub 20 for my 5k at some point – I’m at 21 and change now.

  23. It’s so great how you can look at how far you have come in the past year. I love the idea of sticking to one distance and racing consistently, the way you have, for a full year to see what happens! You have me thinking here…
    And CONGRATS on how far and fast you have come and all the work you have put in!

  24. I 100% agree – that goals have to be realistic in order for them to be reachable. Setting completely unrealistic goals for yourself is only going to lead to discouragement and disappointment when you don’t come anywhere close to reaching them.

  25. You’ve made so much progress! I’m happy for you and I love how you talked about how there’s no “secret,” Being consistent is the most important thing for sure. Congrats on all your hard work!!

  26. That is really amazing that you have made so much progress over the past year- it really shows what can be accomplished if you listen to your body and do what makes sense for you! And yes, consistency is SO important! Right now I just haven’t been ready to commit to any longer races. (My last race/marathon was at the end of November.) I am just trying to enjoy running and make it through the winter. For now Im just signed up for a couple of shorter races to keep me motivated.

  27. Hey Hollie. I love following your training! I’m curious though how much of your training success in the past year you attribute to running high mileage (assuming we agree that +70 mile weeks are high mileage 🙂 ) Some friends swear by high mileage and 80+ mile weeks, others say their best results came from cutting out “auxiliary” mileage and just hitting their workouts with a ton of intensity. Would love to have you weigh in. Thanks!

    1. I appreciate your comment Carolina.

      I think high mileage is beneficial for longer distances but to be honest, I don’t think it’s why I made such an improvement. For me personally, I’ve been running high mileage for a while and didn’t see the improvement until I added intensity as well!

  28. I’ve said it a lot but I’ll say it again: you are so inspiring to me! You give me so much hope! My favourite race distance is the marathon. I’m curious to know how all these short distance races have helped your marathon time. SO fascinating! I hope you do one.

  29. I think you should run a fall marathon 🙂 I am thinking I’m going to do what you did over the summer: race the shit out of everything from the 5K-half marathons. I think we even have a mile series here and I might get in on that, too. Then, I’ll try marathons again if I can get my short distance times down. Boom. You rock, and I love reading about your success. What I love about it is how real you are in every single recap. It either went well or it didn’t and you tell it like it is. You BUSTED YOUR ASS for those 2+ minutes and truly earned it!

  30. I love how you speak to the training journey that’s required for a PR at your level. We can’t expect to become fitter and faster overnight, especially when a lot of folks who are just starting out make huge strides immediately. Keep up the hard and smart training!

  31. So awesome!! I run for fun and to tire Cocoa out but I love it so much and it gives me so much, you know. I love that you do what is right for you. You know yourself better than anyone else. And I am amazed at your mileage and how fast you are!!

  32. my favorite distance is the half marathon! But i do love 5ks to help develop speed & get used to those race nerves. Speaking of which i should sign up for one soon….

  33. This was super interesting to read since my PR for forever in high school stalled right at 20:10! I was finally able to break the 20 minute barrier and get down to about 19:30, but that’s where it paused for me (for now!) since I’m not currently training for a race. But super good to hear how you kept dropping time! You go, girl!

  34. Great post, Hollie! I love your tip that no athlete should have a big secret- ha! It’s all about hard work.
    My guess is the marathon developed greater endurance fitness that carried over into your 5k times, once you were able to train for the 5k and switch back to using fast twitch muscles instead of all the slow twitch ones. And I hear you on feeling done with the marathon, and then maybe tempted to go after it again! It’s somehow terribly addicting, even though, like you, I don’t think marathon after marathon is my thing. But if I get into NY, then I will have another on on the calendar this year. We’ll see.
    Thanks for inspiring me!

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