Sunday I ran my shortest race yet, a 5K (that’s 3.1 miles for you non-runner-types) in Astoria, organized by the Federation of Italian American Organizations of Queens. It was also the smallest race I’ve run, with maybe 400 runners if I’m generous. Liz has a pretty good writeup on her blog, so I’d recommend you go there if you want a lot more detail. The official races that I have run so far, in order, are a marathon, a 10 mile run, a 5-miler, and now a 5K. I guess now I need to find a one-mile run, then maybe a half-mile, a few track races, and then I can “officially” sit on the sofa while someone times me.
There are a lot of these little community runs around, and having only run larger, better-funded races to this point, it was a very different experience – there was very little ceremony, just a shout of “Runners set, GO!” that came in the middle of a conversation. We used no timing chips, but volunteers shouted our numbers and scribbled down our finishing times. I ran a 26:02 according to the official clock, which is not a personal best, but it’s not too far off. Going into the race I was really hoping to beat my best previous 5K time, but the combination of a fairly hilly course and a heat index in the mid-90s by the heat index, did me in.
Liz came in second among women, her best finish to date and especially impressive because she’s been dealing with a muscle injury in one leg that’s been keeping her from running. Before the race, she wasn’t sure if she would even be able to run. The fastest woman runner beat Liz by less than a minute, which probably has a lot to do with Liz’s experience running longer races. Experienced marathoners like her learn to set a sustainable pace out of the start, and save energy for a burst of speed (runners call this a “kick”) with a mile or less to go. At a short distance like a 5K, it’s a better strategy to push your speed right from the start line, and a marathoner’s natural instinct to set a sustainable pace can be a hindrance.
Elmwood Park Zoo used to put on an annual 5K run a lot like this one, held together by scotch tape and gum. Running the FIAO race got me thinking about those days watching the runners and thinking they were insane and how I would never, ever be able to run like that.