Thursday, May 10, 2012

Foray into the 5K: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know

Gratuitous Preamble. The other day I brought up when a local running/stats guru indicated that it was wonderful to see fast and young runners break 17 minutes at the Chena River Run, while mentioning the recent past we were seeing old (30s and 40s) runners win and post slow times at local races. Hey, with several top 10 finishes from age 47 to 50 at CRR I resemble that!

I get that and accept it.

But as I said here, the war cry of the 1990s and early 2000s, originating I think from the Farm Team in California (many elite, some professional level, former college runners among them): The older we get, the faster we were.

Here is my 5K story. [I wasn't That fast, but tried hard]

1977 to 1982 – I ran my first 5K at 19 in the summer of 1977 at a state park in eastern Iowa. I think it was about 17:40 or 17:50. I had run track the previous spring where I specialized in running slow (2:08 to 2:11 usually) for 800m. I was just starting out as a distance runner and had been doing 30-40 mile weeks for a few months.

Within a year I became a 5K runner by default, no one else wanted to do it and the faster guys wanted to do the mile. I really struggled with the 5K and hardly improved. My debut in the spring of 1978 was 16:31—and the coach said derisively that his grandmother could run faster—and improved only slightly to 16:15 a few weeks later. The nadir of my running career, bar none, was taking dead last at our conference meet (90s F) in Chicago in about 17:20. I got lapped twice by national champion Dale Kramer (PR 13:51, but mid 14s that hot day) and almost quit the sport. Even as a senior, my 5000 m personal best only improved to 16:14, just one second faster than I ran as a struggling sophomore.

Early post college (1980-82) there weren’t many road 5Ks, and I might have run one or two but no better than mid 16s.

1983 – 15:28 Autumn Run Steamboat Springs, CO. Break out year. If you consider 6,700 ft altitude the run converts to very low or sub 15 minutes. However, the course was not certified. I did run step for step with a guy with 9:20 2 mile, 31:15 10K, and 2:25 marathon credentials (all faster than I ever ran). It was a huge PR for me and I ran my all-time best 10K and PR marathon in over the next three weeks. [because the race was uncertified I consider a 1985 time on a certified course as my all-time best 5K]

1984 – 16:23, Colorado Run (altitude conversion 15:52)

1985 – Ran several fast times at altitude
15:39 (altitude conversion 15:11) – Greeley CO. Head to head with Doug Bell who went on to become US Masters record holder at 5K. I was 27, Bell a venerable 34 a the time. He was about 12 sec ahead and this was the closest I ever got to him! He actually ran faster at 40-45 (14:30s or 14:40s) than he did at 30-35.
16:10, Loveland, CO (altitude conversion 15:41)
16:00, Colorado Run (altitude conversion 15:31)

1986 – 16:04, Human Race (altitude conversion, 15:35)
15:48, Colorado Run (altitude conversion, 15:19)
16:20, some race at Denver Tech Park (altitude conversion 15:50)

1987 – 16:30, little 5K in Roy Utah, altitude conversion 16:04

1988 – 16:31, big 5K in Reno NV (altitude conversion 16:02)
16:35, 5K in Park City UT (altitude conversion 16:03)

1989 – 15:50 Mobil Fun Run, Ithaca NY (NO Altitude Conversion!!!). Raced against now local masters runner Mark Lindberg (obviously neither of us were masters at the time).
15:59 Finger Lakes Running Club All Comer’s meet
15:39 Empire State Games Qualifier
15:35 Cazenovia NY Fourth of July 5K
15:34 Empire State Games 5000 m (aggh, this could have been my best but it was 80s with 85% humidity, hot asphalt track)
15:43 Freihofer’s 5K (men’s version)

1990 – 15:43 Guthrie Gallop 5K, Sayre PA (return to ancestor’s namesake town to run a race!)
15:50 Some grungy road 5K in Syracuse, NY
15:36 (split on the way to 17:39 3.5 mile at Manufacturers Hanover championship in NYC)

1991 – 15:44 Guthrie Gallop 5K, Sayre PA
15:45 Syracuse Track Club All Comers meet
(a boatload of XC 5Ks, which were certainly sub 16 level, although times were 16:10s-20s)

1992 – 15:50 Some little race, Dickinson, ND where I was doing graduate field studies.

And that 1992 race was all she wrote for sub 16, let alone 16:10. I was 34 at the time. I think I ran just one more 5K that summer, 16:14. After that I got slower and slower.

As a masters runner (40-42) I did have a comeback to run 16:21 in Massachusetts and had 4 or 5 races under 16:30 before the wheels came off again at 43.

5Ks don't get much respect, considered to be fun runs that anyone can do, if not derisively called "diaper dashes" by some marathoners ultramathoners (many of whom couldn't break 3:20 or 3:30 if their life depended on it), but running a good 5K all out is tough.


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