I ran a 5K last weekend. I know that 5K is a very popular race distance, but I tend to despise them. As a long-distance runner, I always feel that the race should be much shorter than it feels. Besides, I’m not fast, so people who haven’t run in a year can get off the couch and beat me to the finish. If I do happen to run fast enough that I post a good time, I feel like I want to collapse the second half of the race. There’s really nothing about 5K races that appeal to me. Yet I ran one on Saturday, and I had a fabulous time.
The school where I teach was putting on this particular race, so I figured that it was only right for me to support them by running. In fact, I signed up the whole family, despite the fact that my kids have never run a competitive 5K, and my husband does not run at all. We probably should have been smart and stuck with the 1-mile fun run, but that just seemed silly to me. So, on a beautiful Saturday spring morning, we found ourselves in the midst of a small pack at the starting line. Knowing that my children run radically different paces, we decided to divide and conquer. I was paired with my son, who often enjoys short sprints interspersed with bouts of walking. My husband teamed up with our daughter, who thinks running is fun in theory, but really just prefers to stroll and chat.
Our daughter held true to form. After a brief 60 second jog at the start of the race, she decided that she might as well get her money’s worth. She and my husband ended up walking the remainder of the race, waving in all of the race marshals, as they sauntered across the finish line in just over 52 minutes. I was just happy that she finished the race in good spirits.
My son, on the other hand, totally surprised me. Last spring, he participated in a series of local kids’ races. The series consisted of 5 races. He swept all 5 races and came away with the winner’s trophy for his age group. I should have known then that we had another runner on our hands, but as the races were each just a 50-yard dash, I figured that he was just really good at sprinting. Running a longer distance is an entirely different challenge, especially for young children who usually have no concept of pacing themselves. Imagine my surprise when he managed to run every step of the race alongside me, including the hilly finish, which was good for a time of 33:30. While 33 minutes doesn’t tend to be considered speedy for this distance, I found it quite good for a 6-year-old. Even better was the fact that he chatted throughout the race, which made the miles fly by for me. I found myself wondering how many more years I will be able to run by his side before he starts out-pacing me.
As a fun, final note, after 12 years of racing, I finally won my first age-group award. Somehow, my 33 minute race time was good enough for third in my age group. My PR is almost 8 minutes faster and I’ve never placed before, which tells you how small my age group was. Still, both my children and my students were impressed by my medal, so it was worth it to enjoy their excitement over the award. I’m hoping that this is just the first of many races that we run together.