A couple of years ago I realised just how difficult it can be to achieve great race results across varying running distances. The only times I felt in shape to mount a challenge at a respectable time over 5 or 10 km was in my training towards longer-distance races. At those times I wasn’t willing to incur the lost mileage of taper and recovery that the shorter distance race would require. Furthermore, my training was never focussed on improving pace over such short distances, so any times achieved would still have been short of my potential. With my focus firmly set on racing marathons and further I conceded that I would never achieve 5 or 10 km personal bests that would be representative of my capabilities.
Then in 2015 I had a period of struggle following a tough ultramarathon. I needed to refresh myself, and I decided to do that by focusing on shorter distances. All of a sudden I was including new speed workouts into my training plan, I had signed up for a series of short road and cross country races, and two very specific time targets evolved. I would look to break 17 minutes for 5 km, and 35 minutes for 10 km. During 2015 I did not quite make it, managing to lower my times to 17:13 and 35:17 respectively. I would start 2016 by having one shot at each target.
I signed up for a Valentine’s Day race over 5 km around Green Lake in Seattle. It was fast and flat, and other fast runners in the field meant that I would have company.
I kept glancing at my watch in the early stages and I was running slightly fast, but there was a minor descent from the street to the water’s edge. After 1.5 km I realised that 5 km is as close as I get to a sprint and that I should simply pace myself just short of my red line and hope that I could hang on. I stopped looking down at my watch and just focused on running as fast as I could. There was a runner ahead to focus on, and then the smallest of climbs, and finally the turn towards the finish. I was granted my first glimpse of the clock and thought that I would make it, but the finish line did not seem to be closing as fast as it should.