I think the Jingle Bell 5K is a perfect example of why it’s beneficial to have running friends.
After a lovely cookie-filled afternoon last Saturday, I was texting a friend about spring 5Ks when he mentioned that he was considering running the Jingle Bell 5K the following weekend. I had thought about running the race as well but originally decided against it after finding a cheaper 4 miler later in December. Having someone to run the race “with,” however (“with” as in someone running the same race at the same time as me, not running side by side), is almost always enough to convince me to register, so less than a week before the race, I signed up.
For the past six weeks or so, I’ve only been running once a week. I knew I’d have no trouble finishing a 5K, but I didn’t have any real expectations for my performance when I registered. When I looked at the results from last year, though, I saw that if I PRed, I’d finish in the top 3 of my age group. I’m not fast enough to be competitive in most races, but I liked the idea of potentially getting a medal, so I decided that I was going to do whatever I could to PR on Saturday.
I didn’t know what the race setup would look like on Saturday, but I knew the forecast was disgusting, so if figured it’d be best to pick my packet up early. I headed to Universal Sole after work on Friday to get my packet and somehow walked out with a new tech shirt as well.
Darn you, in store packet pickup!
The Jingle Bell 5K is a fundraiser for arthritis, so most of our goodie bag contents had something to do with arthritis. Not quite as exciting as my Title 9K goodie bag, but it made sense, given the race’s charity.
My friend, as it turns out, is the kind of person who likes to get to races really, really early, so we arrived at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum about an hour before the race started. Fortunately the museum was open for the race so we (and everyone else) could stay warm and dry.
When we eventually went to line up, I realized pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to be a fast race overall. While the 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 minute pace areas were crowded, there was barely anyone between the 6:00 and 9:00 areas. I lined up between the 8:00 and 9:00 signs, and I think this was one of the first races where I haven’t felt crowded at all at the beginning since nearly everyone was behind me. A rare treat for a not-so-fast runner like myself!
I started a bit too quickly but settled into a nice pace about a quarter of a mile into the race and finished the first mile with an 8:16 split: one of my fastest 5K splits ever. I was feeling a little tired but knew I could keep it up (and that I had to keep it up if I wanted to PR), so I kept pushing and had an 8:15 split for the second mile.
After that things went downhill at an alarmingly fast rate. My lungs hurt, my stomach hurt, my side was stitched, and I overall felt completely exhausted. It didn’t help that the race was an out-and-back that had us running into the wind for the last half, but physically I had enough going wrong that I can hardly blame the wind for all of my problems. This was the first 5K where I actually considered walking, but I knew there was no way I’d PR if I did, so instead I kept chugging along, wheezing, grimacing, and just generally looking and sounding like I was about two seconds from death. I had an 8:55 third mile, which made this my first 5K ever where I didn’t negative split the whole race. Boo 😦
Even though I was dying, I still really wanted that PR, so I ran as hard as I could in that last .1 miles and crossed the finish line in 26:19 — a new 5K PR for me!
I had really hoped to run in 25:59 or faster, but I’ll take a 26:19, especially considering that I put zero speed work into training for this race (and really zero running training at all, other than the occasional short [2 to 4 mile] long run). A PR is a PR, and after three dismal 5Ks earlier this year, I’m really thrilled that I PRed.
My friend didn’t want to stick around for the awards, though it turns out we should have: both of us placed in our age groups. I would’ve gotten a medal if I had stuck around, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to get it some other way.
So, moral of the story: Jingle Bell is a great race, and having running friends is great, too.
Do you prefer running races that your friends are running or running solo?
Have you ever unexpectedly PRed? The BTN Big 10K was another surprise PR for me.