This morning, amidst light rain, I ran the 5k of the first Pasadena Half Marathon & 5k. It was a large and well-organized event considering 6,000 people participated in both races. The 5k was one loop around the Rose Bowl and golf course with a finish inside the historic stadium. I’ve run other races at the Rose Bowl that finished on the field, and have been on the field after football games as a member of the media, but it’s always a thrill to step foot onto a field that’s hosted memorable college football games, Super Bowls and World Cup finals.
Usually, 5k races around the Rose Bowl head counter-clockwise. This race took us runners clockwise around the loop. Either way, it’s a gradual uphill heading to Washington Blvd. and gradual downhill heading back to the stadium. It’s not a difficult course but it’s not ideal for a personal record (PR) because the gradual uphill is close to half the race. My goal today was to run under 18 minutes. I’ve done it before on the course and felt I could do it again.
I was a little grouchy waking up early but snapped out of it once I got ready. I literally ran out the door and to the stadium since I’m about one mile away. It was cold (48 degrees) with some light rain. I wore a cap which I never race in. However, I don’t like feeling water droplets on my head. It was a good decision. I always recommend wearing a long-sleeve shirt with a sports jacket and sports pants to keep you warm before races. Being comfortable pre-race will make you feel at-ease. My second warm-up run near the start line and accelerations before the race kept my body warm after I dropped off my jacket and pants.
I consider the Rose Bowl my home course. I live close to the stadium and have run the 5k route more times than I can count. I know where every little incline and decline is, however slight. I felt there was no excuse to perform poorly since I know the course so well. I also ate lightly the night before and morning of and made sure I was hydrated properly.
Even though I run marathons, 5ks are still challenges. Why? The intensity. My pace and heart rate is much higher. My breathing is heavier too. When you run a 5k you go out hard and hold on as best as you can. A study actually backs this strategy. That’s not to say sprint. That would be a disaster.
The race started smoothly. I was able to start in front and I went out hard during a slight downhill before turning right onto the main loop for the gradual uphill portion. The light rain didn’t bother me at all. I believe it actually stopped toward the end of the race. I settled into a hard but comfortable pace about 400 to 600 meters into the race. I was also running alone. The lead pack was way out in front.
I usually check my watch at the first mile marker but I didn’t this time. I clicked on it for a lap split but never looked down. I felt my pace was as fast as it was going to get today so I’ll just roll with it and see how it goes.
I turned onto Washington Blvd. then right to head downhill back to the stadium. I was still alone. I felt my pace pick up slightly as I went downhill which is to be expected. I crossed the second mile marker but didn’t check my watch. I felt in control. What was on my mind? Not a whole lot. I really didn’t think about much except for making sure my intensity remained high and my form was solid. I was gauging my entire system. Foot strike–check. Stride length–check. Breathing–check. I made sure to take deep breaths to avoid cramping.
The third and final mile was just me and myself once again. I turned right to head inside the stadium. I ran down the tunnel and saw the finish line before the goal post on the north end. I knew no one was going to catch me the final 100 meters so I cruised toward the finish line. I had done it. Another 5k in the books. My time: 17:38. My place: 6th overall.
When I checked my splits, my first mile was roughly 5:40. The second mile was roughly 5:45 and third mile was anywhere from 5:35 to 5:38. I was consistent with my splits which I usually am not in a 5k. Usually, my first mile is the fastest followed my a noticeable slowdown in mile 2 and a slight pickup in mile 3. I was pleased with the consistency.
Even if you run mostly marathons and half marathons, 5ks are a great substitute for an interval or speed workout. They’ll help with your leg turnover and give you the right combination of speed and endurance training due to the intensity that’s required.