Let me just go on record and say that getting a 42-year-old office-dwelling body to run a sub-20 5k on three training runs per week is very, very difficult.
Near the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, my 5k finishing times had plateaued around 22 minutes, and I had to quit training for a few weeks because of some issues with Piriformis syndrome. After working through that, I started incorporating weekly tempo runs and speed intervals into my training. I had mixed these workouts in from time to time in the past, but had never done them on a consistent schedule. Much to my satisfaction, it paid off. Two months later, I had shaved about 40 minutes off my 5k time, and ran the Jen Hacker Memorial 5k in just under 21 minutes. So I decided to stick to that training plan throughout the winter and try to run my first sub-20 5k in 2019. I knew it would be difficult, but surely if I could drop 40 seconds in two months, I could drop another minute within a year, right? Well, the year is more that half over, and my best official 5k time is 20:35. I still have lots of work to do.
The first 5k I ran this year was the Cowans Gap 5k Run/Walk. I finished in a disappointing 21:25, hindered by the hills and a touch of the flu. The second race was the Shalom Christian Academy 5k. I had a goal to break 20:30, but again fell short of my expectations and finished at 20:44. The race just didn’t feel good. By the time I was halfway through the first mile, I was already miserable and stayed that way until crossing the finish line. A month later, it was time for the Strawberry Festival 5k. This course had more hills than the previous race, so I wasn’t expecting to get a PR. Rather than set myself up for a disappointment, I’d just enjoy the run and just try to stay under 21. And what a run it was. Somehow the misery that usually accompanies a 5k never set in. I felt fast and light, and finished in 20:35, good enough for second place. To add the excitement, the battle for second place came down to a sprint finish, and I won the battle with the third-place runner finishing one second after me.
According to Strava’s “Grade Adjusted Pace”, that effort would be equivalent to about 20:20 on a flat course, so that means my goal is getting closer. However, I’m also running out of time. I am hoping to run a 50-mile ultra-marathon in November, so I cannot continue to interrupt my training to run 5ks. So I’m just going to keep training and avoid races until and unless I feel like the sub-20 goal is within reach. I know a couple of flat 5ks in the area that are held in September, and if I feel like I have a chance to break 20 by then, I’ll give them a shot. Otherwise, I’ll just keep adding mileage to build up for the ultra-marathon and continue working toward a sub-20 next year. Here is list of my 5k race times to date: