When I first began running I would do a 5K or a 10K at least once a month, if not more often. I really enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment that came with being able to finish a race, no matter how short. But in recent years, especially as I began training for my first marathon, I had let these shorter races go to the wayside. I began to feel that the cost and the hassle associated with race day (getting up early, dealing with traffic and crowds, etc.) wasn’t worth it for a 30-minute race. And so I stopped signing up for 5Ks…until recently.

In the past two weeks I have run two 5K races, and they actually seemed incredibly hard despite the short distance. The reason for this, in my case, is that I run much faster at a 5K race than I do at longer distance races. I know that the race will be over shortly and I tell my internal pacer that it’s OK to go all out. While I have steadily shaved seconds and minutes off of my half marathon time in the last two years, I haven’t set a Personal Record for the mile or for the 5K since 2009.

With this in mind I signed up for a 5K two weekends ago and then again for one today with a couple of friends. At the 5K two weekends ago I had hoped to beat my Personal Record, which has been 30:20 for nearly three years. Alas, it didn’t happen, with me finishing in 31:56. Given the fact that I began marathon training this week and my poor performance at the last 5K, I didn’t give myself much of a chance of besting my Personal Record this morning, but I still told my friends I wanted to try to finish in under 30 minutes.

Both of the women I ran with today are much stronger runners than me, and with their encouragement (and the competitiveness of running among friends) I was able to keep up with them for the first two miles, which I truly believe finally gave me the edge to beat my PR. In the end, they finished a little less than a minute ahead of me, but I still made it in under 30 minutes! They were both cheering for me and, for the first time in a long time, I had my arms up cheering at the end of the race, yelling toward them, “I did it!” I also finally broke the 9-minute barrier for the mile (barely), which has evaded me since the same 5K where I ran the 30:20. Today was a seriously great running day that gave me a renewed appreciation for the shorter races – and for running partners! Another plus is that it gave me more confidence in my ability to pick up the pace.

As I continue to train for my next marathon, I hope I can remember the importance of the small achievements as well – and the confidence boost they can give.

New PR for the 5K: 29.19
New PR for the mile: 8.59
Miles run this week: 18

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