In years of running and working as a running coach, I had not actually raced a 5K. I wanted to change this and had noticed a local 5K advertised in previous years. With no other summer training on my schedule, I decide to race the Run of the Mill 5K on the last weekend of June.
The Run of the Mill 5K is a well-organized and long-standing road race in Mill Creek, WA. The race serves as a fundraiser for Providence Hospital’s cancer patients and local track/cross-country programs. As well as being an open road race, it serves as an invitational race for competitive high school students. Registration was simple (online or race day), packet pick-up was seamless (also done on race day), and the race started promptly at 9 AM. Volunteers were stationed frequently along the course to direct runners. We arrived around 8:10-8:15-ish, easily found parking, and picked up my bib and timing chip. I warmed up with 1.5 miles of easy running with a couple of light strides.
In true Seattle June fashion, it was in the high 50s, humid and sporadically misting sporadically throughout the morning during the race.
The course wasn’t extremely challenging, but it was not an easy 5K course either. The total elevation gain was 167 feet, most of which was in the first 1.3 miles. The first mile gradually gained 90 feet and the only noticeable hill was the 40-foot climb from mile 1.1-1.3. There was a brief downhill respite, followed by some mild rollers and then the final downhill stretch from 2.2 to the finish (back down along the first mile of the course). I really enjoyed the course.
The hardest part about racing a 5K was measuring out my effort. My strength is staying steady at the start and then grinding at the finish of a half marathon or marathon, which is vastly different than pushing throughout the entire duration of a shorter race. I held back a bit at the start, nervous about burning myself out early on the first hill. I logged a 6:53 for the first mile. For the second mile, I ran a 6:58 – not bad considering the steepest hilly and windy turns, but not as fast as I hoped. I frequently run this segment in training and knew the GPS signal can be a bit spotty with the heavy tree cover, so I didn’t let a slower split get to my head. I was running hard but certainly not near max effort; in retrospect, I probably could have pushed harder in this middle mile. In the third mile, I pushed as hard as I could, taking advantage of the downhill, and ran a 6:36 for the final mile and about a 6:05 pace for the final 0.1 push.
My hands hit my knees as soon as I was clear of the finish line. The last ½ mile seared my lungs with more pain than any other race or workout I’ve previously ran. Then again, I also ran my fastest mile yet within the final mile of this race.
My watch read 21:01 but I wanted to see my official chip time – after all, it’s the chip time that counts, not the Garmin. I was elated to see that my chip time recorded a 20:59! I placed 2nd in my age group and 58th in the open 5K out of about 450 runners (78th in the overall 5K, since the race also included an AllStar race for local high school track athletes).
The race started and finished in the Mill Creek town center, so Ryan and I celebrated my PR with a donut at Frost Donuts.
I spent the first half of 2018 putting in the work to build up my speed, including lots of speedwork and lifting heavier weights, and I’m really pleased with the results so far – both a half marathon and a 5K PR (and of roughly equivalent times) within a couple of months.
Do you enjoy racing 5Ks?
Would you prefer a hilly or flat 5K?