Rockville 5 km Road Race – 2/10/2006

It seems quite strange to say that my most horrible race was the one that I did the best in-2nd in my age group and 15th/151 overall, but it is true. It was a race where I suffered more than I thought possible, a race that I will never do again. A race far worse than my marathon, any of the half-Ironman, Olympic or 10 miler road races-even the 128 mile Mountains of Misery bike race.Am I talking of an Ironman? No. An ultra-marathon? No. I am talking real suffering-a 5 km road race. Yes, the distance may be short, but it was so bad I will never do it again. Let me explain …

Like most endurance athletes I normally measure my races in the hours, not minutes. So when Jerry, my colleague and running partner from work suggested I run the Rockville 5k with him I was not keen. However, as Jerry is an ex-track star who was trying to get back into shape, I decided to support him and enter the race. We were joined by Simon-nicknamed ‘Rabbit Boy’ by Jerry for his penchant of running FAST during our lunchtime runs.

Jerry told me vaguely before the race that there is a simple strategy for running 5k. Go as fast as you can and hopefully you won’t throw up during or afterwards. Sure. Jerry was famous for his hyperbole. Little did I know how right he would be…

Jerry chose the Rockville race because he told me it was a flat course, and it also gave him eight weeks to train. In week one he couldn’t do 5k without stopping; by the day of the race he was aiming for a 23 minute run.

The day dawned perfect for a road race. Clear cool temperatures. Jerry took me for a short warm up jog and told me that he had run the course the day before-and it wasn’t flat. We started immediately going up a hill and then there were several ups and downs before the finish.

Being the competitive types, we lined up at/near the front of the line. I was flanked by the Maryland team. Great incentive. The gun went and we were off. And that is an understatement!

Everyone ran like the blazes so I decided I’d better keep up with them. At the top of the hill I was already at 95% of my max heart rate. Hmmm. Perhaps I’m going out a bit fast. Fortunately, the downhill let me recover slightly so at the mile 1 marker I was at an average of only 92%. The timing clock was wrong-it indicated a 5:23 mile. My watch said 6:04 which was more reasonable. Still too fast.

From there it was up and down a bit. Mile 2: 94% and a 6:13 mile. Pace was better but still working a bit hard. Mile 3: 98% and 6:16. Legs? I didn’t feel them as the pain in my lungs was overwhelming. The last 10th of a mile was by far the most painful-especially when some 15 year kid, all lungs and legs, zoomed past me. I finished in 19:47 and proceeded to have an exercise induced asthma attack. For the rest of the day I was spitting stuff out of my lungs as if I was a lifelong smoker. Simon was at 20:57 and 3rd in his AG; Jerry got 23:38 and 4th in his AG.

It is absolutely beyond me why anyone would choose to run 5k races. I’ll do a 5h+ half-Ironman any day. The problem is that Jerry has decided to do another one-with a goal of sub 22:00 and he wants some company…



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