On Sunday I ran my first real 5k race at the Run Ajax 5k. The race is put on by Ajax Running Free, who have been a great resource for me to get running info, and meet other runners, so I decided it would be a good final fitness test before Chicago, and a chance to finally do a 5k.
I had a couple pieces of toast with almond butter and honey for breakfast around 6:45AM. This may have been a little early because I found myself hungry by 9:00AM (race start was 9:30). Packet pickup was easy, I had my bib and my bag was checked by 8:30AM. It was great to see so many familiar faces, and get a chance to chat before the race.
I did about a mile warmup before the race, which included a few strides. My legs still didn’t feel like they were there (I had been feeling slightly lethargic all week), but I just hoped on the start line all would settle into place.
I lined up on the front line of the start line. I recognized one of the other guys, he had beaten me at the Ajax 5k Warm-Up Fun Run in August. The gun sounded and we were off. I found myself (briefly) running out front at the start. There’s a small hill about 400m in. Just over the crest of the hill the guy who I recognized from the start ran past me. I tried to match his pace but he was too fast for me. My first km was 3:20. My second km I continued pushing but the gap was opening in front of me. I never looked behind, but I got the sense nobody else was right up on my heels. My second km was a 3:25. As I approached a right hand turn I noticed Todd taking photos for Run Ajax, always nice to see a familiar face on the race course. We circled around a park on the water for the turnaround, and then headed back north for the start/finish. At the halfway point there was water but I didn’t take anything. I was around the park and back onto the road with my 3rd km split in 3:31. I likely went out too fast (pacing, especially at shorter distances, isn’t my specialty) because I was really struggling and losing seconds every km. I knew there was a downhill at 4.5k so if I could just keep up my pace to there I could cruise in. My 4th km was 3:37 (notice a pattern?) and it was a real struggle. I was still in second but I knew I’d given too much at the start and if I was caught I wouldn’t have a finish kick in me.
I was relieved when I hit the downhill and knew it was just 500m to go. There were some people lining the street cheering everyone in, which is always great. I still didn’t look back, but I thought I had a bit of a cushion behind me. I came through the finish line in 17:17 (my watch read the course as 0.02k short, but others didn’t, so could have just been a problem with my watch) in 2nd place.
After the race I was relatively happy with my time. I set an arbitrary goal of 17:30, not really knowing what I was capable of, and beat it. But my legs didn’t feel great before the race, which gave me some cause for concern about what I had been doing/eating all week (I want to make sure I’m roaring to go on the Chicago start line). Also, it wasn’t until after the race that I realized I didn’t think about my stride as I was running; run tall, hips under me, wipe my foot on the ground, kick back hard. This is something I always think about during harder runs, but those thoughts didn’t creep into my mind. Not necessarily a good or bad thing, just something I noticed.
This was my first time doing the Run Ajax races and it was great. It was a beautiful day, lots of volunteers, well organized, plus pizza and massages after the race.
Also, Todd was there doing photography for Run Ajax, and they were kind enough to share a couple of the photos they got during the race with me.