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Why a 5k scares this marathoner

Believe it or not, I started my running career as a sprinter. I was on a 4x100 meter relay team who was competitive in our high school conference. Distance running was actually a "come try it" request by our track coach where I joined a group of already-formed cross country teammates. I was the odd-man-out though occasionally good enough to run varsity for our large suburban school district. But my 18:00 (and some change) PR was never going to turn any heads. I briefly considered going to a Division III college with a decathlon program, but ended up leaving sports for over a decade instead.

By the time I came back to running it was as a bucket list-er hoping to cross the finish line of a marathon just because it sounded cool. When I first started training in 2009, my goal was not to die and not walk. I had no idea that 5 years later I'd be embracing a lifestyle. My first training runs the first year I'd come home from 3 miles unable to comprehend what 26 must feel like. Yet here I am 6 marathons later, confident I could finish an Ironman, not thinking it was really a long run until I see double digits on my calendar.

Yet this 5k (3.1 miles) on my race schedule for Tuesday has me a little nervous.

Very few things scare me as an adult with 2 kids and an Olympic distance triathlon under my belt. If I can swim a mile, I'm pretty sure this 5k is a silly little thing to have anxiety about. But as my experience in completing difficult things grows, the "not dying" gives way to realizing that I have a little extra pressure on myself. Even if it's only coming from myself.

Now, I managed to turn in a 25:00 5k a couple of years ago here at a local race. So 8:00 miles aren't completely out of the question for me. It's just that the 5k pace is...well...speed work for me these days. Granted, my "go all day" pace has improved somewhat over the past few seasons. But I'm focused on my goal time for the fall...my goal for Tuesday is simply "don't embarrass yourself."

The older I get, the more the appeal of longer races. That's harder. Not that going fast isn't hard. But it's a different kind of difficult. Going fast you either have the ability or you do. The appeal of longer distances is that you can--it's a matter of making yourself do it. Maybe I just enjoy the mental aspects of running more these days? Maybe I'm just old and slow? Maybe both?

I'll still be lapping everybody on the couch.

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