I hear all of the time “IT’S JUST A 5K” which is referencing that a 5K is a distance that doesn’t initiate much of an accomplishment like finishing a marathon does. However for distance runners, 1 mile races on the track, 3K races, 5Ks and 10Ks are all very very tough distances when you race them and racing these can lead to better results when going long. The same goes for sprint triathlons and IRONMAN’s.
Some runners tell me that racing a shorter distance is a bit scary. I say, IT IS, because you don’t really have time to mess up or have a brain fart. The minute you give up for a second, you are quickly out of the race, whereas a marathon, you can get a second wind and sometimes turn your race around.
The short distances also hurt differently. They produce lactic acid build up quicker since you are running above threshold and you are racing at high intensity relative to the distance. The 1 mile is almost a sprint these days with guys running 3:45 to 4:00 per mile which is sub 60 seconds for 4 laps on a track in a row. Go out and try to run a 60 second 400, most of you reading either can’t or will find it close to an all out sprint.
So what is the point. To keep this short and sweet, racing short and fast teaches you how to race long and strong. If you learn how to grind out a 1 mile or 5K, by suffering, getting faster, and find your potential at that distance, you can certainly transfer that to the half and full marathon. In the half or full, you can reference your bodies ability to push hard, and your pace per mile mindset will have changed. For example if you want to run a 3:20:00 marathon and you can run a 5K around 20:00, the 7:35/mile that it takes to run a 3:20 doesn’t seem so fast when you can run a 6:24/mile for 3.1. It is all relative, what you think and feel is fast, compared to your bodies true potential.
STAY STRONG, STAY CONSISTENT, EMBRACE THE CHALLENGE!