The 5k has always been my favorite racing distance followed closely by the marathon. I have no idea how many I’ve raced over the years- there’s just been way too many to count. It was my go-to racing distance in high school when my family would pick a race to run on the weekend. In college I raced mostly 5ks and I think my usual strategy was start fast and finish dead. I have enjoyed this distance much more post college. In 2013 I broke 18 minutes for the first time ever on the Firecracker Fast 5k course. Since then I’ve tried but it’s hasn’t happened.
This year the Firecracker Fast 5k was a goal race for me. Of course I threw in some longer trail races for fun which I’m sure weren’t ideal during 5k training but that’s how I roll. I love racing and changing up distances and for some reason this happens more in the summer. I knew I was in just as good as shape (or better) this summer so I was hoping the older me could still bust out a fast 5k time.
This was a big race for central Arkansas (1500+ runners) and I had no plan for overall placement- I just wanted to focus on my time. Temps were in mid 70’s/ 74 dew point which isn’t ideal but I had been training in the same weather so at least I was acclimated.
Right before the race started some people got in front of me who immediately started the race slow jogging. It was a really crowded start and I had to run around them. During this time I started and then accidentally stopped my watch. About 40 seconds into the race I looked down to check my average and my watch was stopped completely. I can’t remember ever doing this in a race before- and I had no time to think about what to do. I just hit start and got back into race mode. I wanted low 5:40’s or high 5:30’s for the first 2 miles. When my watch did beep for mile 1 (about a tenth of a mile after everyone else around me) my split was 5:43. I couldn’t quite find my groove but it felt ok so I kept pushing. Mile 2 has a lot of downhill and one of the guys I know from the Grand Prix passed me and said “Don’t fight it!” I’m glad he said this because my natural instinct running down a hill is to hold back a little but I needed to go for it. I pushed forward and stayed with the pack of runners I know from the Grand Prix.
My mile 2 split was 5:41 and my overall average was perfect for sub 18. I knew it would all come down to the last mile which includes a hill around the 2.5 mile mark. Someone named this hill segment the “hill of destiny” on Strava and it can truly make or break your race. My fastest time up this hill was 2:10 (the year of my PR) and I wanted to beat that time. I was also extremely motivated to pass the 2nd female who I had been gaining on since mile 2. I passed her about halfway up the hill and kept sprinting. (I later learned I ran that hill in 2:09 so I was able to beat my time!)
My watch beeped 6:06 for the final mile. I wasn’t sure if that was going to be enough to get under 18 and it wasn’t. I didn’t account for the tangents and I really needed the last mile under 6. I kept on sprinting because at this point I didn’t want to get outkicked by the girl I had just passed. My official time was 18:17. (2nd OA female).
Even though I didn’t make it under 18 minutes I’m very proud of my fight for 2nd place. I stayed focused and pushed forward. My overall average on my watch was 5:50 which is the second fastest 5k pace I’ve ever run- in over 30 years of racing 5ks.
All in all great race! I would definitely recommend this one if you live in Arkansas and are looking for a fast 5k. It was fun racing with my Searcy Rush teammates Beverly and Natalie. My sister Tara also ran and had a fast race. She went sub 23 for the first time in years.
When I left the race I felt motivated and excited. That’s always a good way to finish a race. This distance may be hard, fast, and at times downright painful but there’s something about it that I love. I’m already looking forward to my next one!