5K Time in Tennessee

Hanging with T-Rac at Packet Pick-Up

Hanging with T-Rac at Packet Pick-Up

Erika and I ran the Titans 5K last Saturday. Although it’s the third year for this great 5K, it was our first experience and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (it helps that we’re both Titans fans). A portion of the proceeds from the Titans 5K was donated to Girls on the Run, a 12-week after school running program for young girls to teach them about self-respect and health living.

The Titans 5K was a family friendly, walker friendly event and there were plenty of Titans on hand to meet and greet. As a special bonus, the finish line was right on LP Field and Titans players lined both sides of the finish line, high-fiving participants after the crossed the line. It made you feel like a Titans player running onto the field before a home game.

If you’re a beginning runner, you need to sign up for a 5K now! The spring/summer season here in Nashville is the perfect time for it. 3.1 miles is a manageable distance, and there will be runners, walkers, runners who walk a little, and walkers who run a little. Afterwards, it’s a party while everyone waits for the awards ceremony. I used to say 5Ks were like parties without alcohol, but now several of them offer beer afterward (to runners of legal drinking age, of course). Not an “all you can drink” kind of thing (because it goes right to your head – or mine anyway – after a run), but a modestly-sized alcoholic beverage.

The great thing about a 5K is that it offers something for everyone:

The neighborhood walker who wants to support a great cause or just enjoy the fresh air.

The beginning runner who wants a chance to see how they measure up to other runners.

The distance runner getting in some speed work.

The elite runner hoping to win.

A 5K is perfect for all of the above. As a bonus, you get a nice shirt (at the Titans 5K, participants received ball caps and a ticket to a Titans game) and something to eat and drink. The distance is long enough to be challenging and short enough that it’s relatively easy to train for.

Some rules to follow:

1. Line up according to your ability – be honest with yourself! If you are going to be in the lead pack of runners, then line up in the front. If not, find your place somewhere else. If you anticipate running the whole race (but not super fast), the middle is best. If you’re walking, then go ahead and line up in the back. If you line up properly, you don’t have to worry about being trampled by a bunch of fast runners (which is what would happen to me if I lined up in front).

2. The post-race food and drink is NOT an all-you-can-eat-and stuff-in-your-pocket buffet. Grab only what you’ll eat there. If you have trouble eating right after you run, it’s cool to grab a little something for later. Just remember that everyone else at the race (and the volunteers) should be able to have a little something to eat and drink, too.

3. The Race Director is the hardest working person at the race. If you have a serious issue with the race, be a grown up and address it directly with the Race Director. Take your complaints to social media only after you’ve given the Race Director a chance to make it right.

4. Don’t be afraid to breathe hard! Breathing hard is part of running – don’t be afraid of that. I’ve met new runners who are uncomfortable running with their mouths open, but this is something they need to do. When I’m racing, I breathe so hard that you can probably hear me a block away. Make sure you hold your chest up to give your diaphragm plenty of room. If you’re all slumped over, you aren’t going to able to get as much air in.

5. Treat a 5K course like a roadway. Pull over to the side if you have to take a walk break. Do NOT abruptly come to a complete halt in the middle of the street. Once runners start running, it’s hard for them to stop and they will plow into you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

6. Don’t eat anything too crazy the night before the race. This is NOT the time to try the XX Hot Chicken at Prince’s.

7. The morning of the 5K, make sure you eat something, hopefully incorporating carbs and protein. Usually coffee, a glass of water, and a breakfast bar does it for me. But I once ran a very successful (for me) 5K after eating an ice cream sandwich (before running the Purity Dairy Dash).

8. If you have your tunes on, turn the volume down low enough to hear race announcements and people speaking to you on the course.

9. Have a race strategy. If possible, run or walk the route in advance. If that isn’t possible, drive the route (but remember the hills feel steeper when you’re running up them than when you’re in your car). You can also sometimes check out the course elevation chart to get an idea of where the hills are. Save something for the uphills along the course, especially if they’re near the end when your legs will be more tired.

10. Watch out for curbs, uneven pavement and holes in the road. I stepped into a hole in the pavement and fell during one 5K, which wasn’t pretty. Thankfully, only my ego was bruised.

11. Thank the police who keep the course safe for runners, thank the water stop volunteer who carefully hands you water, and any other volunteer you come across. The events would not happen without volunteer help. The volunteers arrive at the race course even earlier than you do to make sure you have a great experience, so please don’t forget to thank them.

So, that’s my advice for running a 5K.

For a more expert perspective, I asked local runner Jacob Carrigan for his advice to new runners attempting a 5K (or beginning a running regimen, in general) and Jacob was generous enough to pass along his words of wisdom. Jacob not only runs 5Ks almost every weekend (sometimes more than one) but also wins a lot of them. As a matter of fact, he won the Titans 5K on Saturday. In 2013 alone, he ran 53 races and won 38 of them. And we’re not talking about age group awards here (which are great, too), but the whole race. As in, he crossed the finish line first. An impressive feat. One I could only experience if Jacob would agree to carry me on his back.

Jacob’s PR on a certified 5K course is 15:41, which he set back in 2005. Almost more remarkable is his recent finish time of 15:48 at the 2014 Purity Dairy Dash. Jacob also finished 5th in the 2014 Country Music Half Marathon, with a time of 1:13.

When Jacob is generous enough to offer his advice, I suggest paying attention. So here’s some of Jacob’s expert advice:

Regarding nutrition: “Most of the time I try to stay away from processed foods. It isn’t the occasional meal that is going to hurt you, it’s the day-in and day-out things you eat that have the most effect.”

Regarding race strategy: “I’ve never really thought about racing strategies too much, but I think it goes without saying I (most people) run faster with competition. I do like to sit back the first quarter of a mile in a race just to let the kids sprint themselves out and get a feel for anyone else that may be in the race similar to my ability…I don’t pay much attention to what others are doing and run an even pace.”

Advice for Beginning Runners: “Keep it fun, don’t take it too serious or you’ll burn yourself up with running. Enjoy the social aspect of races-and run with a local running group. Don’t do too much too soon – no more than 10% increase in mileage per week. Don’t start out too fast in races. Accept that there will always be people faster and slower than you.”

I was surprised and impressed with how Jacob has found what works for him and has enjoyed repeated success by sticking to it. He’s never been coached and doesn’t do any kind of speed work. He doesn’t keep a training log, or stick to a training plan because he feels all that would “take the fun out of it.”

He is able to perform at a very high level for so long by not over-doing it (although he also credits his mother for her genetic gifts). He has a valid point that being too serious about running can take the fun out of it. When you start to feel burned out, dread running, etc., that’s when you might need to step back and take a breather. Just get out and run for fun. Or, like Jacob said, enjoy the social aspect of races.

Whether you’re finally ready to sign up for your first 5K or you’re looking to rediscover the joy of running, you have almost a whole year to get ready for the 2015 Titans 5K – why not get started NOW?!

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