running a 5k sucks

Why Running a 5K Sucks

Today, I realized something: running a 5K sucks. I think I hate it.

Every day that I head outside to run, I have to find additional motivation beyond just getting off my lazy tail and lacing up my Asics. Every single day, I have to remind myself that I’m not just running a 5K, that I’m training and working toward something (a half-marathon in addition to better health and fitness), and that I’m eventually going to enjoy my run.

And the more I think about it, I think I’ve figured out why running a 5K sucks:

Because 5Ks are too short.

A year ago, I’d have laughed in your face if you told me I’d ever think that running 3.1 miles was too short. Because a year ago, I couldn’t do it. The distance was almost overwhelming to think about.

But now I can run it, I hate it. I hate it because as much as I love running and how running makes me feel, I never enjoy the actual 5K distance. 5K races, sure–the events are awesome.

But not the distance itself.

Running a 5K tends to go like this: muscles ache because they’re not warmed up yet, lungs burn from sucking in the air, and by the time you get into a groove and start to feel like you’re doing okay…you’ve crossed the finish line (or finished the training session or whatever).

When you’re running a 5K, there’s barely enough time to spark up the endorphins (and their Big Daddy counterparts, endocannabinoids) to reach the euphoria granted by the runner’s high.

By the time  your body starts to acclimate and adapt to the strain you’re putting on it, you’re not putting that stress on it anymore.

Silver Linings

However, there’s a reason that 5K is the go-to a race distance for most people: it’s achievable.

It’s a long enough distance to be a challenge, yet a short enough distance to be doable.

Think of the 5K as the gateway drug of the running world. It hooks you on the sport, the fun, the camaraderie  the sense of accomplishment, and when you’re hooked, you try to push into a new distance–a 10K or a half-marathon.

And before you know it, you’re an addict.

When you’re not running, you’re thinking about running. You’re losing weight and feeling better. And when you are running, your muscles aren’t aching as much, and your lungs don’t scream for air. You get the runner’s high as you push into mile 5 or 6 of your long-run.

All because someone, somewhere, told you that running a 5K was awesome.

In All Seriousness

Really, though, the 5K distance is a great gateway to running. But I do still dread those first few miles of every run. They were awesome at first because they were new and exciting, but the more I begin to push into longer distances, I see how much they really and truly suck.

And they don’t suck on their own. They only suck because of how much better and exciting the later miles are.

So when someone tells you that a 5K is awesome, you send them to me, would ya?




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  1. Sole e35 cross trainer

    Still think the 5k’s are fun. The longest i’ve managed is a 13k and i’m training to go further (although i’m not quite a marathoner yet) with some the ellipticals i promote.

    They make it so much easier and i don’t feel like my ankles are going to come off when i’m finished.

    I assume you train for the 5k’s on tarmac? Give the cross trainers a try, you might end up prefering them like me. Great site btw, keep the posts coming 🙂

  2. Michael Conrad

    Interesting. I love the 5k. It can be a gateway for runners, but it’s not just for novices and beginners. You’re just approaching it wrong. The 5k is about redlining all the way. It’s a fast and furious event. If you can run a 5k moderately fast, you can run a 10k no problem.

    I realise you’re talking about every day running, as opposed to actual race events. It’s just that the 5k is misjudged as a beginner’s race. The 5000m/5k is an Olympic event. It’s not just for beginners. Try running a sub 20min -18min 5k and tell me it’s for beginners.

  3. Dotcom

    Meh, I think 5Ks can be awesome. It mostly depends on the people running it, but most of the 5Ks I’ve run have been decent.

    5ks? Ha! My biggest issue is 10Ks. Every 10K I’ve run from road-to-trail seems to bring in the major jerkhead narcissists. You know? The runners who do ultras and chat loudly behind you the whole time or the newbies who do not do their homework properly and go anywhere near the correct pace corral and then they run on the left side (either chatting as a group or obliviously against rules with headphones)—or worse—they take up all the lanes as a group so you can’t even consider passing.

    There is something about the number of 10Ks that I’ve been to that were really offputting in that fashion. I’d sooner do a little 1-miler (timed, but no swag) that was thoughtfully organized by a tiny running group than a high-end 10K that has been written about in Runners World (I’ve done both).

    As for 5Ks? They are a wonderful way to keep training—whether it’s just to have motivation or to use for speedwork for a bigger race. The best PR I ever made was when I signed up for a bunch of (mostly smaller) 5Ks on a monthly basis—and I wasn’t even near in the shape I am now. I was pulling 6-minute 1-milers! I am pretty proud of that considering I really hadn’t gotten into running until my mid/late 30s, and I was a good 20 pounds heavier at that time.

    But any sized race can probably be wonderful or full of suck. It depends on the crowd, the volunteers, and the weather. If you have patience, a good sense of humor, and a good set boundary of when to bail, you will always find a way to make it enjoyable (even if it means it’s just an entertaining story for your next run club meet).


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