AOL 4th Annual 5K Race Recap: Relearning How to Focus

AOL Cinco5K used to be my favorite distance. Back when I was a lazy runner, it was easy to train for, over with quickly, and relatively painless because I slowed down as soon as it started to hurt. These days I look at a 5K like ripping off a bandaid; it’ll hurt, but it’ll hurt less the faster I run. After training for a marathon for (what felt like) forever, I decided I needed to remind my legs what it’s like to race a much shorter distance. I knew racing a 5K just three weeks after Boston Marathon would be a shock to my system. I didn’t realize just how much of a shock it would be…

To be honest, I find 5ks a huge time suck as I like to get to a race an hour before it starts so I can warm up and spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at my watch, when I’m not running back and forth to the bathroom. Then I run for just over 20 minutes and spend another hour hanging around waiting for awards. Granted, I usually bump into someone I know and spend some time catching up, as I did last Sunday, but when I get home and realize I only ran 4 miles (3.1 of racing, plus warm up) I feel that it’s a bit of a waste. So my plan, when I finished Sunday’s race, was to keep running for a few more miles until the awards were presented. I ran 3 more miles until I got worried I was going to miss the awards and headed back to the finish area only to find they were about the start the kids fun run, bumped into a friend and chatted for a while before we both decided to go back to our cars and get our jackets. Of course, then I almost did miss the awards because we were halfway to our cars when they started making the announcements…

Anyway, the race, in a nutshell, went reasonably well. I realized on the start line that there were no fast guys, only a few girls who looked fast. When the gun went off, four girls took off (with a couple of guys in tow) and I quickly realized I shouldn’t try to give chase. My plan was to run a 6:45 first mile and then drop the pace for the 2nd and 3rd miles. I had trouble finding the pace at first; I was either too fast or too slow. Then I noticed there were four guys just ahead of me so I caught up with them to see if they could pull me. Mile 1: 6:46. I soon passed a couple of the guys and then just had two ahead of me. In mile 2 I was about to pass another guy when the wind picked up on an uphill stretch, so I tucked in behind him so he could block the wind for me. Unfortunately he started to slow, so I reluctantly passed him. Mile 2: 6:39.

Just one more guy to catch. I needed to pick up the pace, although I knew there was one more hill. I tried to stop my mind from wandering and focus on my cadence and form. Having spent the last several months allowing my mind to wander in order to deal with the mind-numbing mileage, I was now having trouble keeping it from wandering! Focus, focus, I reminded myself. I passed the last guy. Mile 3: 6:36.

I could hear the crowd at the finish and I knew how close it was. I was telling my legs to kick but they had other ideas. Funny thing was, they felt great, but my lungs were on fire. And of course my legs weren’t used to the speed and were fighting it. Still, I managed 6:04 for the last 0.1, or 0.18 on my Garmin. Guess I didn’t do too great a job running the tangents. I remember having a hard time working out which side of the road would be shorter, my brain was so fried!


But when I finished, my legs still had plenty of pep, so off I went on my 3 mile jaunt….

I ended up winning my age group (40-49) and was 5th female overall. AOL did a great job, offering indoor bathrooms and a place to stay warm pre-race. They also offered mustache painting, in which I decided to partake, but of course wiped off my mustache during the race! Parking was easy and well-marked, the race route was easy to follow and offered some short but challenging hills, and there was plenty of race support. I plan to go back next year!


  1. Hey (new & fellow) NUUN Ambassador! Great race. You were on fire. Congrats!!
    Rock on,
    Rebecca (runningwithmusic)

    • Alison Gittelman says:

      Thanks for the comment, Rebecca! Checking out your blog – boy, you’re speedy!

  2. Cracks me up that every distance runner seems to choose the 5K as their least favorite distance. I am famous for this. It is too short and they make me run to fast.
    By the way you crack me up. Faster than I could be on wheels and you still had enough left in your tank to run another 3. You are awesome. I strive to be more like that someday.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted..Runcation DreamsMy Profile

    • Alison Gittelman says:

      Abby thank you for the kind words! There are people who are waaaay faster than me and I think, “how can they possibly run that pace?” and then there are people who are slower. But we’re all runners! And you’re right, the 5K is too darn short. But for some reason I want to perfect it.

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