5ks are kinda like the gateway drug for distance runners. I think most of us start out running these shorter races before we move on to the strong stuff – 10k, half marathon, marathon and ultra-marathon. I’ve pretty much moved on from the 5k race wise, I’m mostly a half marathon guy now. But I do occasionally like to run 5ks I’ve run before so I can gauge deterioration in my speed. Such was the case yesterday with my 3rd Jingle Bell Run in Birmingham Alabama benefitting the Arthritis Foundation.
My first Jingle Bell Run was actually my fastest 5k ever – I ran it in 23:15 which is flying for me and good enough for 3rd place in my former old man group. The following year after a season of heavy training for the TCSNYC Marathon I added 20 seconds to my total time but that was still good enough to finish 3rd. Last year I was looking to improve on my 3rd place finishes by moving up to a new old man division. But the race was cancelled because it had snowed earlier in the week.
As I made my decisions on what to wear to the race yesterday I sort of wished that this was the year they would cancel. It was raining and low 40’s which is right in that “what the heck to wear” zone. You know you’re going to be too cold or too hot no matter what you do. I decided on shorts and a short sleeve shirt over which I planned to wear on old rain slicker that I could ditch if need be, but on my way out the door I changed out for the long pants.
Standing out in the elements I wished I’d worn the long sleeve shirt as well. Even with the long pants and rain slicker I was shivering enough to make pinning my bib to it a difficult assignment. That convinced me that pinning it to my shirt was not an option but in retrospect it should have been. So although I was jumping up and down to try to stay warm in the corral, by mile 1 I was pulling down my hood and taking off my hat. By mile 2 it was essentially July. I was unzipping the slicker, pushing up the sleeves and wishing I could take it off altogether. Oh why did I wear the stupid thing? Unfortunately I had the darn tag pinned to it and couldn’t afford the time any corrective measures might take. I was at an 8 minute pace and if I wanted to finish below that for the day I knew I had to pick it up considerably, overheating be damned!
The first year I ran this race the guy who won my new old man group had finished in 27:14, and I figured I could almost walk the rest of the way and beat that. The second year the winner of my new old man group finished with a total time of 24:31 and I thought even that was within reach if I could push it in mile 3. I managed to sweat my way to a final mile of 7:42 and finished in 24:26 which would have won this age group in both those prior years.
I was still pretty hot after the race so I hung around for a while despite the cold and rain, anticipating an award of some kind based on my time and my knowledge of past results. However it didn’t take long for me to start getting cold again and I decided that the best reward for the day would be a hot shower. I drove off before the results were published
The bad weather kept the field down versus prior years so I actually had my best overall finish at #26 versus #50 last time and #37 the first time. I also didn’t finish 3rd for the first time, but I didn’t win my new old man group either! There was one particularly speedy old man who had finished at 23:30, just 15 seconds behind my all-time 5k record! That means he’s pretty fast. I finished second
This was my slowest Jingle Bell Run yet – 1:11 slower than my first and :51 slower than my last despite the fact that I think it was a somewhat faster course. So I’ve lost about 2 minutes over 3 years. Hopefully I’ll get to test it again next year and see if the 5k speed deterioration is a real thing or just a result of being overdressed and too hot when baby, it’s cold outside.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!