How Long is a 5k?

Editor’s Note: This is an article written by Team G(race) member Rick Bowman. Many of our members have different backgrounds and experiences that led them to become runners. We invite them to share these experiences with their teammates and the local running community.

About nine years ago, my brother Bill, invited me to run a 5K with him. Nothing unusual or out of the ordinary for a runner, except that I was not a runner. With complete innocence I asked, “How long is a 5K?”

“3.1 miles”, he answered.  Isn’t that like the distance from the Earth to the outer reaches of the solar system, I wondered?  It seemed awfully long.  With no enthusiasm, I said, “I’d have to think about it,” but I already knew that I’d just politely say, “No way, José!”

Later that night Leslie, my daughter said, “Dad wouldn’t it be great if we could run together? It will be so much fun!” Fun? Running as a fun experience?  When I was participating in grade school sports, running was doled out as punishment.  Running was never portrayed to me as a warm, familial bonding experience.

With my brother and daughter now enthused over my future identity as a runner, I finally agreed to run a 5K race with the condition that I have a few months to train before “Race Day” arrived.  I immediately started preparing for my big adventure by going to Walmart and buying their best generic $5 gym shorts.  My first race was the now defunct Vandalia Freedom 5K formerly held on the Fourth of July at Helke Park in Vandalia.

Without planning or study, I arbitrarily decreed one mile to be my go-to training distance and set to work on conquering the mile.  I hated it! I absolutely despised running.  For about three weeks, my sore leg muscles screamed insults at me and my tortured lungs never felt right. I remember wondering how anyone could enjoy this experience.  How could anyone see running as fun?  More importantly, why would anyone freely choose to run?  If I hadn’t promised my brother and daughter that I’d run with them on race day, I would have quit, but I soldiered on.

Then I experienced my first running epiphany! I’ve had more. Without explanation, with no one to witness it, about a half mile into my one-mile run, an internal desire to run as fast as I could welled up within me and burst forth.  I started an all-out sprint! And to my complete surprise, my body responded! No whiny sore muscles. No labored breathing. My body was a running machine and it felt awesome! Euphoric! I was one with the world!

I sprinted all out for a quarter of a mile. Just as fast as I could go. No one saw me do it. Not one single witness to my moment in running history. I didn’t care.  This moment was mine.  After my quarter mile sprint, I slowed up a bit and then finished off the run with one last madcap sprint to my self-created, one-mile finish line.  I had conquered a mile!  Now I knew why runners choose to run. Running was fun.

My first 5K on that Fourth of July went well.  I passed two teenage boys who had started off way too fast and both looked exhausted at the one-mile marker.  Later on, I was passed by a woman pushing a stroller with two kids in it!  I was learning about races for the first time.  I had fun and I finished! The excitement and electricity that typically occurs on race day drew me even deeper into the world of running.  But I really first fell in love with running on the day of my crazy, mad dash to my own one mile finish line.  I’ve never looked back.

That was almost nine years ago. As I write this story, I’ve now run two full marathons, 13 half marathons and a total of 133 races overall!  I still love running. And I no longer need to ask…How long is a 5K?

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