Sleepless nights because of a 5k?

A 5k race doesn’t normally induce sleepless nights, but I just took part in one that did. To be fair, it wasn’t the actual running part that caused the sleepless nights, it was the fact that I had taken on the role of joint race director for this particular 5k and all the details were playing on my mind in the final few days.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, 4 years ago I was not a runner (I was a cyclist) – my town has had a 5k every May since 2009 and I’m not sure what it was that made me enter it in 2010 but that was the first step to me becoming a runner. This year, through a series of events, I ended up volunteering to help organize it (with the help of a friend who has been race director for another race – EBRR; without that, I would not have known where to start and may not have done it at all).

We were lucky that this was the 6th year of this event. It meant that many of the procedures for the day itself were already in place to a certain extent and there were individuals who step up every year and take on specific roles.

There were some things we did that hadn’t been done before – we got local radio to come out and DJ at the finish area, we set up the website http://runinthepark.org/, and we got a local preschool (Yellow Brick Road) involved with the kids races.

Overall things seemed to run smoothly and the feedback after the event was positive. The kids races were particularly successful – a reported 75 children signed up which made it a great event in itself. This part was the most amazing part of the day for me and made it all so worthwhile. We ended up with 6 different runs for the kids – from a 50m dash to 200m.

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I even got to run the 5k myself and got another personal course record. Last year I wrote about this race here, in particular about my 1 second PR because I ran the course one second faster than the previous year. My overall 5k PR is now at another race, but this year I did the same thing again, and finished 1 second faster than last year. What are the odds on that happening?

So, my results for this race over the years look like this:

2014: 19:27
2013: 19:28
2012: 19:29
2011: 21:40
2010: 24:29

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Me approaching the finish.

Vibram Fivefingers

A muddy run with Fivefingers

A muddy run with Fivefingers

It’s inevitable that as soon as news broke about Vibram’s agreement to settle a legal dispute centered around the claims they made about their Fivefinger shoes and running, a friend sent me an article about it.

Soon after I started running (in 2010) I started hearing about “barefoot running” and these shoes. I decided that it was worth a try – everything I read seemed to make sense, and as I hadn’t been running particularly long and wasn’t running particularly far on each run I thought it was worth a try. I knew I would have to start slowly and I did. I don’t recall specifically following one set of instructions on how to make the transition – there was so much information out there – I just knew I had to take it slow.

It wasn’t necessarily an easy adjustment – I started with only a tenth of a mile and increased gradually from there, within the first couple of weeks something didn’t feel right, so I stopped for a while, and then started all over again from the beginning. In other words, I listened to what my body was telling me was right and wrong.

Ultimately it worked well for me. Within a few months I ran a 5k in them – faster than my previous 5k, and with less aches in my legs afterwards. I’ve moved away from the Fivefingers simply because there are so many options out there now – I found that they didn’t suit me particularly well on the longer runs I was starting to do because they rubbed in places that caused minor blisters.

The other change I had to make early on was to stop wearing my regular shoes at all – within a very small space of time I started to find having a heel uncomfortable – this was possible at the time thanks to Vivobarefoot.

Now about that lawsuit…

From what I can tell amongst the runners I know at least, people get injured for all sorts of reasons. People will try out different shoes and maybe they work for them, maybe they don’t. If they don’t, the people I know move on to try a different shoe, or perhaps back to what they used before. What I haven’t seen them do is sue the manufacturer because they claimed their shoes were better than others (isn’t that what companies do to promote their products?).

You could argue that Vibram should have known better than to make claims when they had no study to back it up, but surely the whole point was that if you start using muscles you haven’t used before because of the type of shoes you were using previously then those muscles are going to get stronger. Should they take the blame if someone pushed themselves beyond what their body was capable of and got injured?

Maybe the fact they settled will hurt them, and in turn the whole minimalist running movement. I’m hoping it doesn’t – I’m hoping there are still enough people out there who it works for to keep all these options open to those of us who can never go back.

This is one of the articles about the settlement that seems to be a little more “balanced” in it’s opinion of the shoes – People who bought these Vibram FiveFinger shoes may be entitled to a refund – but it does still come out a bit on the negative side despite acknowledging that “Does Vibram being caught flat-footed mean there’s no merit to barefoot running? Absolutely not.”. However, it also implies that Vibram, by settling, has agreed their claims are false, which ignores the fact that companies often settle this sort of dispute because it’s simply a lot, lot cheaper to do so.

The question now is whether or not I should make a claim under the settlement when the time comes? My initial reaction is “of course not” but, if I don’t, the money gets distributed anyway – if I claim some of it I could at least rush out and buy more minimalist shoes with the money keeping it “in the family” as it were. What would you do?

Targeting speed.

This year I set myself two targets. I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to get there, but things are going reasonably well so far.

Those goals were:

  1. Break 19 minutes for a 5k.
  2. Break 1 hour 30 for a half marathon.

It doesn’t look like a good start when you look at my only half marathon result for the year so far: 1:32:02 in the Rutgers Unite Half on April 13th, and not a single 5k run yet this year, but if you look at where I am now compared to the same races last year, then things don’t necessarily look so bad (considering a late June 2013 5k last year gave me a PR of 19:15 and a September half marathon gave me a PR of 1:30:59).

Those comparisons are:

2013 Miles for Music 20k: 1:30:58
2014 Miles for Music 20k: 1:27:58

2013 Unite Half Marathon: 1:33:18
2014 Unite Half Marathon: 1:32:02

2013 Newport 10k: 41:28
2014 Newport 10k: 41:07

In amongst this I managed a 15k PR of 1:03:18 at the Clinton Country Run, but that’s a tougher comparison as my only other 15k performances have been at Indian Trails which is a hillier race (my time there last year was 1:05:16 – the year before 1:04:39).

Last year I was definitely running more miles, but this year a big difference in what sort of running I have been doing is the weekly speed workouts with the Raritan Valley Road Runners. This has been my first experience of structured speed workouts with defined targets for each week and I’m pretty sure it’s helping.

What helps even more is doing this with a group, and more specifically, with a group that includes runners who are slightly faster than me. Runners that push me to extend just that little bit beyond my comfort zone. I know that this is happening because one week, when I was out of the country and couldn’t join the regular group, I attempted to complete the workout on my own. Admittedly it wasn’t under the same conditions – I had no track to work on, and I incorporated it into an already planned 11 mile run (starting the speed workout 5 miles in), but when comparing my times against those I was running with at the track other weeks I was fairly significantly slower, plus I didn’t actually finish (it ended with 400m and I didn’t even get half way through before deciding enough was enough; I was done and still had over a mile to go before I could stop running) – but I’m sure I would have done better with others to spur me on.

Are my goals achievable? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m definitely going to be trying my hardest to get there, and this past weekend’s 10k result (although disappointing in some ways because I really wanted to get under 41 minutes) definitely seems like a sign that I am still getting faster.