For my usual post-marathon short race, I picked the Rockaway 5K course - not too far from home, but an area that, while I am somewhat familiar with it, I rarely do any running. Actually, I'm more familiar with Rockaway Township (I have friends that live there and there is a mall there) but this course is in Rockaway Borough, which is right next to it. That is so Jersey.
The figure-eight course started westbound on East Main Street (at Keller Avenue) with a short downhill before turning left onto Franklin Avenue, which was mostly flat. My 6:19 first mile did not delight me, but it did not surprise me either. I had thought for sure that with the re-introduction of speed training I could get closer to the 6:00 mark, at least in the first mile.
I knew that was the best it was going to get because what goes down must come up and, sure enough there was a bit of an uphill after the turn onto Rockaway Avenue, back toward East Main. Then it was back down that same hill from the start, past Franklin and a right turn on Jackson Avenue and another push up a small but significant enough hill that my pace was already falling apart with a 6:29 second mile and I continued onto Union Street.
Already running out of gas but determined to push as hard as I could for the third mile (the last mile is no time to give up, after all), I was faced with another uphill battle after turning onto Stickle Avenue, which turned into Beach Street. The approach from Beach back to Main was maybe a 50-foot ascent in about a third of a mile. A few years ago, that would have been a small challenge, but I would have bounded up that hill, probably passing a few runners along the way. On this day, it felt like a mountain.
But I chugged up that mountain with all my might and, sure, when I hit the three-mile mark on East Main with a 6:27, it was nothing about which to write home, but I was proud that it was faster than the second mile.
So with my last gasps, I hit the finish line in the Rockaway Assembly of God church parking lot 43 seconds later, finishing with a 19:58. OK, well, 26 seconds faster than my previous 5K, but still slower than every other 5K I have run in the past 15 years.
Now, I can accept that as the way it is and the way it is going to be...
...but I am going to start focusing on short-race training for the next couple of months, just to be sure.