It's true: I've only ever run one 5k in my entire life. I ran the Red Hook Crit in 2012. I remember that my first mile was 6-something, then my second two were about a minute slower. I guess I haven't learned anything in 5 years!
5ks terrify me and they are very expensive on a per-mile basis, which is why I never run them. (I paid just $50 for the Tobacco Road Marathon, which works out to just over $1.90 per mile. A $30 5k? $9.68 per mile. That's even more expensive (per mile) than the NYC Marathon. ~flips hair~ No thanks, I wasn't born yesterday.)
Anyway, my frugality can't be an excuse when there's Parkrun, a free, timed 5k every single Saturday here in Durham and many other cities worldwide. It starts at 8:00 (great chill start time), it's at a nice shaded park with a smooth greenway, there are real bathrooms, and the course takes you right past a water fountain. Ideal, perfect. Can't believe I'd never been there before.
There were about 40 people there, friendly folks. It's a run, not a race, they said (hence the asterisk in the title of this post). Even better! On the count of 3 we were off, and I was surprised to find myself near the front of the pack. We did three loops of a keyhole shape, down and then back up a decent hill about a quarter mile long. I appreciated the hill, it was like hill repeats and a 5k in one. Felt good to do such good work on a Saturday morning. There were enough people treating it like a race that I felt pushed. The first mile clocked in at 7:56, then the second two miles clicked off at 8:26 and 8:28. Yup - sounds about right. Still the positive split champion of the 5k. My finish time was 25:25, over 2 minutes off my 2012 time of 23:11, but honestly a little faster than I expected.
Digression: Every time I work through I training plan I am amazed by how humbling the process is. Like, I've achieved proficiency in running many times over now. I have run decent (for me) times that I'm happy with in lots of different distances. And time and time again I finish my goal race, take some time off, and then I'm kicked back to the start and have to start over from nothing, like a sand mandala. Nothing else in my life is like this - I learned to sew two years ago and have been steadily improving since, even when I set it aside for a few months. I have been growing professionally for the past decade, and can drop a programming language and pick it up again years later, skimming stackoverflow if I need to jog my memory. But running rewards only consistency. If I stop running, I regress. I can't jump back in at my old level of competency. It doesn't matter how many marathons I've run or how many books on training I've read - the only thing it cares about is whether I've put in the work that week. And can I say? It feels so good to put in the work again.