Thursday, May 17, 2012

Racing Events Primer, Volume I

Run Lawyer Run

When a brisk walk from your desk to the fax machine leaves you gasping for air, you have two choices: go paperless or get in shape.

Your Local 5k

Running an organized 5k is a great initial goal.  Training programs are abundant and most are not too condescending.  And there’s no shortage of 5ks, either.  Check your local paper and you’ll see at least one every weekend, each supporting some obscure worthy cause.

Opinions vary on training and/or running with a partner.  Like law school study groups, some people thrive on the communal energy, while others find it unbearably annoying.

Once you’re comfortable enough to enter your first race, you should try to remember a few things.

The distance is 5000 meters but pacing is listed by the mile.  This inconsistency may grate on your lawyer sensibilities, but it does make the math kind of easy.  A 5k is 3.1 miles, so to calculate your target, take your mile pace, multiply by 3, and add a little bit.  This is like calculating a contingency fee, but in reverse.

Do not get discouraged.  Someone there will finish in 16 minutes.  In other words, by the time you start your third mile, you will have technically already lost the race.  (If this is your first race and you finish in 16 minutes, you should go pro.  Or you missed part of the course.)   Your goals at first should be to get fit and to continually improve.

You will get a crappy t-shirt.

After running a couple of 5ks, you should get an idea if organized racing events are your cup of tea.  Chances are, you’ll get hooked on the camaraderie and post-race euphoria/food.

The Endangered 10k

In ancient times, 10ks were commonly held alongside 5ks.  The lame ones were just two laps of the 5k course, but most organizers took great pains to give 10k runners some variety.  It was the event for stronger runners and those who wanted to challenge themselves after becoming proficient at 5000 meters.

Now, sadly, 10ks are becoming exceedingly difficult to find.  Science has yet to determine the cause, but experts speculate that the proliferation of 5ks, smaller venues, and disruption of migratory patterns may explain the decline of this event.

Be warned: You should not expect to just run your 5k pace for twice as long.  Running a 10k requires different training methods and greater attention to your pace per mile than a 5k.  This preparation will have various individualized nuances and subtleties, but the key is to step up slowly.  Far too many runners get injured by pushing to greater distances too fast.

This distance is a good match for people who actually, you know, like to run.  It’s also a good gateway drug to intermediate distances, such as 8-mile, 10-mile, and half-marathon races. Not to mention the next level of health and fitness, baby.

So what are you waiting for? Let's do this.