In October of 2009, when I was early into my first marathon training cycle, I decided to do a short race to get some experience with race day jitters. I chose the Susan G. Komen 5k - a rather large race here in Houston that happened to start within walking distance of my office at the time, meaning I had an easy base from which to get changed, drop off stuff, etc.
It was my first race since high school - 15 years, give or take - and it's the race I started the three goal system (one crazy, one reasonable, one non-time). My goals were completely unreasonable, but I didn't know it at the time because I'd never really done that exact distance as a training run.
I ended up having one of those days that only comes along once or twice a year and ran it in a 21:40. It was a superhuman effort. I didn't know it that day, but that time would become something unattainable over the next year. I tried several times over the next year to break that time, but I never even managed to get under 22:00 and eventually gave up. I focused on distance and ran two more marathons, leaving the shorter races to others.
This morning I didn't feel a whole lot like running, but that's pretty much how I feel every morning. Still, something felt a bit off today and I ended up sleeping in. Thankfully, today was only scheduled to be a simple 4 miler, so I still had the time to fit it in before heading to the office. In a somewhat groggy state I stumbled out on to the lawn and let my Garmin try to find satellites. It was a beautiful morning - blue clear skies, cool but not cold, breezy but not windy, refreshingly moist but definitely not humid. A perfect morning, even. So I decided to see what all of my training and extra miles and interval workouts and general effort has done for me over the last few months - I decided to try once more to break the 5k record.
I started out perfect - smooth stride, pace slightly slower than I wanted to run at first, consistent speed. And I felt good. I had on my loudest and angriest metal playlist and that fueled me right along. Mile 1 and Mile 2 both came and went. I got really tired and my legs started feeling heavy halfway through the third mile, but by that time I was sure I was going to beat my own record so I pushed through.
Ended up running it in 20:50. That's not just beating a PR, that's obliterating it.
The biggest thing, though, is that I feel that this run is repeatable. The October 2009 race was superhuman. This race was just human - I can do this again. I'm not saying I will be able to do it again on any given day - some days you feel better than others and I felt great this morning - but I do think I would be able to go sub 21 minutes on 7 out of 10 tries.
This also means that I have set a PR in all four of my major distances within the last four months. That tells me my training is having a major effect.