Race Recap: Coopersburg 5K


Full disclosure: I signed up for this race for the t-shirt and sadly, I was disappointed. I ran this race several years ago – it’s a super hilly course and not at all conducive to a PR, but I got this great long sleeved cotton t-shirt. Usually, I prefer tech tees but I love this shirt. It’s seen better days, so I thought it was time for an update. It was also perfect timing to “test” my fitness and see how much work I needed to do once Hansons Round 2 begins. I showed up to packet pick only to find they switched to cheap, ill fitting tech tees. The logo is the same, but this was one time I was really hoping for cotton. Silver lining: it will make a good throw away shirt for the fall!

My speedy friend, Megan, decided to join me. She ran a 1:23 at the St. Luke’s Half Marathon, but also spent much of May recovering and running easy. We both thought this would be a fun, low key event. I know it isn’t reasonable to stay in peak fitness all year round, and I’m not one of those people who can do minimal work and bust out a PR. Although I’d been running consistently over the past few weeks, I knew the lower volume and lack of intensity would rear it’s head in a 5K.

We arrived early and did a 2-ish mile warm up. By the end of the warm up, we were drenched in sweat and the sun was beating down on us. It was very hot and humid, and I knew the heat and the hills might make this a tough morning. I felt decent enough, but certainly not prepared to break my 5K PR (18:48) from the St. Pat’s 5K in March. My goal to treat this like my first tempo run for Hansons and do a solid “speed” workout. I wanted to warm up, run the 5K at my goal marathon pace, and cool down. This meant I needed to average 6:45 pace, or a 20:58 overall. If I began the race and felt amazing and effortless, of course I’d try for a PR (because why not) – but that was unlikely and not my focus for this race.

We lined up at the front and the race went off on time. It begins downhill, but after that it feels like the course just climbs for the duration of the race. In reality, it’s probably about equal but the climbs felt like they lasted forever:


I went out fast, and a whole bunch of younger girls (think high school aged) blew past Megan and I. Within the first mile, I’d passed all but one of them. The first climb hit and I was sucking wind for sure, but I didn’t feel terrible. Mile 1- 6:09.

The second mile was mostly uphill.Megan glided past me and I hung on her heels for a little while. She gained some distance on me, but I could still see her and I wasn’t that far behind her. The last race we ran together was the Superbowl Sunday 10K (very early in Hansons Round 1), and I lost sight of her in the first mile. At that moment, I made it my goal to stay as close to her as possible and not let the gap get any bigger. Mile 2- 6:38.

The final mile had a little more of a downhill grade, and I kept the distance between us the same. I wasn’t winded or tired, but my legs didn’t have that peppiness they had during any of my spring races. And why should they? The last time I did any sort of speed workout was before Boston – the first week in April, and that wasn’t 5K pace. It was marathon pace minus 10 seconds per mile. The last time I ran 5K pace was in my last 5K – in March. I was pretty happy that I was feeling good, just not peppy. My heart rate really confirms what I felt:


So my heart was there, but my legs didn’t seem to understand WTF was happening to them. Mile 3 – 6:31.

We turned the corner and I saw the finish line. I knew I couldn’t pass Megan, but I wasn’t too far behind her. Final .1 – 5:29 pace. Oh hey legs, you are awake. Nice to see you.

My time was 19:56, and Megan’s was 19:47, and I feel really good about it. I exceeded my expectation of holding marathon pace. It was a great way to coax my legs out of hibernation and prepare them for Hansons Round 2.

We cooled down for another two-ish miles, and then came back for awards. The first place female was a high school student and finished in 19:30, Megan got second and I got third overall, or first in the 30-34 age group. We got medals and I know from running this in a previous year that we usually get a gift certificate or prize money in the mail a few weeks later.

Most of all, even though the time on the clock was over a minute slower than my PR, this race was a good measure of physical and mental progress. Two years ago (2014, what I previously referred to as my golden year), I was just breaking 20 minutes in a 5K when I was in peak fitness, and now I was able to do it at the end of a recovery period. In 2015, I was constantly injured and couldn’t run even one 5K, let alone break 20 minutes – the speed would have destroyed my Achilles and my calves. Mentally, I never would have been able to show up at a race, run slower than my PR, and be okay with it before this year. I crossed the finish line and felt happy and proud of the race I ran. Even though the t-shirt didn’t meet my expectations, I’m sure I’ll run this one again!

Ever sign up for a race during recovery to test your fitness? Do struggle with the mental aspect of racing when you know a PR is unlikely?


13 Replies to “Race Recap: Coopersburg 5K”

  1. I was wondering how your race went!!! My weekend was so insane. I really wanted to race something but there were zero races happening and that’s probably a good thing as we had a major heat wave (90’s). There’s a 10k race this weekend but it’s too close to the marathon. BOO. Anyway, enough about me. You KILLED that 5k!!! Nicely done!! And on a hilly route too. You’re a beast!!!! What a great way to start the next training cycle!

  2. I have a race this weekend to test my fitness. I really have no idea what to expect. Last night I went on a 6 mile tempo run that I tracked to see where I’m at. I felt like I was busting my ass but then I saw that my average pace was just barely below the goal MP I trained at this Spring. I was really disappointed. For some reason I still get really high expectations going into some of my off season workouts/races, even though it doesn’t make sense. But on the plus side, I’m glad that happened last night, so that my expectations going into my race are more tempered.

    I also love long sleeve cotton tees so I understand your disappointment. I really wish more races still gave those out – tech tees are nice and all but I already have a million of them to work out in, what I need is something to wear around the house!

  3. Congrats, nice work! I think I actually thrive mentally when I know a PR is unlikely because I’m not putting pressure on myself to break a certain time. And yeah, I’m kind of over the tech tees. The full marathon here in the fall gives out Nike shirts that feel more like a regular shirt than a tech tee and a lot of people complain about it, but I like it because I can actually wear it out. I find a lot of tech tees are cheap anyway and not great to workout in – I sleep in mine!

  4. I signed up for a race on Saturday and ran it, only for the shirt, and they did just like your race… it wasn’t a great shirt at all and I had a disappointing run. Bleh!

    Congratulations on sub-20 after a recovery period! Plus you placed which was really awesome and you’ll hopefully get something in the mail from it. You are right about not being in peak shape year round, and 5Ks and Marathon Training don’t really go hand in hand with workouts. It’s really good that you can get out there and give a solid effort and be proud, though.

  5. Great work! Most of the time at shorter races, I’m either hoping to PR, or running for fun, not to test fitness. That does seem like a good idea though.

  6. Great job, and super fast last mile! I just did my first 5k since last July this past weekend. I was hoping for a PR but would have been happy with a sub-21. I didn’t meet either goal and was upset, but I don’t know why. I’ve only been doing marathon training this spring and haven’t done anything remotely “fast” in forever. I guess at age 36 I have to realize that PRs or even getting the same time as the year before aren’t going to come without putting in the effort (which wasn’t as much as a factor when I was a bit younger). You always seem to have a good (and much more realistic than me) perspective on races.

  7. exactly how i felt last saturday for the half. I knew a PR was out of the question, but i thought a good solid moderate effort would be a measure for the next training cycle. 🙂 Now i’m just mileage building for the next month. Congrats on a great 5k!

  8. Hmmm, it’s either “I’m running with my kids” (slow) or “PR or die!!” for me! Great job on your race! Bummer about the t-shirt. I LOVED the shirts at the Columbus (OH) marathon and wear them all the time. They changed the style a few years back and it was so disappointing! They really should have consulted me first 🙂

  9. I love that you can finish a 5k and still do two more miles before coming back for awards! 🙂 This sounds like it was a great effort and really gave you insight into where you are for your next round of training. Plus, you placed! Seems like an all-around good time!

  10. Great time considering you are not training very hard. It’s great you are taking some time off between your training plans. It’s good for the legs to rest a bit before the next cycle, and as you can see you don’t really loose too much fitness.
    Are you ready for Monday?

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