Fall is about cross country and road races. With cooler weather replacing the hot, humid days of summer, it’s also about testing one’s fitness and reaching for a new PR. At the end of August, my younger son (age 10) ran the All Out for Autism 5K road race and finished in 21:16, then a PR. Two weeks later, he ran the Wilton XC Invitational 1.5 mile race and set a PR of 9:36. He enjoyed running both events and was rewarded with the satisfaction that he achieved his goals through a good plan and hard work.
In his quest to find out how fast can a 10-year old boy really run, my son re-set his goal for the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge 5K on September 30, which was to break 21:00. The morning of the race, we lined up at the start with more than 600 other runners. We recognized several other young runners, including the 2011 USATF Bantam Cross Country National Champion. My son started fast, and as we passed the mile mark in 6:25 I knew this could be a special day. But I was also worried that we had started too fast and that he would fade. With about 200 m to go and running under 20 minutes, I knew that he would finish strong and achieve a new PR. My son crossed in 20:24 (6:33 mile pace), which was a 50 second PR from the month-earlier Autism 5K. He won the boys 10-13 age group and placed 20th overall with more than 600 runners. And he finished about 30 seconds behind a 9-year old runner who less than a year ago won the Junior Olympics Cross Country National Championship in the Bantam age group.
I have written elsewhere on this blog about our holistic approach to running, setting goals and designing a plan, and the workouts that comprise our program. I have added a new type of workout and had my son try it out 5 days before the Bigelow Tea 5K. He ran 3x 1600m threshold intervals with a target of 6:45 (our target 5K race pace) and a 1:1 break (meaning the recovery period between intervals is equal to each interval duration). His actual time was 6:35 for each interval. Very different from our 400/800/1200 intervals run at mile goal pace with full recovery. The threshold intervals helped him mentally as much as physically: he gained confidence that he could run a 5K at 6:45 or below pace.
Fast start with 6:25 first mile in Bigelow Tea 5K (wearing number 302)
Final 200 meters and “emptying the tank” (number 302)
Crossing the finish line with 20:24 PR, 20th overall and 1st in age group
Collecting well-deserved 1st place trophy in 10-13 age group as 10 year old
Champions for 10-13 age group (left) and 9 & under age group (right)