Running has enjoyed a renaissance the last few years. More and more people are joining in and strapping on running shoes. Also, there are a lot of races every spring. Wolf Trap’s 5k is one of my favorites. Okay, okay … so I am biased. I work for Wolf Trap at our spectacular year round intimate indoor venue, The Barns, and I am a bit partial when it comes to anything Wolf Trap. I’ve been running since high school, and it’s nice to have a fun, close 5k every spring to help me kick out the winter cobwebs and get ready for my summer training.
If you haven’t run the 5k before, it is a fun course, but it can provide a good challenge for even a seasoned runner. There are two decent hills to deal with. The first one hits right about at the half mile mark. It is a long hill leading out of the park and up into the neighborhood Shouse Village. It goes up about 150 ft over half a mile; if you are ready for it, it’s not too bad, just take your time and enjoy the scenery. The other big hill worth mentioning is near the end of the race. Just after the walking tunnel headed back towards the Filene Center (you’ll remember this from the starting line) you’ll have to turn and head up the circle towards the box office. This hill is almost the same gain in elevation but it is over a shorter quarter of a mile. This is the hill to push up because once you reach the top you are almost done and the rest is down hill. It can be tough pushing for this last hill, but if you’re going for a personal best or trying to catch the person in front of you, this is the spot to dig deep. No matter what, remember you should run your race – not anyone else’s. Whether this is your first or your fiftieth 5k, it is still an accomplishment.
What I do to get ready for this race? I’m happy to share just with a disclaimer: everyone’s body is different and what works for me may not be the best for someone else. Also, with the Wolf Trap 5k just around the corner, you may want to take it easy the last few runs before the race. That being said, to me training for this race is about two things: Intervals and Hill Drills. Yup, those are probably the two most hated and feared exercises in a runner’s vocabulary. Taking an easy long run on a warm spring day is fun; it is why we all got into running in the first place. Plug in your ear buds and run your stress away right? Unfortunately if this is not your first 5k and you really want to make some gains and shave more than just seconds off your time you’re going to have to do the work.
Intervals are important because nothing will get your leg speed down faster. There are plenty of plans available online but the idea is this: run hard and fast for a short while then jog at an easy pace for a while (no stopping) – then repeat. I usually do 90 seconds fast then 45 seconds slow. If you do that without stopping for 1 or 2 miles you will have gotten the cardiovascular equivalent of running almost 4 miles. Mix it up. Then there are the Hill Drills. Run up a hill as fast as you can. Jog down. Do this x10. Hard workout? Yup. There is no better way to get your legs used to working a hill. Mix these workouts into your regular routine and you will be ready to see some improvements and break a plateau.
What does a guy who works almost 100 concerts a year listen to when he’s training for a 5k? Working in the Barns at Wolf Trap I get treated to some of the best new indie music as well as some great classic artists who have been touring for decades. There are a couple Barns artists from the last few years that have crept into my workout playlist. Big disclaimer: Music is the ultimate in personal preference. There are some good old standards on it but I’ll point out briefly some of the unique picks for me and make some shameless plugs. The Alternate Routes is a group that played at The Barns a few years ago with local talent Luke Brindley. They have a great, fresh alt-rock sound that I just fell in love with. The Barenaked Ladies are a great late ’90s alternative group that often find their way onto my list and they’ll be at the Filene Center this summer. Pie Boys Flat are a little more obscure, reggae-inspired, alt-rock group that my wife turned me on to. Ben Harper and CSN are both great blues rock bands that have been around for years and both are going to be rocking the Filene Center this summer as well.
In the end, the great thing about running is you are really running against yourself. It’s your race and you should run it how you want. If winning is fun – go for it; if you just enjoy the scenery that is good too. Have fun, enjoy the music, and I’ll see you all after the race!