Monday, August 20, 2007

Five kilometres really isn't that far. It's 12.5 laps of a track, or about a 5-minute drive. Assuming you're fit enough to do so, running 5 kilometres as hard as you can is to spend five kilometres on the very edge of your body's limits. From almost the very beginning, you will huff and puff, gasp and rasp and generally feel as though you've been running for your life for as long as you can remember. When done perfectly, you engage in a pleasure as visceral as any.

Really, in this state, five kilometres is a very long way to go. The pace is fast, but really not that fast, meaning that your margin of error is small. This is the pace at which your body uses as much oxygen as it can. A beginning or a middle that's too fast will reduce you to a feeble, quivering mass that shuffles to the finish in humiliation. A beginning or middle that's paced just right, however, primes you for discovering just how long a kilometre, a half kilometre, 200 metres, 100 metres and 50 metres can be.

Grimacing and wildly flailing through the agonizing last kilometre, far more painful than the last kilometre of a marathon, is worth it as long as you don't get passed or pass on. Running five kilometres to the best of your ability neither teaches you life lessons nor does it make you a better person. That said, my seventeen minutes and forty-four seconds today on the cusp of collapse were as dramatic and as triumphant as any physical experience, and that's the reason I paid for the privilege.

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