I ran a 5K: Strawberry Stampede, Arroyo Grande

It was not on my agenda. I guess you know me, now, and usually it's: meticulous race choice/building of the training plan/training/race. Memorial Day weekend with Cathryn and her family near San Luis Obispo. A local race around. I ended up running a 5K.

Of course, it involved lots of back and forth, in my mind. These past few weeks, I clearly wasn't in a competitive mood. "Should I run or not? Do I want to race? No. 10K or 5K? I haven't done speedwork in a while. I don't want to push like crazy. Still, race atmosphere is great."... And then, I had THE idea: I'll pace on the 10K!!

Excitement on, motivation back, back flip, sprint towards my target: the playboy (I chose Cathryn first but she wanted to race the 5K). I explained the plan. We looked at each other... and I didn't need an answer from him. The absurdity of it just hit me: a matter of keeping the peace at home. Because, clearly, it would have been like that: the playboy is running / I'm trying to motivate him to go faster / he does whatever he wants to do and carries on at his own pace / I keep insisting on speeding up / he grumbles / I do too and I speed up leaving him alone. Definitely NOT a good idea.

In the end, no race for the playboy because of a nasty ankle pain. For me, no motivation to race, so I chose to run the 5K as a speed session. I didn't want any pressure. I had no real reference on the distance. I don't like short distance. I only ran one 5K, in 2011, in NYC. It was my 2nd race and it felt as a long distance race at the time. So, I always forget I had done a 5K. Does it really count?

Let's go back to 2015, Sunday May 24th, in Arroyo Grande, California, for the Strawberry Stampede. We get at the race location quite late. Cathryn wanted to get a PR on the 5K. Her 5 year old boy (who likes running 5K) was about to add a race on his list, with the help of his triathlete dad. And the playboy? Well, he was about to change into a cheerleader.

Lots of people at the BIB pickup. The 10K was planned to start 5 min before the 5K. We didn't even get our BIB yet that the 10K started. We didn't get time to settle in. I asked Cathryn to join me for a 30s warm up... but she had just slightly twisted her ankle.

I tried to do some strides, next to the starting area. Impossible. No warm up, then. I had lost sight of Cathryn and her boys. I tried my best to get closer to the starting line as I was surrounded by children and strollers. With no warning, the gun went off. No notice, nothing... For a second I thought it was a mistake. But, no, we were running. Ok, then.

I hardly made my way through the slow runners and managed to cross the line. I had no intention to sprint the whole race like a mad lady but I still wanted a good speed session from it.

What I knew about the course: out and back. For once, I liked the idea. I'd be able to see Cathryn and her little dude to cheer them on. I had assumed the course was flat. I mean, you run a 5K for speed, right? In the morning, Cathryn had told me it wasn't that flat: slightly uphill on the first part, so downhill to come back.

Whatever, my plan was still the same: run fast but not too hard on the way out, and speed up if possible and if wanted, on the way back.

Turns in residential streets, then long countryside road... clearly uphill. Ok. I was making my way, fast but not pushing too hard. I saw the first men coming on the other way. I noticed a man and a woman, running together, not too far in front of me. A bit further, a man was running with a little girl by his side. I thought it was nice for him to have his daughter to cheer him up (my assumption) and even nicer that she decided to run a bit with him (and pretty fast, actually).

I realized the "couple" just in front of me was at reach. So, after the turn, I would speed up a bit to get at them. That's when I saw the little girl heading back past me. To my surprise, she was wearing a bib! She was not running with her dad. She was racing. As tall as 3 apples, determination in her eyes, speedy pace AND first woman. Whaou!!

I made the turn wondering about this little child prodigy. Was she used to race? Was she running with a club? Would she be able to hold this pace until the end? And even if she wouldn't, 1.5 mile so fast was already SO impressive for her age.

I had caught up with the man and woman between me and the young runner. My first thought was to stay behind them instead of passing them. I didn't want to have to push like crazy in case one of them would try to stay with me. But, actually, the little running girl had awakened my interest for this race. I would not go for the comfortable solution. I would speed up in order to catch up with her and see how she was doing.

I was scanning the runners, on the other side of the road. I just caught a glimpse of Cathryn. I saw her husband... but not her little dude.

I closed the gap between me and the girl. Let me tell you, she was absolutely not slowing down. I had to speed up a lot to get to her heels. I still had in mind she would slow down. I had this idea about me getting to her side and helping her to finish strong and win the race she totally deserved. But she NEVER slowed down, guys! She heard me behind her and she didn't give anything away.

It was so funny and impressive. Even the spectators were astonished. I heard a woman asking another one: "Do you think she's her daughter?". It made me so proud. I want one like her!

(I know, such a beauty. I almost didn't publish it, but, at least, you can see how you should look when you run. Not like a top model. Plus, do you see the guy who was trying to pass me? I didn't even notice him during the race!)

We crossed the finish line seconds apart. I warmly congratulated her and told her how impressed I was. She was just a simple little girl, happy with her run and her win. I want to add that even if I would have never passed her to win, I did not let her win. I could NOT have passed her.

I went to see the playboy and wait with him for Cathryn. They arrived all together, as a happy running family (minus, this little sprinter who sped up for the finish line). Great! Cathryn didn't race because of the unannounced start. She had to start running with her son and it was too late to race once her husband caught up with them. So, they just enjoyed the run together.

I have to thank the future running champion (who was only 10) for my speed session. Clearly, she is the reason why I pushed harder than I planned. I did a beautiful negative split. I didn't even know I was able to hold the pace of my last mile.

3.2 miles, 19:53, on my watch / 5K, 19:58, official time - 2nd woman / 1st age group / 14th out of 290


Nice speed workout which turned out being faster than expected. Now, I have a time on 5K. I should retire and make room for the younger runners. I'll keep in mind the name of this little prodigy. If she can run a 5K in less than 20 minutes at 10, what will she do when she'll be older?!


More info about the race: Strawberry Stampede
Cathryn's recap: Race Recap: The Strawberry Stampede 5k


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Next races

  • NONE

Miles / km

  • 1 mile = 1.6 km / 1 km = 0.6 mile
  • 5K = 3.1 miles
  • 10K = 6.2 miles
  • half marathon = 13.1 miles = 21.1 km
  • marathon = 26.2 miles = 42.2 km