Last week’s 3000m success had me wanting for more, so I signed up for a 5000m in Mechelen. There would be fewer way faster people there, but I could link it to visiting some friends afterwards so that seemed like a win even if there was nobody to drag me to the line.


Evidently not much changed since last week. Sunday I had just run enough to reach 100 km for the week. This week too I still wanted to train through the race and reach my 100km, so I did not change too much in comparison to what I did last week. Tuesday I did another track workout, 5×1500m T, followed by 600m @ estimated/hoped for 5000m race pace (80s per lap, 3:20 per km). My legs felt a bit tired prior, but I got through it fine. The rest of the week was just easy runs to hit my distance. Saturday, the day before the race, I did 10 km with some strides. I felt tired and never smooth for any of them. Not very comforting.

The tiredness was, I think, solely to blame on my sleep schedule. Sunday’s race was in the morning and I would have to get up at 7:00. Nothing crazy early, but I was not used to it any more (pandemic working from home heyooo). I had mostly been waking up around 8:30 lately, so this week I decided to wake up a little earlier every day. I did not manage to actually fall asleep earlier though, so instead I ended up missing out on sleep. Whoops. In retrospect I think I could’ve probably just suffered through Sunday being a really early outlier instead. I felt the tiredness really creeping in by Friday, so I tried sleeping in a little on Saturday, but the damage was done.

Goal and Strategy

I set my 5000m PR during a sort-of time trial last year. That PR was 16:46. Last week’s race showed that I am in that shape again, so my idea was to PR. To make in-race calculations easier, I figured I would just try to shoot for 16:40 (80s per lap) and see where it got me. Secretly I was hoping for sub 16:30 (the season goal I had set while recovering from my broken ankle, prior to losing more training from bruising my rib), but I knew the stars would have to align for that one. At the very least a good showing would get my first official 5000m time in the books.

Last week I had no expectations and was completely zen leading up to the race. This week I was beginning to dream (figuratively) a little about the possibilities, so actually got some pre-race jitters. That had been a while.


We woke up at 7:00 to catch a train by 8ish. This gave me some time to down some muesli (150g, 300g soy milk) and a cup of black tea. Get the bowels going. I had had a mind of biking over instead (25 km one way), but it promised to be a rainy, possibly even thunder stormy, day. I was most decidedly not in the mood for any of that. Good thing there was a decent train connection. After a train transfer and some walking, we got to the track by 9ish. I went through the usual motions of toilet, get changed, more toilet, start warming up. I realised I had started the warming up a bit too late though (9:25ish). I had hoped to jog 5 km to half an hour as pre-spikes warmup, but that ended up being just shy of 4 km. On top of that the warmup felt like a struggle so that was demotivating prior the race.

I passed by the girlfriend, grabbed my spikes and race shirt, passed by the toilet a final time, and walked over to the 5000m start line. Switched into spikes, did a few more laps and some strides and waited for the start.

While changing shoes (this time keeping my socks on), someone had started talking to me. Turns out it was Raf, the guy that used to lead my club for many many years prior to my time. The current head had talked to him the day before at another track meet and told him about me. We chatted a bit, I told him my goal, and he told me to ask around and recruit some people. Post spikes warmup that is what I did. I talked to people about my goal, asked for theirs, and found some people willing to go for it too. Turns out there were three others around that level and nobody called out about being faster. Looks like we might end up battling it out for the win too.


The track was dry, it was 18C, and the sun was hidden behind some clouds. My tired body might give me an excuse for a bad performance, but the weather gods were on my side.

With a slight delay, we lined up for the start. Just like last week, I was the last to be called to the line. Not sure how that order is decided, most people had no seeding times entered. We got ready to go and the gun was fired.

Because of being called last, I started in the outer lane, but I made a beeline to the inside. One of the guys I recruited, Sander, had already pulled to the front, but I went ahead of him and started setting the pace. My idea was that other people would be more useful to me later on if I was having trouble. Right now, I could set the right pace so I would have nobody but myself to blame if we went out too slow or too fast. I ended up pacing that part mostly correct and stayed in the lead for the first few laps. Nobody seemed inclined to take over of their own accords.

Leading the pack.
Leading the pack.
Leading the pack.
Leading the pack.
Leading a smaller group. From front to back: me, Dieter, Jonas, Jurgen, Sander.
Leading a smaller group. From front to back: me, Dieter, Jonas, Jurgen, Sander.

Somewhat swiftly we had a little lead group. I don’t know how many were in there or if they were the ones I had managed to recruit (I had recruited three others), but they were all hanging behind me. I did not look back to check. Three laps in, Raf shouted from the side that we had to work together more. I did not look behind me, but yelled over my shoulder something along the lines of “still got the energy to take over?”. Someone did! One of the ones I had recruited, Dieter, passed me on the outside and took over the leading. I stuck right behind him and kept hugging the cord. Dieter did the leading for about two laps, then another one I had recruited, Jurgen, moved to the front. With him followed someone I had not recruited, Jonas. I also felt there was nobody behind me, so that meant Sander (the third guy I had recruited) was no longer with us. Seeing some photos afterwards showed that Sander was dropped after about 1.5 laps.

Dieter took over, 9 laps to go.
Dieter took over, 9 laps to go.
Jurgen in the lead, 7 laps to go. I ensure to keep hugging the inside.
Jurgen in the lead, 7 laps to go. I ensure to keep hugging the inside.

With Jurgen in the front, Dieter was now second, and I kept following Dieter on the inside. Jonas was slightly ahead of me, but I was not going to slow down for him to slide inbetween me and Dieter. He seemed content to be slightly more on the outside. We’re all still in lane 1 at this point so I imagine it does not matter that much in terms of distance. I was beginning to feel the effort too by this point and it sometimes felt like a mental challenge just to hang on. After two laps, Jurgen seemed to have overdone it a little and he faded away. I stuck behind him a little too long and Jonas moved in behind Dieter. I then passed Jurgen and tried my best to hang on to Jonas. I was having a rough time and I knew we were still going too slow for 16:40 pace too, from the few times I had glanced at my watch. I was also helped by Raf shouting lap times from the sideline when we passed (mostly we heard him say 1:21, so that says enough).

With under 5 laps to go, Jonas moved to the front for the first time in the race. I was happy to hang behind Dieter and was honestly having a little bit of trouble doing even that, sometimes being that extra step behind. With just under 4 laps to go, Dieter was having trouble hanging on to Jonas in the bend. I moved around Dieter and figured I should see if I could follow Jonas. Turns out the reason I had trouble following earlier and that Dieter was having trouble following now, is that Jonas was pushing the pace a little. I tried to hang on, but with 3 laps to go, Jonas was already maybe 10 metres ahead of me. Worst of all, he looked very smooth still. Unless he blew up spectacularly, I was not going to catch him. I correctly assumed at the time that he knew exactly what he was doing.

Jonas with a sizable gap and three laps to go.
Jonas with a sizable gap and three laps to go.

I figured all I could do now was to keep the pace honest, see if I could still PR, and try to hold on to second place. After the little surge to try to hold on to Jonas, I had a small lead on Dieter. Of course, once I realised Jonas was gone, I slowed down a little as compensation for going a little faster. I say compensation cause it sounds nicer than saying I overdid it a little. With two laps to go, Dieter was right on my tail. I was not going to ask him to take over again and figured I would just lead till the line, hoping he would not outkick me.

In the final lap, I tried to speed up a little already at the bell, but Dieter held on. In the final turn I felt him pushing a bit more in a bid to overtake me, so I too started my final sprint. He had a home crowd advantage: he is a member of the club organising this track meet and they started chanting his name when they noticed his attempt. I tried to use this as fuel myself to keep pushing. I did not glance backwards, but I glanced sideways and never saw or felt him come beside me. He was still right there though so I had to keep pushing till the line. I managed to hold him off and got second.

Video of our dead man sprint for second.


The following splits were hand timed by the girlfriend, except for the final time where I use the official finish time (girlfriend’s final time was only 0.11s off).

distance lap time cumul 16:40 pace
200 0:39.21 0:39.21 -0.8
600 1:21.62 2:00.83 +0.8
1000 1:20.70 3:21.53 +1.5
1400 1:18.83 4:40.36 +0.4
1800 1:19.98 6:00.34 +0.3
2200 1:21.31 7:21.65 +1.7
2600 1:21.29 8:42.94 +2.9
3000 1:21.81 10:04.75 +4.8
3400 1:22.29 11:27.04 +7.0
3800 1:19.19 12:46.23 +6.2
4200 1:22.20 14:08.43 +8.4
4600 1:23.61 15:32.04 +12.0
5000 1:16.10 16:48.14 +8.1

So I did not PR and definitely did not hit 16:40, but in the end I don’t feel disappointed. It’s almost the same as last year’s PR and now it is officially timed, giving that little bit of extra certainty vs hand timing. I put this run on strava too.

Our sprint for second place looks even closer in the results (the results are split by category, so there is one for the senior men and one for the masters men). Just 0.33s separate Dieter and I. Jonas on the other hand was about 15s ahead of us. I doubt he kept pushing to the line either. Behind us, Jurgen finished fourth in 17:12. Sander said it was not his day and he finished about a minute behind in 17:43.


I have two weeks of hot Greece ahead of me. I will keep up the volume (after a planned down week), but I’ll have to see what intensity I can plan in while there. After that I am not sure yet what to do. I was hoping to find another track race in September to have another go at the 5000m, but at first glance there is not too much choice at the distances I am interested in. Perhaps I should try going out of my distance comfort zone instead (800? 1500?). Another option I am considering is the Brussels 20 km. Due to COVID19, this is being held on 12 September rather than the last weekend of May. I have not been particularly training for it, but if I can transfer this shape to that distance, then a PR should be possible, weather permitting. Downside with 20 km is that I would need more of a taper before and a recovery afterwards to do it “properly”.