At the two-kilometer mark, my legs were still strong. I wasn’t panting wildly yet compared to the almost maximum effort I was subjecting my body to. But what was starting to fail was my head—I simply lacked the motivation to push myself. This would soon prove fatal.
Side Stich Conundrum
Midway through the race, I already knew there was something really bad about to happen. Lacking focus and motivation, I found myself getting weaker and weaker with every stride. So when a side stitch lodged itself in my right side causing me to wail in pain, I was partially relieved to have an excuse to slow down. And yes, to stop. Again!
I didn’t go down without a fight, though. But it was a losing battle from the get-go. It’s never easy to conquer a side stitch. And even though I did push through a fair share of them during training, the one that got me at the third-kilometer mark proved to be a stubborn affliction. I tried my usual trick for the side stitch, but the moment it loosed up and I started running faster again, the pain returned with double force. I had to stop.
Seconds passed as I marinated in guilt and self-hatred, stretching to infinity. I began walking with a bleak hope of the pain letting go. But when it did, I was already looking at a result much slower than I had been expecting.
As the pain receded, I started running faster, aware that this uprising would most likely end within a few yards. But somehow I could feel my energies return. I decided that I would at least finish strong. Still, the last kilometer stretched unimaginably as I flailed for something to keep me sane.
Alas, the finish line! I completed the last kilometer in 4:04/km, getting to 3:00/km in the final 200m. Official time: 21:18.
Failure from the Start
Would my result be better had I not developed a side stitch? I doubt it. I had already been struggling before the pain doubled me over. Could I have pushed through the struggle had there not been any pain? Doubt it again. I couldn’t drag up any valuable motivation to beat the oncoming weakness.
If I were to blame something for my bonking, it would most likely be an insufficient amount of threshold and interval work. I had also arrived too late to the venue to get in a good warmup, and my fastest and most efficient running always happens when I’ve built up a decent sweat.
There’s also one other thing. I hate the 5K. The intensity required to complete this seemingly short distance scares me, not to mention the pain and mental struggle that step in almost at the start of the race. If that makes me a coward, then be it. I much more prefer the struggle of pushing through long-distance events than the physical sacrifice the 5K calls for.
Even though I planned this event to be my last 5K ever, when I crossed the finish line, I promised myself to give it another go. To finish the 5k without bonking, at least once. But after sleeping on it, I decided to let go and focus on events upwards of 10 kilometers. And maybe, sometime during marathon training, I’ll be trained enough to beat my nemesis.