One of my biggest pet peeves about long distance runners is when we use the word “just” to describe a short distance race like a 5K. Imagine my surprise when just last week I caught myself doing just this!

Confederation BridgeI ran into an acquaintance from the running community who had heard about my Achilles injury. He wanted to know about my progress and what my next race would be. I told him, “I’m going to the P.E.I. marathon, but I’m just running the 5K.” Then I caught myself. “Just” – when did I start using this horrible word to describe any run? Shame on me.

Runners do this all the time. We downplay the shorter distance races with a “just.” This four-letter word should be banned from all runners’ vocabulary, because there is nothing “just” about any distance. Regardless of whether it’s 5K or a marathon – we are running!

Yogis don’t say, I’m going to stay in the Downward Dog pose for “just” 5 minutes. Instead, they embrace every part of their practice and stop when their body tells them to. I think we could learn a lot from them. Every training run, whether it’s a short recovery, sprints, hill-repeats, tempo or long slow – they all count and so do the races, regardless of distance.

I’m going to embrace my 5K in P.E.I. and mark it as my comeback, but most importantly, it’s a celebration of my recovery from the Achilles injury and my 40th birthday.

I haven’t set my race-day goals yet, but I know it won’t be about the clock. I expect it to be slow, but the people who care most about me will be by my side – so I’m looking forward to the race. I always set three goals at every race. Two goals will be something that I can control, likely more mental than physical challenges.  The third goal will be a challenge of some sort that I need to work on – I just haven’t figured out yet what it should be.

It’s normal and healthy for our goals to change as we grow older (and wiser). I’ve decided that my PB days have come and gone, but I still need to set goals. This Achilles problem and very slow recovery has taught me patience and to realign my priorities. I need to get back to the basics – running for health and having fun, but I can’t forget to set milestones, so my running has purpose and direction. To treat it any other way would be unjust.

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  • Darrell Hill says:

    Excellent article

  • Marc says:

    5k is alright!
    I run 5k 3-4 times a week and that’s just fine with me…

  • geezergal says:

    This seems to be a “common” term with my husband and his “ironmen” buddies…Just 5 k or “she’s JUST” doing the 1/2…marathon. At 62 years of age, I am mature enough to realize the “JUST” is not an proper description for these races….and have had to thicken my skin around these ironmen. I am proud to say that I am still a “runner”, no matter what distance I chose to race. Truth of the matter is, most of these iron-guys don’t run their last distance. They are amazingly fit and stubborn, but there’s a lot of walking going on in that last 42.2 kms!

  • MsLockhart says:

    Thank you!! I hate the “just” word- it’s a running swear word!! I get so mad when my friends say I “just” ran x amount of km this morn…then I find myself saying it too…”have you ran a marathon?” “no, just a half.” JUST A HALF?? shame on me. wash my mouth out with soap.

    Great article!

  • Steven Elliott says:

    Good points…”Just” is now removed from my vocabulary, except when I’m describing flesh wounds…..

  • wendy chappell says:

    nice article. i am a short-distance runner and there is no ‘just’ in my vocabulary. every run, however fast or slow, however far or near, is a run. i enjoy most all of them.

    it seems to be an ongoing perception. sort of like jogging vs running.

    thanks for sharing. have a blast on your 5k!

  • Heather says:

    Thank you! I have friends who do this all the time. We don’t say that Usain Bolt “just” ran 100m or that we’re better than him because we ran 10 k or a half-marathon. It’s a different challenge for our bodies and often can often seem more difficult. Enjoy the challenges and joys of any distance and you’ll find yourself becoming a better runner.

  • Juliano Mazzo says:

    Usain Bolt “just” runs 100m……

  • Nancy says:

    A very nice commentary. I’m not really a runner and am inconsistent at best, having started at 60 years old and maxed out at 6 km, but I’d like to think I could set my goal at 5K. This is inspiring. Thanks!

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