At one point in his career, the legendary four-time New York and Boston Marathon champ Bill Rodgers crafted a winning streak of 22 road races. None was a 5K.
Back when Rodgers was road racing king in the late 1970s, the staple distance for most races was 10K. It was almost unheard of for a 5K to be run on the road. It wasn't until running really began to boom in popularity that 5K events began to proliferate. The idea was that they were a great distance for beginning runners to sample, and they were easier to manage from a race director's viewpoint.
Still, many runners consider 10K to be the ideal weekend race. From a racing standpoint, there's simply more room for strategy. And from a practical standpoint, it's a better workout, allowing runners to get in some good mileage for the day.
"I like 10Ks better than 5Ks. They're longer, which makes it more enjoyable," said Jake Perez, who ran 34:16 for 14th place overall last year in the Statesman Capitol 10,000. "And you get more of your money's worth. I think it gives me more opportunity to excel.
"For me, the further the distance, the better. In a 5K, three miles goes by pretty fast, so I need to run hard from the start and get out at close to five minute per mile pace."
Perez has a point. The 5K is run at over 90 percent of your VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake), meaning you have to get off the starting line quickly, and run close to red-line the whole way. By comparison, a 10K race is run at around 80-85 percent of VO2 max, which is a more tolerable pace.
Interestingly, fit runners have a lactate threshold of around 85 percent of VO2 max, meaning that's the point beyond which lactic acid builds up in the blood stream faster than the body can remove it. When that happens muscles ache and burn, and you can't run as fast.
What does that mean for runners lining up for Sunday's Cap 10? It means that, if they've done their training and are gunning for a personal best, they should aim for that 85-percent effort zone.
Start out briskly, but not all-out, and settle into a pace that's just at the edge of your comfort level. Going up the long climb on Enfield Road to mile three, you may have some doubts, but remember, you've still got the easier half of the course to work with.
"You have more chance to adjust yourself in a 10K race and reorganize your strategy if you don't start out right," said Perez.