Maine Marathon Training Week Five – Volunteering and solving the cube root of a 5K run.

This week I’d like to focus on two parts of my training that seem especially helpful at this a stage of the game. As a teacher who recently saw his students for the last time, I now find myself worrying a bit less about my day-to-day schedule and more about the few projects I’d like to finish before the school year begins again. I know … lucky me.

During the school year I often ran early in the morning and then headed off to school, but now as the days are longer and I don’t quite feel that same sense of urgency, I wake up and look at the clock on my nightstand until at least 7 a.m. That seems late for me. By the time I have some coffee and figure out the plan for the day, running or training is not the first thing on the list.

I thought it might be easier to train during the summer, but in reality, I like having a schedule to follow and a small sense of urgency. Going forward, I am going to take the advice of one of my colleagues and finish my running early each morning and then attack the projects of the days. On most days, that will include some work on my second novel, but more on that later.

After the last few training runs, I’ve also settled on some training times, or at least training times for now. In the middle of the week (usually on Wednesday) I plan to do a bit of speed work, or at least as much speed work as these old legs can handle. During the speed runs (it seems funny to even write those words), I hope to train at a 9-minute-per-mile pace for at least 3-4 miles. I will warm up briefly and cool down afterward so that my total training distance will be at least 5 miles and maybe even closer to a full 10K. My longer weekend runs will be about one minute slower per mile. That seems only fair if I am going to run 8 miles or more.

This past week I tested this theory and on a 5K training run (after warming up with a 1-mile walk, jog) I managed to finish in a little more than 27 minutes, or almost exactly 9-minutes per mile. I then cooled down for another mile at a slower pace and finished happy and content, but perhaps the most important aspect was that I finished without any real pain.

I smiled as I thought about my time and the strange symmetry of 3 miles at 9 minutes per mile … the teacher in me said: “that’s three times three times three!”

Yes, I know how pathetic that might sound, but I now think about running at the cube root of a 5K.

Chelsea, Ava, and Audrey Torrey standing at our designated water stop as they wait for passing runners.

Toward the end of the week, and the day before my long run, I had the chance to volunteer at the Old Port Half Marathon. I had a great time at water stop 7 (about mile 11.5 at the top of the Eastern Promenade) and along with six other volunteers passed out cups of Gatorade and water to passing runners.

It was encouraging and inspiring and I’ve made a mental note to enter the event next year.

At my end of the water stop Chelsey Torrey and her two daughters, 11-year-old Audrey and 7-year-old Ava, quickly became of a favorite of the passing runners as they cheered and sang out as the runners crested the hill in front of us.

“Gatorade, Gatorade!” Audrey said with a smile and her arms extended as if she were holding some magical elixir. After passing runners grabbed a cup or two, she would race back to our waiting table and load up again.

Ava, the youngest and smallest of the group, manned the water end of the table and only once or twice mentioned how sore her arms were becoming after an hour or more of standing with her arms extended as far as a 7-year-old can reach.

The runners, of all levels and abilities, seemed surprised and pleased to see the two young girls, but they were even more ecstatic when Chelsea Torrey announced that the course was mostly downhill from our water stop to the finish line.

I couldn’t help but smile. I had run through this section of Portland many times with my friends from the Fleet Feet running club and she was mostly right.

“One more small hill and you’re home free,” I said.

For me, it’s on to week six with an even stronger sense of community and purpose. See you on the roads.

Stay tuned – as always, if I think it’s interesting, I’ll write about it.

Thanks again for reading my stories and as always, you may purchase my novel, Homecoming: A Soldier’s Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption at your local, independent bookstore or online:, or

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David Arenstam

About David Arenstam

Originally from away, but here to stay - Maine is my home and I love writing stories about the people and places from my end of the state. I am a teacher and writer and my first novel, "Homecoming: A Soldier's Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption" is available now at