Yesterday morning, I ran in New York Road Runner’s Race to Deliver, an event that has been held annually for the past nineteen years.
As I have mentioned previously, I am currently in the process of completing my 9+1 requirements in order to secure guaranteed entry to the 2013 New York City Marathon. So I have completed a number of races this year, but this was my first four-miler.
I had run all of my previous NYRR races at a pace above 9:00/mile, except for the Fifth Avenue Mile. So my goal for this race was to finish in under 36 minutes. I finished in 35:10 with an average pace of 8:48 per mile. Mission accomplished!
I train and race “naked”, without music or a watch, so I do not know my exact splits. NYRR is very good about placing clocks at each mile marker, and that is how I check up on my pace during races. Here is how it all played out:
I set my alarm for 6:30 AM and dressed quietly. I wisely laid out everything that I would need for the race the night before. It was 35 degrees when I woke up but due to hit close to 40 degrees at the race start, so I wore a Nike tank under a long sleeve dri-FIT top, with running crops and a fleece headband which I removed at the start of the race. I had my SPIbelt which doubled as a race belt to secure my bib in case I wanted to take my long sleeve shirt off at any point. I ate a Larabar and drank about 16 ounces of water before leaving my apartment, and purchased a water bottle on the way to the park at about 7:30 AM. I ate half of a second Larabar when I arrived at my corral.
The race was set to start at 8:30 AM on 72nd Street in the middle of Central Park. That is about a mile and half from my apartment, so I walked from my apartment to Central Park and then ran one mile in the park on the way to the start, alternating between strides and an easy jog to get myself warmed up. This was a good plan because in addition to warming up my legs, I warmed up my body just enough that I wasn’t freezing during the fifteen minutes I spent in the corral before the start of the race. Oh yeah, and I also used the ladies’ room at the Boathouse three times.
I was very familiar with the race course and with NYRR protocols, so fortunately, I wasn’t battling any nerves. I entered my corral at 8:15 and stretched and bounced around to keep warm and loose. I walked calmly toward the start and engaged in my usual pre-race mind game: check the bib color of the corral ahead of me and the corral behind me. I use this tool as my unofficial way of pacing myself through races. Every time I look to my side during a race, I want to be running alongside racers from my corral or the faster one ahead of me. If I see anyone from the corral behind me, I know it’s time to pick up the pace.
The first mile of the course was fairly challenging. Other than being the portion of the race with the most challenging uphill (Cat Hill), it was also a pretty narrow start, as we were only able to make use of the recreation lanes. It was pretty impossible to pass people until after the first water station. Keeping a water bottle on hand kept me away from the crowds at the water station and gave me the chance to press on. That is when the course opened up. But at that point, I also had a chance to check the clock, and I was woefully behind my goal. My first mile ticked in at close to ten minutes, thanks to the crowding at the start.
I was anxious and still planning to push through. After all, this was a short race for me, and I knew I could fight through the three remaining miles if I had to. The second mile contained the longest flat portion of the course, so it was an ideal point to make up time. I ran that mile in about eight minutes, which was fantastic because it got me right back to where I wanted to be pace-wise at the midpoint of the race. I grabbed that adrenaline and charged through mile three.
Mile three was a more challenging point in the course. My legs were somewhat fatigued. You see, I don’t often run eight minute miles. I ran the Fifth Avenue Mile at 7:46, but that was just one mile. This was smack in the middle of a four mile race. In addition to that, mile three contained a series of three rolling hills. But I just kept pushing and managed to get through in under nine minutes.
The final mile of the race started out very easily, there was a slight downhill and some flat portions, so it wasn’t too difficult to pick up the pace. I was hoping for an all out sprint through mile four and could have done it, except for one thing: racers were funneled in to one very narrow lane after curving back on to 72nd Street. This led to a pile up at the finish line. It was impossible to sprint the last 200 meters. The road was impassable. It was so frustrating. I saw the seconds tick by on the finish line clock. I knew that I would still make my goal, but I also knew that I could do better.
I hope that others will raise this issue with NYRR. I know that I was not the only one annoyed with the narrowness of the course in the final stretch. A shorter race means runners will finish much closer together, and it just seemed that it was not something that had been considered. Which is odd, since they do this every.single.weekend.
But regardless, I finished with an average pace of 8:48. And as the girl who was always picked last in gym class, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
I’m so proud!