Last Sunday I did something that I had been looking forward to for a very long time.
I ran my first cross country race in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
I love running off-road whenever I can, so running a trail race was something high up on my list of things to do when I began racing again.
Van Cortlandt Park might sound intimidating to many New York Road Runners members, who run most of their races in Central Park; but it was a nice change of pace.
It does take a while to get up there, but it is fairly easy to do so. You simply need to take the 1 train to the end of the line. The park will be on your right, and if you continue walking north on Broadway you will find the tortoise and hare statue that marks the start of the cross country races held in the park.
Several organizations operate races in Van Cortlandt Park, including USATF, Van Cortlandt Track Club and New York Road Runners. So if you enjoy this tough course, you can race it pretty often.
For scheduling purposes, I signed up for this race through New York Road Runners. I was so pleased with how it all played out, that I actually signed up for two more of their cross country events this season.
I arrived at the park about an hour before my race was set to begin, and had more than ample time to get my bib, do a dynamic warm up, run some strides and run easy for another 10 or 15 minutes. Then I watched some of the kids races before making my way to the start of mine.
It was really the perfect amount of time. I didn’t feel that I was hanging around and waiting for the race to begin, and also did not feel that I was in a hurry to begin.
I did not pack a change or check a bag, but I certainly could have done that, too, with time to spare.
The race began and ended on a grassy field, which I found remarkably difficult to run on because it had rained the day before and the ground was soaked. We then veered off onto a wooded trail. The trail was narrow and difficult to pass others on, so I was pleased to have lined up close to the start.
The course is described as being mostly flat and downhill, but the uphills are very challenging and the downhills are quite steep and difficult to bound down gracefully, so do not discount that description as one of an “easy course.”
This course was no joke.
I was breathless for most of it, but held my ground. I was only passed by two people the entire race.
I wasn’t pleased with my time and had been hoping for something better.
I finished in 26:24 with an average pace of 8:31.
I was so drained after finishing that I started to walk it off. I had been walking in the general direction of the subway and decided to just head home. I couldn’t have imagined that I would receive an award, so I figured there was no point in hanging around. I stretched on the subway platform and on the train ride back to the upper west side.
Then I jogged home through Central Park and returned home to check my time, disappointed that I would have to wait until the following day to learn my place.
My body ached, specifically both piriformis muscles; so I stretched and foam rolled and rolled my piriformis muscles over tennis balls until the tightness released. I sat on ice and rested for much of the rest of the day.
El Profesor and I watched football and ate Chipotle and distracted ourselves with the tasks that loomed for the week ahead.
And on Monday morning, I checked the official race times for my first cross country race.
As it turned out, I was an award winner.
I finished 5th in my age group and the 20th female overall.
I am beyond thrilled with this achievement, and cannot wait to take on the challenge of this course several more times this fall.