My schedule called for a 2m warmup, a 4m race, and a 2m cool down.
I woke up late, thus scratching the 2m warmup. (You can probably see where this is going; I'll eventually scrap the 2m cool down - but that's after the race.)
It was a gorgeous day. September 11, actually, and it felt odd to be at a joyous running event knowing about the remembrance ceremonies that were going on downtown. Someone sang "God Bless America" at the start (I hate that song and would have much preferred the national anthem). Some celebrity chef - Rocco something? - said some words and we were off.
I had a secret goal going into this race: I wanted a 4m PR. Maybe I was inspired by M's recent racing success, but I really wanted to run it in under 40 minutes. Even more, I'm on my never-ending quest to lower my best pace, which is how the NYRR seeds their corrals. I completely understand their system (although I do have trouble with it), but it's not really representative of a true PR, per se, since Central Park where most of their races are run is a hilly course. My (non-NYRR) 5k PR pace is 9:14, but I've been stalled at a (NYRR) 10:12 bib pace for some time. I lowered that to 9:59 at the miserable Wall Street 3m race, but that's not good enough for me. So that was my goal: lower that time.
Things I loved about the race:
-It was a sunny, wonderful, beautiful day, the sort of day where running feels more like flying.
-Having a separate men's race (9am start) and women's race (10am start) meant that there were a lot of men cheering us on. Nice!
-Every water table, I heard a loud chorus of "thank you"s as women grabbed water.
-People running with their coaches rock. When I hit a low point near 3m, I just listened to the man near me barking, "You can DO IT. You HAVE THIS. Keep going!!" It worked!
Things I hated about the race:
-The moaners and the Darth Vaders. You know those people, where every breath is a very, very loud affair. I usually don't mind, but this was a situation where I couldn't escape a few of them and heard it for an eternity.
-Tourists in Central Park. I know it's cliche to complain about them, but I was running past east 90th St. - a large entrance to the park, complete with pedestrian traffic light. The light changed to walk and a good-sized group of tourists strode boldly into 3,000 runners. Seriously. (They lost.)
The award for thing I most hated...:
-The course marshall, at about mile 2.2 (right after the 102nd St. transverse) who for some reason thought it was motivating to yell, "The next few miles are all hilly! Hills from here on out!" Several times. No, "You got it," or "Great job," or even "Almost there." My morale sank like a stone; several women near me were mumbling complaints.
The bottom line:
When I got to mile 3, I felt terrible. I played "let's make a deal" with myself, and told myself that if I could lower my bib pace, I'd skip the cool-down.
My finish time? 39:29, a 9:52 pace. Maybe I'm not setting any speed records, but I did see two women throw up in the finish chute and I was proud of myself.
On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"