Oh my goodness you guys – SO much awesomeness has happened these past few weeks, I can’t wait to share it all with you! PR’s, vacations, wine… Ahh! Where do I begin? How about with a race recap of the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K. Get ready, it’s a long one!
OK, I don’t think I can accurately describe my anticipation levels for this race. I mean: a 3.1 mile course through Manhattan that ends at the NYCM finish line, the day before the marathon, in the greatest city on earth, in Central Park, surrounded by thousands of other runners? Hell Yeah! So I jumped on it with a few friends and got ready for my first race in NYC!
Because it’s such a big race, they don’t allow the usual race-day bib pickup you get at smaller races. Instead, we had to go to the Marathon Expo the Thursday before for our bibs, and let me tell you: I am SO glad we did! Forget any other expos you’ve ever been to; NYCM is the best. My words fail me when I think of how to explain it to you. The only thing I can say is that it was Runner’s Paradise.
My cousin Heather and I were running the 5K, while my friend Tina (the marathon pro) was set to run the full. She’s done plenty of other marathons but this was her first NYCM, and a special race for her. I was so excited to share the expo experience with her (and even MORE excited about her amazing PR on race day, GO TINA!)!
After picking up our bibs, we wandered around the Javits Center for a few hours – now, I know the usual expo experience includes shopping, but I wasn’t 100% prepared for this. Because, O, the shopping to be done here! Endless row upon row of running related goodies! Headbands, gels, arm warmers, earbuds, sneakers… it never ended! We made our way through lane after lane, stopping for freebies and photo-ops and just generally having a good time, before calling it a night.
Our race was on Saturday, so Friday night I laid out my gear (after anxiously texting Heather for an hour about what to wear) and went to bed super early for my 4am wakeup. When the alarm went off, it was *ugh* out there. About 40 degrees and raining, and still dark. So I geared up and headed for the train station where I met Heather and Jenny (and her fiance, Patrick, who joined us for moral support), and we made our sleepy way into the city. Side note: if you ever get the chance to go into NYC super early the day after Halloween, DO IT. The amount of still-drunk, partied-out bodies in half-ruined costumes littering the hallways of Penn Station was funny enough to make coffee come out of my nose. Seriously.
Instead of taking the subway like sane people, we decided to walk the mile or so to the start line for a warm up, in the rain and darkness. I’m not kidding – it looked like midnight in Times Square:
We finally made it to the start in front of the UN, where we were literally the 2nd group of people to show up – for real, race directors were still setting up barricades. But we hung out, had some fun photos taken, and saw some interesting characters (I’m lookin’ at you, guy with photo-realistic male genitalia printed on your compression shorts and waving a 4-foot tall Italian flag).
You’ll notice that all of our bibs have brown labels – this means we were all in the “Slow As Shit” corral (our term, patent pending), ALLLLL the way behind almost 8,000 other runners. Pretty sure that by the time we got to our corral to line up, the first corral had already finished. Just sayin.
Either way, we huddled together in the back of the pack and slowly made our way to the start. At this point, it was COLD – our fingers had all frozen stiff and we were doing little dances to keep warm. And it didn’t help matters when the rain picked up from a drizzle to a full-bore shower. But all we did was pull our hoods tighter and run – and run we did!
Once we crossed the start, I couldn’t help it and took off. This was by far the most crowded race I’ve ever run. People were constantly maneuvering around each other, and I zig-zagged from one side of the street to the other more times than I could count, just to get around groups of people. I was actually passing people! That NEVER HAPPENS!
So while some groups weaved around like me, others jumped puddles (or splashed through them), some held hands and ran in a line (PS: not cool for almost clotheslining me, Team Germany), disabled runners ran with guides (which is the coolest most inspirational thing to see EVER) – it was a totally unique experience. We all ran through the streets of Manhattan in the rain, laughing and chatting and powering through as a giant herd. I was shocked at the number of spectators cheering us on – it was just a 5K, but these folks had cowbells, were taking pics and video with their iPads, waved signs, the works! Even in the rain!!
I smiled the. Whole. Time.
I lost count of how many times I glanced at the people and buildings around me and thought, “My God, what an amazing thing I’m doing right now.” It really was humbling to be running through the huge streets with 8,000 other folks. I ran the whole race in the moment, which was also awesome motivation to run faster, which I discovered at the end of the race!
The rain and the chill in the air were forgotten – at one point I even took my hood off and let the rain cool me down because I was so hot under all my layers!! And because it was so cold, I only checked my watch once around mile 1.4. I was amazed to see that my time was only around 10:xx, and thought that was weird – maybe the satellite reception was wonky because of all the buildings I was running between?
As we coasted into Central Park for the final mile, I kept my pace and started passing more and more people, even on the uphills! My legs felt like feathers, my breathing was even; it was like I didn’t even have to try! I’ve never felt that before, and it’s a feeling I’ll be chasing after in the future too. As we ran under the Mile 26 banner, I thought about how amazing it would be to actually see that banner the next day after running through all 5 boroughs, and I realized that maybe I wasn’t meant to run the AC Marathon, because NYC is destined to be my first. I still smile when I think that 🙂
Once I caught glimpses of the finish line as we looped around the park, the chills I felt weren’t from the cold, but from anticipation and excitement! Now I know this was just a 5K (I know, not just a 5K, but you know what I mean), but to run that final .2 miles through the finish chute lined with flags from around the world, past the bleachers and rows of spectators, and to finally see that Finish Line with all of its crazy colors and giant video screen… it was unreal!
Just as I crossed the mat, I threw my hands up in the air (and refrained from waving them like I didn’t care, because it was very crowded), and smiled at the race photographer directly in front of me – and managed to create one of my favorite race photos of all time:
The finishers chute was packed with folks trying to find their families and friends, on cell phones, trying to warm up, laughing and hugging – it was like the craziest parade ever. I remembered to stop my watch after a few yards and was stunned at what I saw:
I have NEVER broken consecutive 10 minute miles in my life. And I had just run almost 4 of them, without feeling a thing – and I felt like I could have just kept on going, too!!
I grabbed my post-race bag of apples and pretzels and water, then the chill started to seep in. So I quickly called Heather and Jenny who had finished a few minutes later (and Jenny also PR’d, woop woop!!), where we met up and celebrated before making our way to warmer locations.
It was a long walk back to the train station in the pouring rain, especially now that we were soaking wet to the bone from sweat and rain, but I didn’t care. I was riding high on my new PR, happy to be in my favorite city in the world, and psyched for what the future holds.
All in all, I cannot WAIT to do this race again next year – unless of course, I’m running the full marathon by then 😉