Over the weekend I had the privilege of returning to Central Park for another race – along virtually the same course as my favorite race ever, the Joe Kleinerman 10K! – and it was every bit as perfect as I’d hoped it would be.
I woke up at around 4am for a 5:30am drive in – my cousin Heather was running the race again with me and she offered to drive us in! Because it was so early, traffic was blissfully clear and we arrived at our trusty parking garage in Manhattan at around 6:15.
After walking for about a mile or two, we decided to grab a cab to the start to save our legs, and after a short ride, we arrived at the starting line VERY early. I’m talking “toilet paper still wrapped up in the port-a-john” early. It kind of stunk because our toes had more time to freeze, BUT you can’t beat a clean port-a-john, amirite?
After about an hour of playing with different uses for Hand Warmers (pro-tip: they don’t work on your nose), we checked out the football toss and made one more quick stop at the bathroom, then we all headed over to the start.
Once the gun went off, I took a gel (eating breakfast at 4:30AM really leaves you with a grumbly hungry tummy at the 9AM start!) and it took us 9 minutes to get from the last corral to the line.
Once we crossed the starting line I turned on my music and everything fell into place.
The sky was so blue and the air was crisp and cold and refreshing. I went into the race feeling confident and healthy, so I decided to aim for a PR. My previous 4 Mile PR was 45:06, set back in 2011. That average pace was something I’d only seen on my best training days in recent months, so I knew it’d be a stretch. But it was a challenge I was ready to take on, thanks to recently increased energy levels and extra training sessions I’ve been logging the past 4 weeks or so.
The first mile went by easily at 11:20 and I nodded to myself when I saw the pace – good. Not ideal, but better to go out slower and get faster as I went further, and burn out in the final half mile if I had to. So I cruised along, taking in the sunrise coming up over the high rises we ran past, dodging groups of people as I went. I lost count of how many people I passed, left and right as I charged through the packs. It was the first time I’ve felt like I was truly racing the folks around me, and it felt great. After Mile 2 clicked by at a similar pace, I knew I’d be in good shape for a PR.
The nice thing about this course is that it’s mostly downhills with one solid hill at around mile 2.5. Once we hit it I powered up, watching my pace the whole time – I told myself if I stuck to 11:10/mile the whole hill without walking, I’d make it up on the other side. Besides, I thought – I’d be running past one of my favorite spots in Manhattan at just past Mile 3, and would get a guaranteed energy boost when I saw it.
And sure enough, there it was – my terrace. Up in that pic, can you see the little bushes on the terrace near the top of the tallest building? That’s my terrace. Well, not my terrace. But it’s the place I daydream about living in. Ever since spotting it during the Joe K 10K, I developed a crush on that building and concocted this alternate universe where I live in that apartment and have sunset views of the park and the whole city from my balcony. 1040 Fifth Avenue. I’m not one for Kennedy nostalgia, but I learned that Jackie O even lived in that penthouse terrace, a year after JFK was killed. Talk about classic sophistication.
Anyway, once I spotted it I had to snap a few pics while I ran. It was too perfect – the sun coming up, the crowds surging around me, my blood pumping… I don’t think I’ve ever had such a blissful moment during a race. That pic up there is now my phone background, because it gives me this immense feeling of peace when I see it. Whether or not I ever set foot in 1040 Fifth Avenue, I’ll always have that moment. And that’s just one of the countless unforgettable, life-enriching moments that running has given me.
Once we rounded the corner & took off along the final stretch, I charged forward at 10:45/minute. It was tough – for a moment at what I thought was about Mile 3.25 I thought I might not be able to sustain that pace and briefly considered slowing or stopping to walk to ensure a strong finish. But when I glanced at my watch and saw 3.76 (!!) I knew I couldn’t stop, even for a second. I was sprinting for the finish as fast as I could and I was going to PR if it meant I had to crawl over that line.
So I took off even faster, passing people left and right. At one point about 75 yards from the finish I ran into a wall of people – literally – and after slowing to keep pace behind them for about 10 seconds, I finally yelled out “Excuse me!!” I couldn’t take it – I wanted to be polite, but I REALLY wanted that PR! Ain’t nobody got time to be hanging out behind a bunch of people content to block the whole course!
Once I passed them I took off again and spotted the finish at the bottom of the hill near the same spot as the 10K. I just barely had enough time to flash a grin and a half thumbs-up at Mike as I passed him, and crossed the finish at 44:09!
I’ll admit: after crossing the finish line, I was entirely shredded. I moved through the finisher’s chute trying to catch my breath. Between grabbing an apple, stopping my watch, turning off my music, and calling Mike to set a meeting spot, I realized I just might have PR’d. So I quickly logged into the NYRR’s live results site, checked my name, and…. YES! A PR by almost a full minute! 44:09 vs. 45:06 in 2011. My 5 year record was BUSTED! I jumped up and down all by myself for a few moments, fist pumping and snapping a celebratory selfie to remember the occasion by.
Just like the last race, I munched on my apple as I wandered back to our meeting place where I spotted Heather, collected my hubby, and snapped another post-race pic.
That’s when we loaded up into our coats once again and took off down Fifth Avenue to walk the looooong haul back to the parking deck.
All told, we did about 11 miles that day, walking more than we ran, but it worth it. The sun eventually warmed us up and we had a great time in the city as usual, talking and laughing the whole way there and back, then capping off the day with naps galore and Super Bowl [commercial] madness. Rarely do I find myself smiling just thinking about a race – I even bought the finish line photos because it was such a great experience! – but this was another one for the record books. NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler: A+!