It’s a wild idea: shut down one mile of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and let thousands of runners take it over. Invite world-famous athletes. Televise it. Magic.
I first ran the NYRR/NB Fifth Avenue Mile in 2015, where I nabbed my personal best mile time of an 8:51 and then ascended to Heaven when Meb himself was standing at the finish line, practically waiting for me to take this picture.
I still believe that I actually died at the finish line after running, and this photo was taken in Heaven, and then they kicked me out, but that’s just conjecture.
In the past 3 years, I consistently missed the mile for one reason or another: conflicting races, travel, life, etc. Also, if I’m being honest, it’s a LOT to go into the city just to run one mile. The $27 train tickets ($54+ for me and my husband), on top of the subway costs and the 4AM wakeup time, just to run for like 15 minutes?
This year, however, I’d toyed with the idea of doing the mile while I was in physical therapy for the nerve issues and Achilles tendinitis that forced me to DNS at the NJ Half Marathon back in April. One mile was just long enough to really push myself, and it would also give me a good baseline idea of where my fitness was if I really focused and trained for the weeks leading up to it.
So, with the blessing of my physical therapist (what up Dean), I convinced my running and injury recovery buddy Kevin to sign up with me and we headed into the city to see how fast we could run one whole mile down Fifth Avenue.
Friday before the race, I came down with food poisoning that kept me up all night, and then Kevin and I and our friend Jess went into Manhattan on Saturday to pick up our bibs and check out the Camp exhibit at the Met, while I ran in and out of every bathroom that museum had to offer every half hour. Needless to say, by Sunday’s 5:37am train, we were already done with the day.
We managed to pull it together and look cute, cause that’s what we do. But we DID take a cab to the start though, because reasons.
We did the usual pre-race stuff: warmed up by jogging up and down the closed off streets behind the start area, made friends in the line waiting to take the photo you see up there, and fueled up while waiting for our heats to begin.
Because we wake up so early and travel so far for some of these races – sometimes upwards of 4 hours from wakeup/breakfast time to start – I get hungry before a race. And I don’t perform well on a completely empty stomach. So I tried something new with this race and ate half a PB&J at home before the train and packed the other half for the race, which I devoured on the sidelines while waiting for my heat to start.
The results speak for themselves, just like the pic that Kevin snapped of me looking like an angry squirrel while I housed my half-sammich.
There’s only so much space on Fifth Avenue for the runners, so they break down the race into heats based on age and gender, then let them go every 10-15 minutes. This meant that my start time was 8:10AM, followed immediately by Kevin’s heat at 8:25AM.
After polishing off my sandwich and sipping on some water, I wished Kevin good luck on his race and slipped into the corral for my wave.
My previous performance here in 2015 was literally lightning in a bottle: I’d run some 10:3x’s during training and in a few really good 5K’s, but never cracked the sub-10 mark, so 8:51 was mind-blowing. Fast forward to 2019: nearly 2 years of on and off injuries and depression (that led to a roughly 20 lb weight gain that I’m slowly chipping away at) had me convinced that a 12:xx was more likely. I could consider an 11:xx a celebration-worthy finish. Little did I know.
In the corral, this was the first race in months – maybe even since the marathon – where I actually felt like a live wire, twitching and ready to run. My whole body was primed for the gun to go off.
I had prepped a race-specific playlist of just three songs at the same bpm of my sprinting pace to last the whole mile:
- Bonfire – Childish Gambino
- Apesh*t – The Carters
- Ass Drop – Wiz Khalifa
I hit start just as the gun went off, and immediately knew it was going to be a great run. Everything just felt easy. The weather was perfectly cool, the folks cheering on the sidelines were super pumped, and my legs just kept moving.
While it was a mile on Fifth Avenue, the course still had some slight elevation changes that I mentally prepared for. You start on a slight downhill, then hit a very slight uphill between 1/4 and 1/2, and peak just about 3/4 of the way through before finishing on another slight downhill. The elevation is really negligible – you only gain about a total of 7m – but when you’re staring straight down the barrel of the street and see that wave of runners rising in front of you, it helps to know it doesn’t last forever.
So I glanced at my watch when I saw the incline coming, and saw that I was running 9:5x. Too fast. I kept moving my legs in time with my music, but eased off the gas ever so slightly for the uphill. By the time we hit the halfway point, the course clock read 5:xx and I laughed – I really was going faster than anticipated, but I still felt good. I kept an eye on my watch and when I hit .65, I turned my music up louder and said f*ck it. If I puke when I finish, I puke. I wanted to see how fast I could go.
The resulting sprint looked horrible in race photos, but damn if it didn’t feel incredible. It had been so long since I opened the gate and let loose for a finish. My legs were moving so fast at one point that I briefly thought I might trip, but I stayed upright and crossed the finish line at 10:53 by the course clock and 10:12 by watch time.
I was ecstatic. Even if my official time turned out to be more like 10:30 once I factored in the time it took me to cross the start mat and official results were posted, that was amazing, considering I had an A goal of 11 and B of 12.
It took a while to get my breathing under control, and I refused all food at the finish, but gulped down a cup of water and headed to the sidelines to cheer on Kevin as he absolutely CRUSHED his mile in 8:24!
After we reconnected at the finish, we decided to wait for a pic with our official finish times and met up with my friend Jenny who is currently on her way to finishing the NYRR 9+1 Program for entry into the 2020 NYC Marathon. We killed time by catching up while the line moved, but everything stopped when I stepped up to the monitor and the race volunteer typed in my bib # for my official time to pop up on the screen:
Fam, I cried. I cried big fat baby tears because I never expected to see 10:08. After hours upon hours of physical therapy, crying in MRI tubes because I didn’t know why my legs would give out on me during long runs, and wondering if I should even keep running, 10:08 may as well have been 6:08.
I felt like I floated the whole walk back to the Tick Tock Diner for a post-race nosh before heading back to NJ – PS, get the avocado toast benedict, it’s TO DIE FOR.
Now that I’ve continued to ride the wave after this race, I can see that it was a turning point for me and my running, and I’m excited to see where this momentum carries me into 2020!