New York Road Runner’s races have always intimidated me. Based on what you see online, as well as what I saw when I visited as a spectator, this seems like an elite group of runners. So I’ve been reluctant to register for an NYRR race, if for no other reason than that I felt like I had to lose some more weight and get faster before I wouldn’t stick out. This one, however, just called to me, for several reasons. First – I needed a December race and this fit one of the only open time slots. Second – relatively rare distance, so automatic PR. Third – Central Park in December. So … I registered.
Controversy at the start. The weather, it was not so great. The temps were in the mid- to upper -20s, and up to 3” of snow was being forecast in the area for Saturday. However, and this was how I made my personal call, the snow was not supposed to really start in earnest until late morning or early afternoon. Well, the weather people got that wrong – about the time the race started, the snow started going strong. Many people felt that the combination of the temperatures and the snow should have led the NYRR to call off (or at least postpone) the race, or declare it a “fun run.”
The NYRR has a program for its members called the 9+1 program – if a member registers for and runs 9 qualifying NYRR races throughout the year, they get a guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon. The Ted Corbitt Classic 15K is the last 9+1 qualifying race of the year, and many people counted on it to complete those requirements. Now, if the NYRR decides to cancel the race or call it a “fun run,” those that were registered for it didn’t need to actually run it to get their 9+1 credit. However, the decision was made to run this as a scored race as planned – and some folks who had to commute down to NYC to make it (like, for instance, me – though I wasn’t meeting any requirements) were pretty upset. They believed that it was unsafe to travel and the NYRR should have called it.
For my part, I had exactly zero problems commuting. Metro North is a beautiful thing. It was, however, holy balls cold. In order to minimize the time I was required to kill outside, I went into the city and picked up my bib on Friday afternoon – and I was glad I did. People everywhere.
We got lined up in our starting corrals, heard a couple of words from the President of the NYRR, the Star Spangled Banner, and we’re off. Those of us near the back had to wait about 5 minutes to get to the starting line, but the crowds thinned out pretty quickly – I had no problem running whatever pace I wanted. Because late arrivers and late registrants had to start at the back of the line, there were several people blowing by me at the beginning. It was not easy to keep it in check and start at an appropriate pace.
My overall impression throughout the race, and particularly in the early going, is that I wasn’t prepared. My two recent down weeks are still lingering. I also made some pretty basic mistakes. I had my usual pre-race oatmeal, but that wound up being nearly three and a half hours before I started running, so was probably gone. I didn’t eat anything after that, and probably didn’t have enough water. I also only brought one gel, when I routinely eat two and sometimes three of them on runs this long. I was basically running on a low fuel tank the whole time, and my energy levels made that very clear. After the race was over I got very light-headed, and had to sit for some time. If we’re thinking of races like this as practice for the marathon or other longer distances, I learned some very valuable lessons.
I also made the mistake of not adequately, um, eliminating prior to the race. #1 AND #2. Let us just say things got uncomfortable and move on from here.
Having said all of that, the run itself was quite gorgeous. The course is two loops around Central Park, starting at 102nd Street on the east side, crossing over and running down the west side, and then doing one loop at 72nd Street and then the other farther down, near 59th Street. That’s a pretty dramatic course under normal circumstances – Strawberry Fields, the Columbus Statue, the Fred Lebow Statue, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, etc. and etc.
Now add snow. It was beautiful.
Central Park is known for rolling hills, which I overall found to not be too bad. The only one that was rough was coming up the east side, between the 72nd Street traverse and the Met. I remember on the first loop thinking how much that hill was going to suck on the second loop. And I was right. But it is clearly a known commodity, because there were several people and groups lined up from the bottom to the top, encouraging us to “keep pushing up this hill.” Those people were great. They helped. And I gutted out that hill (and the last two miles, really) without ever walking. It was a great feeling to top out and know that I’d done that without walking – I’d conquered it, physically AND mentally.
I ran this at an 11:47 / mile pace, which is slower than I would have liked but really all I could expect given the last month of training. My finish was way near the bottom – out of 4,280 finishers, only about 260 finished behind me – which does prove out the theory that the people that run these things in NYC are no joke. This probably wasn’t helped by the weather, either – the people that came out to this one were the people that were willing to run in that weather. I’ve got to believe that will skew the finish times faster.
Methinks I’m now over my fear of the NYRR, so we’ll see what is out there going forward. I’ll certainly have this one on the list going forward – I hope I get to do it again next year.
– At 3.22 miles on my watch (and about 8.5 miles for them) – the leaders lapped us. Even knowing they got a 5 minute or so head start as we were making our way down the corrals – holy crap. No, seriously – holy crap. By the time I got done running they were somewhere having brunch.
– Running in the snow is peaceful and beautiful when it is a gentle, straight down snow or when the wind is relatively low and coming from behind you. When it is blowing in your face? Not so much.
– Really disappointed in how poorly I handled the fueling situation. That was just a very preventable problem, and I won’t make that mistake again.
– Really happy, though, with my last two miles (including that big hill) – those miles were more mental than they were physical, and I was proud of having toughed it out. Turning the corner to see the finish line was glorious, though.
– In my head, I’d expected a nice, peaceful subway ride up to 103rd Street from Grand Central, and a slightly snowy but mostly solitary stroll from the subway station over to the park. I have no idea where I got that silly idea, but, yeah, I was wrong. The 6-train was PACKED with runners. Bibs and running shoes everywhere. And it was worse going back the other way. I guess I’m a romantic – but my romanticism got shat upon this go ‘round.
– Based on my watch, my time at the 10K split would have knocked between three and four minutes off of my 10K PR. NYRR doesn’t do an official 10K split, though, so it doesn’t count. Feels good to know that I’m steadily improving.
– NYRR doesn’t really do SWAG – it keeps costs down for the races, which is part of their mission. All I got for this one was a long-sleeved cotton shirt. However, it was a very nice long-sleeved cotton shirt, with understated logos and sponsor logos. Also, it turns out I’m a big fan of bibs that are custom for individual races – colors and race names. I keep a scrapbook of my bibs, and the custom ones are so much more interesting to see.
– That was December’s race, which means the streak is up to 10 months. January, February, March, and April have also been registered for, so … onward!
– Next Race – Frosty 5k, Guilford, Connecticut … January 1.
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